Friday, April 28, 2017

Make every day a day of peace

Most people don't realize how much power they have over their own life. You can, as I have written, create your own aura of happiness by growing it inside you and radiating it outward. You can also create a peaceful world for yourself every day using the same principle.

Thinking/focusing positively and reacting with positive action (rather than focusing on all the bad things going on and projecting the overwhelming anger that builds up as a result) creates a peaceful aura around you.

I've been on both sides of that equation, which is why I know it to be true.

Striking out or reacting forcefully only makes a bad situation worse. War does not beget peace. Ever. Especially if you've created that war in your own mind by overreacting to your circumstances or not thinking your reactions through.

And yes, I realize there are certain circumstances under which one should not be expected to remain peaceful. Obviously, no one is expected to be at peace or create peace when their life or that of their loved ones is being seriously threatened.

When I say you can create peace daily, I'm speaking of everyday struggles, not being chased down by militants.

And yes, it may be that your in-laws can be likened to militants and composed of the stuff psychotic nightmares are made of. Or maybe, they're just human, like you and have simply reached their endurance limit.

In any case, who people are or what their journey is, well, that ball is in their court, not yours. All you can do is strive to improve yourself, create peaceful responses and try to see the good in them. It's just not up to you to live other people's lives or solve their issues.

Ya, I know you're smarter than them. You have more experience and your ideas are way better, but honestly, isn't dealing with your own life enough?

Note: I'm talking to myself here. I have a know-it-all tendency. I'm sure that doesn't surprise anyone. Bwa ha ha

That being said, this is a suggestion, not an order or expectation. But why not make every day a day of peace, my friends? By growing it, projecting it and reacting peacefully. Because that's the only way it ever happens.

I'm going to give it a shot.

Peace out.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Eating from the good china

Are you familiar with the saying that starts with, “Eat from the good china” and lists numerous other ways to enjoy yourself? The idea is, of course that you should live life to the fullest, always. Agreed. But you know, that china thing got me thinking....

I have some china that was given to me. I use it daily but not because of some stupid saying. I just figure there's no point in having/buying something you're not going to actually use. How stupid and wasteful are we, as a society, that we have plates we don't use sitting in a cupboard we never open just because it's tradition to do so? No wonder no one respects us any more.

And what makes the good china any better than the everyday plates, anyway? Who decided that china should have an elevated position over other dishware? Didn't that rumor get started eons ago by some guy trying to sell china? I bet. And ya, it's pretty. It's also not durable or practical at all. It breaks if you breathe too hard on it. How is that considered high quality again? By whose standards?

Why do we constantly fall for this illusion of product grandeur presented by our consumerist society? Crazy, isn't it? I've even personally witnessed people getting angry with each other over brand choice. I've noticed that those arguments usually have to do with motorized vehicles.

Apparently, you don't really have a motorcycle unless it's a Harley. You don't really have a sports car unless it's a Mustang. And apparently, those cute little plates you absolutely adore but bought at dollar tree can't hold a candle to fine china.

Who says?

Who put manufacturers in charge of deciding what we like or what we prefer anyway? Nobody. We just blindly go along with it. Sadly, most of us won't even admit they've got our number and punch it in daily to their advantage. They're so good at it, we don't even see it sometimes!

Maybe that's because most of these ideas about product quality are so firmly rooted in our society that they're accepted as fact. Meanwhile, we're turning our noses up at perfectly decent food, clothing, etc. because they're simply below our so called standards.

Folks, there are people out there in the big, wide world drinking from mud puddles and glad it rained so they could. There are little children going to bed hungry every night, literally starving to death. And here we are, arguing over which bottled water/soda pop/beer/wine tastes best.

We're pathetic.

And speaking of wine, please stop swilling it, swishing it, sniffing it and turning your snooty nose up at the “bad” year. It all means absolutely nothing in the scheme of things. Be glad you have some wine if you like it. Personally, I think it all tastes like fruity ear wax. But maybe I just “don't know my wines.” Hah!

In other words, what a bunch of absolute hooey we let ourselves get roped into by people trying to sell us the goods. Stuff is just stuff. It's all the same. Folks, please. Be who you are. Like what you like. You don't have to “Be a Pepper” unless you really want to and FYI, it doesn't make you special if you are.

Have it your way? You bet. That one I agree with.

But in the end, it's all just a pile of junk riding in the trash truck to the dump or being crushed at the recycling center to make more stuff we don't really need isn't it?

The only quality we should be worried about can be found within the content of our own character. Got a lot to work on in that area myself, as witnessed by the judgmental slant to this post. So, off to do just that!

Here's to finding peace through self improvement!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Truly sick of being manipulated

Or maybe I should say, sick of people trying to manipulate me. I'm also sick of watching the people I care about fall for societal brainwashing. It's all around us.

It's in commercials. It's in crowd mentality. It's in politics. It's in organized religion. It's in media news and entertainment. It's even programmed into supposedly non-conformist, non-conventional thinking now.

That subtle undertone that plays off our emotions, fears, anxieties and more to the point where it's nearly impossible to shut it out or be influenced by it has got us just where it wants us..


But we don't have to listen. We don't even have to expose ourselves to it. We can choose to shut it out. We can choose to think independently.

We forget that. Right? We get so caught up in dealing with the day to day struggle of the environment we live in that we forget that we have the ability to create and experience something better.

A big part of my peaceful path journey involves surrounding myself with better input, better thoughts, interacting with mentally healthier people, taking more constructive actions and so on.

As I travel further down the peace path, I hope to break free from or at least close my ears to all the subliminal manipulation preventing me from doing so.

Is that an impossible dream? Maybe. It may involve living an entirely different lifestyle, away from mass media, social networking, etc. for a while. Or maybe forever.

Am I, by choosing to stay away from media manipulation, also condemning myself to a life of complete ignorance? And is that amount of ignorance really bliss?

My life has always been centered on knowing. I've always been a seeker of truth. So, I want to know what's going on, still. I just don't want all the slanted views that seem to permeate nearly every source of “news” out there.

Is shutting out the media altogether a viable long term solution?

In the past, I've gone by a simple rule. If someone profits monetarily or otherwise from the “news” they are spouting, it's more than likely their truth is jaded. That policy has served me well. However, it still leaves me open to experiencing those manipulative attempts.

Which not only disrupts my peace but makes me feel as if something is going to slip though. You know. Catch me unaware. Brainwash me despite my cautionary habit of unbiased, multiple source research before belief.

Perhaps taking a temporary break from media influence might be a solution. By removing myself from the constant barrage for a set period of time, then coming back to it, might I be better able to see things for what they truly are?

Might that give me more power over slanted information, hidden agendas and such?

I believe that it would. But surely, as time goes by, that initial heightened sense of awareness would fade, leaving me once again open to manipulative suggestion.

Which brings me back to making a gradual, permanent change in what I choose to expose myself to.

I remember growing up in the days before the internet when we only had 2 TV channels to choose from. It was a much more peaceful life for sure. Of course, I was a child, so my world was a different one. As an adult, I likely would have known about and seen things differently.

Of course, the brainwashing was still in place then and not that much different than it is now. It's just that the manipulative didn't have quite as many avenues by which to manipulate us. They also weren't quite as practiced as they are now. Therefore, it was more difficult to influence us.

Funny though, they managed to accomplish their goals anyway, didn't they?

At least some of them.

They still played on our fears and emotions. They still knew what buttons to push. If not, the world would not have been molded into what it is today by the powers that be, would it? It wouldn't be serving them as well as it does. And it does serve them well, doesn't it?

So, full circle then. I really don't know what actions I will have to take to kick the manipulators out of my life. Going back in time certainly isn't a solution. This kind of thing has been going on for centuries.

But if you haven't heard from me in a while, I guess you'll know what I decided to do. Because I do know that mass media and online social networking is a clear avenue of manipulation. So clear, in fact, that some people don't even see it as such.

Damn, they're clever, the powers that be.

That's OK. So am I.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Peaceful, pain free times in the garden

Gardening is rough sometimes with chronic illnesses nipping at your hands and making your head spin. Still, I love it and I'm determined to strike a balance between rest, work and play in the garden. So here's the latest fine line I'm walking in that area.

Each of the chronic illnesses I have presents a unique challenge in the garden. With Rheumatoid, my hands are not always capable of gardening every day. With Lupus, I can't garden in full sun, but cold gives me chills. With Reynauds Syndrome, I can't garden unless it's warm, lest the nerves in my hands freeze up and go numb, which also impacts the Rheumatoid.

Oh, and I also have to stick to raised beds and buckets, due to a lack of normal mobility.

Aren't I just a bloody mess, though?

This leaves me with a pretty small window to enjoy one of my favorite hobbies. To reiterate: I absolutely cannot garden on cold days with either Rheumatoid or Reynauds. I absolutely cannot garden then or when the sun is high in the sky with Lupus.

Heat is OK. Sun is not at all OK. Cold sucks. Ground planting is out. And because I live a mile closer to the sun, here in the Denver metro area, the sun shows no mercy. None.

What's a gardening fanatic to do?

Gardening before 8 am, even on a warm day is out. Because it's not warm yet, you know? My hands would freeze up. Afternoon gardening is out because the sun is out. That leaves me seeking mid-morning ground. Sometimes I can start at 8. Sometimes I have to wait until 9. But pretty much always, unless it's a quick run to do a 10 minute job and back into the house, I have to stop by noon at the very, very latest. Eleven is a better plan.

Nevertheless, I am determined to work with my short time and limitations in the garden in order to keep that time peaceful, pain free and low stress. Because what's the point of having a hobby if conducting said hobby makes you miserable?

I refuse to rush through my tiny window of opportunity. But I do have to stick to it, for the most part. Now, I'm stubborn too, so some days in the past, I have ventured out in full sun, with a huge umbrella to work under. But honestly, it's wasn't the best solution as umbrella aside, the sun still managed to get the better of me on those scorching hot days.

So, this year, it's 8-11 in the garden for me. Hey, 3 hours is not too shabby. I'd rather it were 8 hours so my garden could be picture perfect. But I'll take what I can get. Life's a struggle with chronic illness but if you're determined, it doesn't have to be.

You just have to be a stubborn old so and so like me.

Just “doing it” for peace

Part of my peace path involves embracing yet another different way of life. I love change. I thrive on it. Mainly because change brings or signifies growth and that's never a bad thing. So, I'm moving into the more doing, less dreaming zone.

By the way, if you thought I was talking about the other kind of doing it, congratulations. You just fell for my not so blatant, quite obviously misleading headline. I'm not very good at being clever. Sorry.

Anyway, you're here now, so gotcha! I guess.

In the past, I am guilty of spending way too much time dreaming, talking and writing about my own idea of the optimum life, photographing everything I see, etc. and not enough time on actual living. I've missed some of a lot of valuable personal experiences, conversations and such this way.

Sometimes it's just more important to “be in the moment” than it is to capture that moment on paper, whether in a photo or in writing. Who knew?

I get my inspiration in a variety of ways. This time, it was from a Jim Gaffigan comedy routine where he talks about how we are always taking pictures in lieu of actually creating memories. Or at least that's what I took from it.

And also from the saying, “Be a lighthouse, not a sponge.”

And also, sorry to say, by watching others and myself, heads in phones or computers, oblivious to the world of wonder and the beautiful people in it, spinning happily around them, spouting miles of rhetoric, both welcome and unwelcome. Need I say more?

So, now, I'm determined to light the world with my shining example, if you can call it that, instead of mostly talking about it, writing about it or taking pictures of it. Oh, I'll still talk, write and take pictures. (Obviously, since here we are.) Just not as much. The plan is to be and do, more than I talk, snap and write.

Which brings us to social networking. I never was very social. Plus, my opinions are somewhat eccentric compared to most. So, naturally, it's not working out too well for me. Generally speaking, I come on the book of faces and tweety birds thinking, “What a great day!” and come off thinking, “What the hell is wrong with the world?”

For that reason, social networking is now being placed in the category of “doing less of.” No offense intended toward the great friends I've met through social media. Love them all. Just don't want to spend ¾ of my life in a virtual environment.

I was raised in a time of family reunions and get togethers, card playing, board games, tending gardens, hanging out at the beach, walking through the woods, communing with nature and simply spending loads of personal time with friends and family.

Trying to get back there is something I feel would bring more peace and positive direction to my life. So there you go. Like I said, I'm “just doing it” for peace. Do more. Buy less. Talk less. Preach less. Just live! Enjoy the moment! Etc. etc. That's the idea. Now off to do just that!

And of course, it goes without saying that I'll still write about it, here and there. I mean, come on. I am a writer. Just don't plan to spend the entire day at it, that's all. Life is short. Got shit to do, you know?

Friday, April 14, 2017

Clearing the path to peace with patience

In my head are all the thoughts and deeds that block my path to peace. In order to make my way along the path, I have decided to clear them. In my case, that means writing about them. Writing has always been my way of cleansing.

Some of the thoughts that I have need to be vocalized. They are justified. Some are not at all justified. The latter, once I write them down, make me see the error of my ways so that I can move on from them and do better.

Learn by writing?

I guess.

So, for a little bit here, I'm going to be clearing my head of anger, resentment and other negativity by sharing it, thinking about it and then, hopefully, moving away from it.

I picture a huge snarl of brambles, cluttering the peace path, blocking my view and my way.

The thoughts I'm working on today are self defeating, guilt ridden and regretful. In the past, I've done a few things to be ashamed of. And for some unknown reason, they have all decided to rise to the surface in the last couple of weeks.

This has made me feel really bad about myself. And you may not believe me but through all my struggles, I have always been able to maintain a healthy self image. Not so lately.

To add to the past guilt, I have recently found myself in a situation where I felt taken advantage of. It has happened before. The difference is that in the past, I have been able to hold my tongue, be patient and understand that the individuals I was dealing with are still learning.

Just like me, of course. We are all still learning. Just some people are on a different path or taking their sweet time.

This time, however, when I encountered this situation, I lost my patience. I lost my self control. I became angry and resentful of being taken advantage of. It was a straw that broke the camels back situation.

This resulted in driving a wedge between myself and the individuals in question.

I found a solution for the future, which generally makes me feel better about erring. This time, however, I just could not seem to forgive myself for my behavior and move on.

Then, to top it off, another similar mistake came running in on the heels of the first. It really upset me that I did not learn enough from the first mistake to prevent the second.

So, guilt on top of guilt on top of guilt.

I apologized. I vowed to do better next time. I formulated a plan. And still, the guilt would not go away. It's like all the years of moving on had caught up with me.

I'm still not entirely sure what to do about this. However, my son, who is my best psychiatrist, has given me a bit of wisdom. It's not a new thought but he has told me to remember that time heals all. And while that doesn't take away the guilt that's dragging me down right now, it does at least give me hope that this hefty load will lift eventually.

After all, I was a real jerk this time. My reaction was nothing to be proud of. Plus, I was already wallowing in past guilt. So, it's likely just going to take some time before I feel like a decent human being again.

Meanwhile, I will be making a concentrated effort to do better in the future. To be more patient, more understanding, more like the old me. People used to tell me I was one of the nicest people they'd ever met. 

I'd like to.... No. I will get back to that.

And so, I find myself clearing the path to peace with patience and perseverance. It took a long time for those brambles to grow, so it's going to take a while to clear them. That's OK. I'll just do my best to think positive and keep moving in the right direction.

I'll get there.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What to do when someone you love misrepresents on social media

Liars really test my peaceful path. I try to remember that peace comes from within, but....

We've all been there, right? Or at least I hope that I'm not the only one. Someone you love posts something about themselves, you or your family (usually, to make themselves look awesome) but it's a complete misrepresentation of the facts. Or maybe it's partially true, but not exactly. 

It's so very uncomfortable when this happens.

If you say nothing, you're put in the position of seemingly going along with a fabrication of the truth. If you speak up, it makes you look like a horrible person, even if you do it as gently as possible.

And it's very, very hard to do it gently, isn't it? I mean, here is this person telling all their friends something about you, themselves, your friends or family that simply isn't true. And you're stuck with either going along with it or telling all their friends they're a big, fat liar.

What a mess!

What can you do when this happens? Well, I honestly don't know.

I will tell you this, though. My recent path/quest toward a more peaceful life requires, no, insists that I remain silent and calm when loved ones lie on social media. For the good of all. But keeping the peace can really be rough in this particular instance.

Really, really rough.

And I must add that yes, of course we all know that Facebook presents our best face, simply because nobody wants to hear the dirty laundry of our lives. At least not in a public forum. We all keep some things to ourselves out of respect for others.

But folks, I implore you, do not post outright lies that put your friends and family members in the position of choosing between:

*Going along with your blatant lies
*Remaining silent, therefore confirming your lies as truth
*Calling you out on social media, thereby embarrassing you both.

You don't have to “tell all.” In fact, you probably shouldn't. But it certainly would be appreciated if you told the truth, rather than pretending you're Mary Poppins in the flesh or some other perfect individual that simply does not exist in real life. 

If not for your own reputation, at least do it out of consideration of your friends and family. You're embarrassing the hell out of them and putting them in a very uncomfortable spot. They're not liars but you're forcing them to either go along with your lies or humiliate you in public. You know?

Ya, that's all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

My social networking persona

A little while back, I was reminded of something I've been meaning to write about for a while. It's somewhat connected to my quest for peace, so I thought, “Why not?”

It has to do with mistaken impressions. I had to giggle when more than a few friends on Facebook commented that they were glad I had “calmed down” as a side effect of my quest for inner peace.

Why is that so funny?

Well, folks, brace yourselves. Facebook is probably the only place where I am not “calmed down.”

You see, in “real” life, I'm what most people would call downright boring. Just the thought of me needing to calm down is hysterical, in my opinion. But then, I know me pretty well. At home, you'll mostly find me quietly puttering around the house and garden.

The only reason it seems as if I have calmed down to those who only interact with me on social media is because they don't really know me. They only know what I post on social media. And my causes are important to me. Passionately so.

But obviously, at home, I'm not posting memes about my passions and beliefs. I'm just living according to them. And since my passions and beliefs are largely peaceful ones (doing no harm and such like) at home, I'm one of the calmest people you'll ever come across.

Now, I'm not saying that the person I am on Facebook and other social networks isn't me. I feel what “social media me” feels. I share her beliefs. I practice what I Facebook preach. She is a part of me. But there is so much more to me than who I am when social media upsets me. And that's it right there.

Social media is the only place where I'm not calm, actually.

Oh, I'm no absolute saint at home, either. I have my bad days. But for the most part, people in my “real life” see me as quiet; shy even; an introvert of the highest degree. Which I am.

So, when people tell me they're glad I've calmed down, I just slap a smile on the outside and giggle to myself on the inside. Because in “real life” the only way I could be calmer is if I literally dropped dead.

I guess the lesson for me to take away here is to not be so judgmental of people, especially if I only know them on social media. Because being at peace with and accepting of one's self also requires being at peace with and accepting of others.

Who knew?

Is working at what you love really the best idea?

Somehow, doing what i love for a living takes some of the passion out of it.
I don't know how you feel about it. I do know that it's not for me. It doesn't bring me the peace I'm seeking. I love to write. I love to take photos. I love to paint and draw and decorate. And I detest when I am obligated to do any of it. Of course, maybe that's just me. I am kind of a rebel. But seriously? Doing what I love to earn money? Well, it kind of takes some of the oomph out of it. That's why I just do it for fun now. If I earn anything from it, that's just a bonus.

And yes, I know people who insist that they love working at what they love. I've also seen more than a few of them cursing and swearing at their computers, both on social media and in person. Which doesn't seem like much fun to me. Unless, of course, you're into letting drama and frustration permeate the activities you love.

I guess what I'm saying is that being an artist whose art is dictated by someone else's taste, judgment or whims or being a slave to your craft, well, it kind of sucks and stagnates creativity. Because there is always the customer to consider. And maybe I'd rather not have the negative aspects of working for a living spill over into the things I hold most dear. I'd rather my writing and art remain purely enjoyable. Know what I mean, jellybean?

Working on myself

I once read that rather than judging ourselves by our monetary or educational progress, we should focus on our character and demeanor. Because achieving good character and a pleasant demeanor is the true hallmark of success. I believe that to be a reasonable premise. Therefore, I'm constantly working on being a better person, whatever that is. Although, some days, my actions make me question whether I've progressed at all, or ever will.

Realizing that I'm not perfect now and likely never will be gives me both inspiration and pause.

There's certainly much room for improvement. I won't be bored in my pursuit.

On the other hand, if I'm never going to reach my goal to perfect my character, what exactly is it that I'm hoping to gain?

And does it really matter in the end? I mean, here I am, this tiny little speck in an infinitesimal universe among many other infinitesimal universes. Maybe I should just enjoy the pursuit of happiness, like most sane people and be done with it.

Problem is, that's not my way. I have to make things difficult for myself by having principles and such. Now, I'm not sure if that makes me smart or a complete idiot. Either way, though, it's a huge part of who I am that I simply cannot let go.

So the peaceful path, for me, is a moral one. A journey toward doing less harm to others, none when humanly possibly. I try my best to do what I feel is the right thing. Of course, that is not to say that I am always successful. In fact, at this point, it's about 70/30 at best. Because, as it turns out, well, I'm not always the great example I strive to be.

I keep hearing that I shouldn't be so hard on myself. Right. Like that's going to happen. It's impossible to make improvements while simultaneously ignoring the fact that you're a bit of an asshole sometimes. As my brother has told me, if you can't look yourself in the mirror and accept the bad, well, there's no reason to improve, is there?

Now, the way I dole out advice sometimes, one might assume that I have got a handle on everything. Let me assure you, that is not the case. Sure, I give great advice. Mainly that's because I have made just about every mistake possible and have no delusions about my future capability for making more.

It really is a journey, my friends. And like most human beings, I'm not very far along on my chosen path. Still, it's enough for me to know that I'm making gradual progress in what I believe to be the right direction. I hope.

When helping isn't helpful

There's nothing wrong with offering an occasional hand up, but...

Even though peace is generated from the inside out, it cannot happen without removing certain obstacles. Especially for people like myself and my significant other. You see, we are the kind of people who always reach out to help loved ones who are struggling.

Now, you might think that's a noble gesture. Maybe. Sometimes those we are helping use our help as a launching pad for success. But, as we recently learned, it can also be crippling for all concerned and absolutely poisonous for the relationships you have with those that you're trying to help.

You see, in reality, you can take the good Samaritan thing too far.

What? Surely I jest? No, I do not. Here's why:

Life is hard, my friends. Really, really hard and not just for some of us. It's hard for all of us. To face it, we need strength and lots of it. Where does that strength come from? It comes from handling our own problems.

Doing so (holding our own) is also the thing that best strengthens our self esteem. As in, “I did it! I survived yet another thrown obstacle! I climbed that mountain! I reached another goal! I am capable!”

When we continually rescue those we love from the consequences of their own mistakes (or even help them constantly with the battles of life that are not their fault) we do them a great disservice. Why?

Because we are making them less able to handle life and giving them less reason to take pride in themselves with each “helpful” gesture.

Now, don't get me wrong. There are times when everyone needs a helping hand. There's nothing wrong with reaching out to those who cannot help themselves.

But helping isn't helpful when it becomes a chronic habit and no end in sight.

When another person becomes so dependent on your help that they've forgotten how to help themselves (or simply never learned how because you were always there to catch them when things went wrong) you are doing them zero favors.

Aside from that, you are making yourself miserable too. You're spending so much time on their struggles that you have no time at all to deal with your own. And of course, on the heels of that realization comes anger, resentment, harsh words/actions and hurt feelings for all parties involved.

Which helps absolutely no one.

So, from now on, I'll be sparing myself and those perfectly capable people from my “help.” Therefore, allowing them to fail, learn, grow and be strong all on their own with no assistance or interference from me. It won't be easy to witness their struggles, but we'll all be better for it.

Because sometimes help isn't helpful.