A few years ago, I was going through a difficult time and my world seemed unusually challenging. On top of that, my hard drive failed, and I lost quite of bit of my writing that I had not backed up elsewhere: several years worth of poems, essays, novels-in-progress. I was devastated particularly by the loss of a couple of poems that had been particularly meaningful to me.
I wrote the poem below during this time as a reminder to myself that laughter is best way to brighten my world when all seems gloomy and as reminder that I can always write more poems. I had forgotten all about this one until I found it scribbled on the back of a sheet of paper in a drawer tonight, and it reminded me once again about the need to find more reasons to laugh.
I am finding that the more accepting I am of myself, the more readily I laugh. The more I allow myself to play with my creative side, the easier it is for laughter to bubble to the surface. The more I embrace life, the more joy wells up and overflows as laughter. I am slowly rediscovering laughter, and I love it!
It’s now been six weeks that I have been completely my gratitude practice on a daily basis. I continue to notice how I am grateful for the little things more often during the course of my day and not just during my gratitude journaling time at night.
I am also noticing how often the idea of gratitude comes to mind during the day. I find myself thinking in terms what I can be grateful for and how I can remind myself of gratitude on a regular basis throughout the day. But I’m also noticing a downside to this.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the human need for social acceptance and the difficulties that result from feeling rejected or excluded socially. Much of my pondering of this has been related to my own tendency to feel invisible that often comes from my introvert tendencies to spend a lot of time alone. It’s also come from my own struggles to determine how much of my need for social acceptance and approval comes from an innate human need for connection and how much of it stems from personal insecurity that causes me to place too much importance on what other people think of me as a means of trying to feel a sense of worth or value that really should be coming from within.
In other words, what does it look like to have a healthy need for social connection without relying on those connections to fill unhealthy needs for self-esteem? Where is the balance? And what do I need to do to move toward that healthy point?
With those thoughts foremost in my mind, I have been more aware than usual of blog posts and other information coming my way that addresses these topics. One particular article caught my attention this last week and sent me looking for more opinions and data on the topic, and I am sharing some of the highlights from that research here.
“Normal is not something to aspire to, it’s something to get away from.” ~Jodie Foster
I attended a book club discussion today where we talked about a book that I dearly love: Carolyn Heilbrun’s The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty. This is the second time I’ve read this book, and in some ways I found this reading even more fascinating because I now know more about what the years following the publication of this book brought for the author.
Much of what I find so delightful about this book is that there are so many ways that I am much like the author. There are many things she describes coming to understand about herself that are things I could have written from my own personal experience. Many of these would qualify as being a bit eccentric, so I am always delighted to know that I am not alone in them.
“There is nothing external that can ‘put your mind at ease.’ Your mind is under your control, and yours alone. And be careful not to judge yourself for your fears. Remember the bottom line: You must love yourself for who you are right now. The seeds of self-acceptance and self-esteem will quickly grow and bear the fruits of positive change. Seeds of self-loathing will bear nothing but thorns.” ~Dorothy Mendoza Row
I am increasingly finding myself living in what is for me a very bizarre place. Over time, my curious observer-self continues to grow stronger. While I still have moments when I lose sight of that, those moments are becoming rare. It’s as if this separate witness-self is watching me all the time now, and just as physicists have discovered in some of their experiments, I am discovering that the very act of observing myself is changing the observed reality.
“Alone, even doing nothing, you do not waste your time. You do, almost always, in company. No encounter with yourself can be altogether sterile: Something necessarily emerges, even if only the hope of some day meeting yourself again.” ~Emil Cioran
I have had the glorious opportunity to spend the last two days completely alone. I’ve had a few short phone conversations and some online exchanges of various kinds (text messages, emails, instant messages, Facebook conversations), but I have not actually been in the company of another person for two days. And it’s been good.
Some of this time alone was due to canceled plans because I wasn’t feeling well. All of the time alone was entirely by my own choice and was quite fruitful. I had a lot of processing to do, and I think I’ve made some real progress in several areas during this time.
To most people, this time would look remarkably unproductive. I’ve managed to complete only a few household chores. I haven’t run any of the errands I needed to run. I did get a few things done for my business (including booking a client – yay!). But for having had two full days at home, it doesn’t look like there’s much that’s been accomplished. I even spent most of that time away from the computer!
“You will never hurt someone else by being who you are. You will hurt them by not being who you are. Hold yourself back, and anger and sadness leak out. Stay true to who you are and you give everyone the chance to live up to their highest potential. Authenticity always heals.” ~Tama J. Kieves
I’ve been thinking a lot today about my comments yesterday regarding the fact that I am told that I am a difficult person to get to know and a difficult person to be around (at least in extended doses). This perception of myself comes from fairly consistent feedback I’ve gotten over the years from many, many different people, so I accept that there must be a healthy dose of truth in it. It’s more than just my usual tendency toward low self-esteem going on here.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference. ~Reinhold Niebuhr
This prayer is most widely known from 12-step programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous, but that was not its origin. This is the beginning of a longer prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr, a theologian, in the first half of the last century. Although I have often found this idea of knowing what I can and cannot change in external circumstance to be very helpful over the years, I find myself pondering this lately when it comes to ways I can and cannot change myself.
I’d like to think that I can change anything about myself that I want to, but the older I get, the more I am beginning to suspect that this is not as true as I wish it to be. Some of this comes back to the ongoing nature vs. nurture debate. What things about us are simply innate parts of who we are that we are born with? And what things about us are things we have learned and can therefore unlearn?