Sunday, December 28, 2008

Shedding our skins

New Years approaches and our thoughts turn to resolutions, to-do lists, and yes, diets. All of these themes can be boiled down to one topic: change. Even if 2008 was a good year, there are aspects we'd like to never do again or at least improve.

Change requires energy. Change requires discipline and resilience and fortitude. And change requires letting go of what is and reaching for what could be.

Nature knows about change. Season change requires a passing of the old before the new appears -- think of summer and its leafy trees passing into autumn and the bright foliage to winter where all is bare and covered with snow. Or as this quote points out:
It seems necessary to completely shed the
old skin before the new, brighter, stronger,
more beautiful one can emerge. . . . I never
thought I'd be getting a life lesson from a snake. --
Julie Ridge

What do you need to shed before you can succeed at change? Of course, if you notice a snake sheds a skin, but underneath is a brighter, newer copy of the same. Is 'shedding' a skin enough change or do we need to recreate the pattern and texture of our lives? It is a good time to look at:
  • Attitudes
  • Habits
  • Ignorance
  • People/Friends/Enemies
  • Time wasters
  • Accumulation
  • Baggage
  • Pain
  • Health
  • Thoughts
  • Joys
  • Sorrows
  • Disappointments
  • Accomplishments
Ask yourself why we have such a difficult time at making changes in our lives? When I think of change, I think of that law of physics about an object at rest stays at rest -- inertia is my biggest detriment to change. But then I read:
Since we live in a changing universe, why do people
oppose change? If a rock is in the way, the root of a tree
will change its direction. The dumbest animals try to adapt
themselves to changed conditions. Even a rat will change
its tactics to get a piece of cheese. --
Melvin B. Tolson
Rivers curve around to find the easiest course. Why do we always try to plow ahead regardless of easier ways to get where we're going? Maybe 2009 can be the year that we find our way around our problems and forge a new path to our goals, success, and a happier life.

Are there some specifics to be achieved in 2009?
  • Travel more?
  • Learn more?
  • Love more?
  • Care more?
  • Smile more?
  • Do more for others?
  • Share more?
  • Give more?
  • Meditate more?
What's the first step to change. What can we do today to help us succeed in 2009? Change one thing you do today.
  • Eat oatmeal for breakfast instead of a pastry.
  • Take a walk around the block before sitting down to watch television
  • Write a letter to someone you have neglected
  • Clean out one drawer -- and throw something away!
  • Hug your Mom, your Dad, your daughter, your son, your spouse -- for no reason
  • Smile at a stranger
  • Adopt a charity to support
  • Make a phone call to someone you've thought about recently
Maybe the secret to success in 2009 is simply doing one thing each day and at the end of the year you have 365 things accomplished. Rather than expecting to lose 100 pounds this year, expect to eat 100 healthy meals. Expect to take 100 walks. Sometimes baby steps are the best way to start a journey.

Remember that in this life we started out flat on our backs before we learned to crawl, and toddle and walk and then run.... Perhaps a few days flat on our back, seeing the sky -- stars and clouds -- and noticing the world around us, getting reacquainted with our environment. That's a good point at which to begin this journey.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tis the Season?

The holidays seem to bring out the best and worst in people. Sometimes the worst behaviors in some bring out the best in others.

Down under at the Tauranga Foodbank thieves broke in and stole food that was being amassed to donate to those in need. In addition to some frozen foods and sweets, the thieves stole most of their teaspoons. The foodbank director couldn't explain why they would do such a thing or why anyone would feel the need to steal from a foodbank.

At the same time, as word spread of the crime, businesses have stepped up to help replace the stolen articles and the foodbank is collecting about $400 a day in donations due in part to the despicable thieves' actions.

Across the lower 48 and perhaps even into Hawaii and Alaska, there have been reports of stolen creche, lawn decorations and a few attacks (with knives) on Frosties and other Christmas inspired plastic inflated icons.

The Lincolnshire police site offers a 'menu' of ways to deter crime this season. One I hadn't considered was: "Never leave car keys or handbag downstairs at night -- take them to bed with you." And speaking of handbags -- a colleague at work pointed out that sometimes the handbag is the reason for the theft, heck with what's inside. A Louis Vuitton purse, valued at around $1000 might be worth keeping and ditch the checkbook and credit cards. I have no fear of every owning let alone concern over such a pricey purse being stolen.

What I do have is a strange sense of humor and evidently I'm not alone because this compilation of Christmas crimes from 2006 makes me shake my head and smile. For example the parade float driver who led the police a merry chase after having imbibed a bit too much of his own eh hem holiday cheer. Or:

In Chicago, 32 plastic baby Jesus dolls were stolen from nativity scenes set up in people's front yards. The kidnappers then lined up all the dolls along the fence outside a Chicago woman's home; she rounded them up and turned them over to her parish priest.

Similar creche crimes occurred in 35 cities from Fayetteville, N.C., to Mission Viejo, Calif., according to The Catholic League, which tracks nativity vandalism.

And then there is the young woman who delivered a Christmas card to her incarcerated boyfriend -- seems innocent enough and filled with the right kind of holiday spirit. But the police took offense at the marijuana included inside the card....

And if you really want a bizarre view of Christmas and crimes. Check out Freaking News.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

From crap jobs to world changers

Are you working one of those low life, entry level, no respect jobs that pays just enough to keep you off food stamps? Or maybe not even pays that much.

Do you schlep books at the library with the cute title of 'page' or check out groceries, clean bathrooms, work in a fast food restaurant where you never get the smell of grease out of your clothes or hair? Clean up hospital rooms? Maybe you assist nurses? If so, you have the perfect fodder for a best seller.

Just ask Anne Sams, the long suffering checkout girl at a grocery in France. Her book became a summertime sensation in that country and now is being made into a play, a graphic novel, and has been translated into several other languages. Check out managers are handing out copies of the book to their new hires. And yes, Ms. Sams quit her job after her advance, the equivalent to her annual salary of approx. $26,400. I didn't realize that checkout clerks were paid that well....

She has even been hired as a consultant for a manufacturer of checkout equipment and the government has asked her opinion on groceries being allowed to stay open on Sundays. Read more about her rise to stardom in the Washington Post article.

Sams, unlike Barbara Echrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed, did not go undercover 'as a low paid worker.' Sams lived the life. She worked her way through college as a check out clerk, but when no jobs materialized after graduation, she stayed on. A student of modern literature, and obviously of life, she wrote a semi-humorous book, Tribulations of a Cashier. She catalogued the boors and mean-spirited abuses, the managers and their part-time schedules that took a chunk out of every day, as well as the ironies of her day to day encounters for eight years from behind her beeping counter.

It takes a certain amount of courage to write about the horrors and abuses of such a job when it is what you depend on for survival, yet if no one uncovers the dirty little secrets, how will things ever change? Sams began her journey to authorship with a blog that attracted quite a readership including journalists and evidently a publisher. The phenomena of blog to published book is still rare enough that the Washington Post saw it as news, but still, for those struggling to write their first book -- a blog may be the first step.

Recently my husband and I watched a television program devoted to a man who went around with his video recorder documenting his local police officers breaking laws. Parking in no parking zones, running stop lights, parking in bus stops and declaring a trip to the deli for coffee as an emergency.... Another man follows prostitutes in his neighborhood, trying vainly to clean up the area where he is raising his children, stopping johns and hookers from performing 'business' on children's playgrounds or in public places.

We can all make a difference. Sometimes it begins with simply saying, "I don't understand." Or the act of admitting to not agreeing with the person in charge. Or just asking, "Why?"

A favorite story that I heard when I was a newlywed told of a young wife fixing a ham by first cutting off one third of it and discarding it. When her husband asked why, she shrugged and said, "That's what Mom does." When she asked her mother why she cut off part of the ham before baking it, her mother said, "Because my mother always did." When grandma was finally asked her ham baking method. She said. "I had to make it fit in the only baking pan I had...."

I wonder how many times we do things 'traditionally' without knowing the tradition. I wonder how many ways there are to more efficiently or better do a job but no one dare speak up for fear of dragging down wrath upon their heads? Do you see problems? Find a solution. Then tell someone who can cause change.

"Today's world needs change, alteration, renewal, and corrections of errors. It needs new ideas, new approaches, methods, plans, procedures, and new ways of doing things." --Wilferd A. Peterson

Sunday, December 7, 2008

No more piling on!

As I write this the interview between Barack Obama and Tom Brokaw is playing out on Meet the Press. I'm hearing a real discussion, not just sound bites and platitudes.

The election is behind us.

I'm breathing easier than I have for nearly a decade. That sounds strange, I'm sure, because we are probably in the worst situation economically and globally than in my entire life. But finally, I feel that we actually have a mature, capable, ethical, moral, problem-solving man at the helm. I see him building a reputable team to assist him.

The last few weeks I felt relief and hope filter into my thinking. But it became obvious that I have kept alot of frustration, stress and concern -- alot of just plain fear -- bottled up. I question everything and doubt most of what I hear from everyone. And I expect the worst.

When everything came to a head a few days ago, I realized that I needed to find a better way to deal with life's problems. I reached out to friends and colleagues on my favorite writing community, Internet Writing Workshop, and asked for their recommendations for meditation online, books, whatever. And while their suggestions began arriving in my inbox, I began doing my own search.

I believe in the divine. I believe that there is no such thing as a coincidence.

So, when I 'stumble' across a site, I have this faith that something has led me to it. And right now, I'm glowing with that synchronicity that brought me to the wisdom of the Living Life Fully website.

I shared the site with my fellow writers and just this morning I received this response:

"Thank you for this! I've been receiving the meditations for two mornings now. Wow! They are inspiring. This was a true gift. " --Ann

That's how I feel!

The first message I read on this site was exactly what I needed to hear after having been yelled at by my supervisor at work. While I was feeling like I was living the wrong life and wondering where the real 'me' has gone, I read:

Don't feel sorry for yourself if you have
chosen the wrong road--turn around!

Edgar Cayce

After a few paragraphs discussing this concept, it ended with another quote. Almost verbatim what a couple of friends -- fellow muses -- had been telling me:

When you find yourself overpowered, as it were,
by melancholy, the best way is to go out and do something.

John Keble
But the first quote I received in the daily meditations sent to my inbox is now copied and hanging in my locker at work:

Hold up your head! You were not made for failure, you were made for victory; go forward with a joyful confidence in that result sooner or later, and the sooner or later depends mainly on yourself.

Anne Gilchrist

I discovered that simply hearing positive reinforcement, an understanding voice, soothes my throbbing emotions and helps me find a better balance. We are all our hardest critic, worst enemy when it comes to cheering ourselves on. It is time that I stopped piling on when everyone else is down, or yelling or frustrated or attacking me. I don't need to 'feel hurt' I need to raise my chin, smile and remember that I am not made for failure.

With that in mind I can keep things in perspective and realize that it isn't so important what others think of me -- especially those who are not actually looking or listening or are aware of who or what I am. What is important is that I realistically see myself and ease up a bit and just let me enjoy life. Perfection is not my goal. Growing, learning, improving, and most of all enjoying the process -- that's my goal.

No more piling on! The goal has changed and I am the one in control of reaching it!