Wearing my Heart on my Sleeve

My mother often told me while I was growing up that I wore my heart on my sleeve. I recognize that I was the only one in the household whose emotions were always close to the surface and thus, often spilled out. I was the one who would tear up at sappy commercials, hide my face at scary movies, sob when an animal died on TV, etc.

Because I was the only one, I believed that being like this was not a good thing. And, truth be told, I’ve been taken advantage of on many more than one occasion for being so emotional. While it is that status which turned me into a people-pleaser, it was also that status that alighted my ability for deep compassion for others.

I know I’ve written in other blog articles about being a ‘giver’ and how, at times, I have, in a sense, given too much. I have chastised myself on the occasions that I’ve been taken advantage of because of this. And I was only confused more by the fact that my mother would tell me that in a derogatory way, and yet our church, with which she was very involved, would tell us about sharing.

So, why am I such an emotional person? I don’t know the answer to that. I know that, for a long time in my teens and into adulthood, I learned to bottle up and keep silent about my emotions because I didn’t want to be chastised for having them. For a while, I believed that being such an emotional person was a short-coming, yet another fault to be found in me.

I wrote a good bit of poetry during that time, mostly sad stuff, because sometimes I needed to release a little of the pressure that holding those emotions inside caused. It was the only safe place I had to let out some of that pressure.

And yet, I’d like to think that no one but me recognized that was happening. I have to believe that, because the idea that my family and friends knew about it and obviously didn’t care enough to acknowledge it is heartbreaking!

The day I turned 40 – and yes, I can remember back that far, though it’s become a little hazy – I gave a birthday card to my parents, a subliminal way, even with what I wrote inside, to say that I was being born. I was ready to break free from the expectations of who I was and become my authentic self. It wasn’t easy at first…in fact, there are times I still slip back into that person without realizing it at first. And it’s been a journey that I still travel on today. I’ve fortunately been able to ‘weed out’ most of the people in my life who were more comfortable with my old, unauthentic self. Yes, there are people in my life whom I cherish deeply and with whom, I don my mask to downplay who I am at 100% level. A professional life insists that we all do that, and that’s not a bad thing. But if we don’t intermix that with people around with whom we can take off that mask, we begin to harbor our authenticity inside ourselves.

We have to be okay with who we are! Yea, I know, easy to say, not so easy to do. But until you can accept that you, just like the rest of us, are constantly growing and changing, that we are really just a journey in progress, you’ll never be okay with who you are. It doesn’t mean we don’t recognize our flaws and blemishes, it merely means that we’re okay that our work on them hasn’t finished yet!

So yea, I wear my heart on my sleeve! Trust me, that is one of my tamer flaws! Not everyone in this world is going to like being around someone whose emotions are clear and visible. Oh well. I sleep much more soundly at night being okay with myself than I would sleep if I were worried about what other people thought. And yes, it does matter what people think, but this doesn’t mean the general population at large. Be kind and considerate with those near and dear to you – always – but let your authentic self be present with them. When you’re lying on your deathbed, which do you think will be more important – how YOU view you’ve lived your life or how THEY viewed it???

How do YOU experience Joy?

Do you know what the difference is between experiencing happy and experiencing joy? Did you even know that there is a difference? Well, there is, and it’s a mighty big difference!

You’ve all heard before that “happiness comes from inside you.” Technically, that’s true. But the meaning people take from that is very different than how it was intended. Happiness comes from inside you because you have the capability inside you to experience it!

According to http://www.differencebetween.net, both joy and happiness are positive and desirable emotions where a person has a feeling of being satisfied. These feelings are based on certain reasons, and the nature that causes that particular feeling can differ.

Joy comes from the inner-self of a person, and is connecting with the source of life within you. It is caused by something really exceptional and satisfying. The source of joy is something or someone greatly appreciated or valued, and it is not only about oneself, but also about the contentment of those people whom you value the most.

Happiness is an emotion experienced when in a state of well-being. The state of well-being is characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Happiness is simply the state of being happy. It may be caused by fortune, luck or various other pleasures that range from person to person. Happiness is a result of something that is outside of you, and gained by observing or doing that particular thing. Social networks and human relationships are the most important correlation with happiness. Happiness spreads through relationships like friends, siblings, partners, neighbors etc.

Happiness may be momentary, as it is a result of short-term contentment; but joy, being related to the inner self, is long lasting. Happiness simply pleases a person, while joy brings warmth to that person’s heart, and brings contentment to one’s heart.

Happiness comes from outside, while joy from within, and with this attitude of joy, the person is in a state of grace. Joy is an extension to happiness. It is a continuous state of happiness, and a positive emotion. It is not merely a fleeting thing, like happiness.

Happiness can also be characterized as being materialistic, and rests more on worldly pleasures, while joy is a state derived from the emotional well-being of a person.

Here’s an example that might make it easier to understand the difference: Someone near and dear to you has been eyeing something he or she would really like to have but will never buy for him/herself (it might be a matter of finances or maybe a feeling of being frivolous). So for this person’s birthday or at Christmas, the gift you give is exactly that item. When the gift is opened, the recipient is going to feel a great deal of happiness. But what you feel will be joy. Of course, you are happy for them (external) but you are joyed (internal) at causing such great happiness for another.

If you read my blog post called “(Just Another) Day in Paradise”, you know I was over-the-moon happy about the opportunity for and events that took place. I know I described myself as swaying between giddy and delirious. I couldn’t thank Gayle enough for being able to have this happen to me. And, after yet another ‘thank you’ to her, she replied telling me that seeing me so happy brought her joy. And in an instant, I could relate to that. I know what joy feels like, but this is the first time, to my knowledge, that I’ve experienced giving joy! Knowing that was like the icing on the cake.

I encourage you to find ways to experience this incredible emotion. It doesn’t have to be an expensive gift… maybe a spontaneous drive to a person’s favorite store or restaurant. Put on your thinking cap and get out there – I promise it will be worth it!

A Poem of No Regrets

There are days I seldom think of you

Any thoughts are fleeting and few

And days you’re all I think about

And the pain becomes fresh and new.

We knew our love would never last,

Knew that it was stolen in time,

Despite the fact that it was true and full

I knew it could never be fully mine.

So on the days I think of you

I focus on the memories I cherish

Your love may not be in my world

But its feelings will never perish.

I have no regrets for what we shared

Even knowing it would end.

The joy you brought into my world

Will be a forever friend.

So, wherever you are,

Whatever it is that you do,

Know that in the deepest fold in my heart

My love for you will always be true.

I never thanked you for all of the joys

Though quickly I spoke of the pain

And somehow, still, I hold out hope

That we might meet again.

No one can ever fill your shoes,

It’s senseless for someone to try.

My heart still rests tightly wrapped up with you

In a place where no one can pry.

This poem has no ending,

The love still very real.

And I will take with me to my grave

These feelings that I feel.

How Like the Leaves We Are

We had a very windy day blow through here recently. It was forecasted, so I wasn’t surprised. What did surprise me, however, is that there were gusts that were of enough speed to shake acorns loose from a tree outside my window. The sharp tap never didn’t startle me – it was always unanticipated and my home is pretty quiet otherwise.

I looked out at the guilty tree several times throughout the day. I was watching the leaves which, even though the wind could break loose the acorns, could not get them to detach and swirl in the wind. Looking out at the same tree the next morning, with just a slight breeze ruffling those leaves, I began to ponder why they had held onto their branches yesterday “for dear life”. And then I began to think of the ways we humans have that same tenacity in some regards.

Whatever your age, the word ‘home’ always evokes the place of your childhood. Regardless of what our childhoods were like, ‘home’ was always what we deemed our place of safety. As children, we had no concept of the work it took to keep a roof over our heads, put food on the table, etc. ‘Home’ may not have been the place where we had physical safety nor emotional safety, but it was where our most very basic needs were met.

Of course, we reach an age where we desire nothing more than to get out of there! The rules and regulations of our parents while living under their roof seem archaic and unfair. When we turn 18 and “officially” become an adult, we need to move on to a place where we are the ones who set the rules for our lives.

Yet, making a change, especially a major one, is intimidating and full of fear. Stepping into a new chapter in our lives poses risks and makes us question our own ability to succeed. I’ve often used the quote, “The devil that you know is better than the devil that you don’t know”, and sometimes it feel safer to cling to what we know, even with its downfalls, than reach out for something new. It’s that thought that came to me as I watched the leaves struggle against the wind to remain intact – to stay in a place they knew rather than let go and let the wind take them where it may. Of course, leaves don’t have brains to know that, at some point in time, they will be taken from that place that they know!

And that is true for life as well. Changes do occur, whether they are changes we make happen or changes which occur due to an external force of some kind. It’s important, even while we’re clinging desperately to whomever or whatever provides us a safe feeling, that we are looking forward to a time when change will come and how we can prepare ourselves to adapt.

Life is akin to a body of water – no matter how big or how small. There is always a current, always a movement in the water. Individual droplets move, even when unseen to our naked eyes, in a way that will change the entire body of water. Like the water, it is important that we do not remain static in preparation for how life will unfold. And like the leaves, sometimes it’s better to let go and see where the wind takes you!

My Revised Bucket List

As I’ve become older, it’s become obvious to me that there are things that have been on my “bucket list” for a really long time which I can no longer, under present circumstance and financial means, see ever come true. For a long time, my bucket list has included taking an Alaskan cruise, visiting either Australia or New Zealand and visiting Ireland.

Besides these travels, my bucket list also includes taking a hot air balloon ride and bungee jumping.

But driving home recently after having had the pleasure of seeing Phil Vassar perform live AND being part of his ‘meet and greet’ afterwards, which included both a hug and a photo with him, I started thinking that my bucket list needs modification. Maybe not modified so much, as I wouldn’t delete any of the things already on it, but added to in order to reflect some more attainable things that I enjoy.

I’ve had opportunities over the past two years to see some small-venue stage productions, and have found that I enjoy this ambiance much more than large productions. There is a sense of being invited into the unfolding story that you get in a small venue. The actors and actresses are local or regional talent, and each performs for the love of performing rather than for the dollars they earn. Acting is in their blood and it’s a passion to continue, even though it will never make them rich and famous. So I need to add “See small-venue plays” whenever possible.

And, although Phil Vassar is a well-known country music star, seeing him at a small venue was definitely different than seeing him as part of a mass audience. I do enjoy country music concerts and have only been to one with which I was disappointed because the “star” entertained the crowd but did nothing to engage the crowd. Come on, even if you’re up in the nose-bleed section, you want to see the entertainer react with the crowd! So, I’m adding “See more country music concerts” to my bucket list. And, to be honest, I’m no longer “up” on today’s newest stars, so seeing the oldies but goodies – more than once – will be what I’m looking for.

I’ve never been an avid fan of going to the movies, but I’ve done it a few times with my bestie, picking out shows that are primarily humorous chick-flicks because we’re both sure to like them. It’s fun to go to the movies with someone so you can talk about the movie after you’ve seen it. But the past several months there have been a couple of movies I would have enjoyed seeing, albeit that my bestie’s schedule is far more crowded and complicated than mine. So, I’m adding “See more movies” to my bucket list, reminding myself that it’s perfect OKAY to go alone, especially to a matinee.

I’m sure I will think of or discover more things to add to my bucket list. I just need to be conscious that I’m no longer some young person who has a world of time in front of me to do things I enjoy doing. I also need to get over this idea that I can’t do these things on my own, because I can, even if it’s not my preference. I’m not ready to go on a bona-fide vacation by myself, because I want to be able to share those moments and memories with someone else. But it is time to get out and do/discover things while my health still allows me to.

Remember, at the end, we don’t regret the things we’ve done, only the things we didn’t. So, revise your own bucket list by adding some attainable goals and get out there!

The Sound of Thunder

The sound of thunder clapping fills many folks with dread,

But for me, it’s no more ominous than the voices filling my head.

“You should get this done,” one whispers, regardless of the pain

That makes my body weary and tires out my brain.

Another voice reminds me that I have it easy,

That the chores and things I have to do are breezy.

But my body cringes at the thought, so mere

Adding to the existing pain fills my soul with fear.

And when the demons decide to chime in

My mood drops me into a mindless tail spin.

Days pass by, sense of time is lost

As an emotional being

I carry them at this cost.

Like thunder, my body rattles

In the aftermath, the voices tattle.

I fight so hard for an appearance that’s normal

But always know that this fake smile is formal.

So do not judge the thunder or stories that it tells

For inside of my mind, is where the thunder fell.

Hacks from my Happy Place – X

As promised in an earlier post, this post is intended to give you some suggestions on how to prepare your kitchen if you live anywhere where winter can be – and often is – a big white beast!

If you live in an area which is prone to power outages during storms, here are some important hints for you:

#1) If you don’t already have one, buy yourself a manual can opener.

#2) For less than $25, you can buy yourself a sterno stove and several cans of sterno. These can be found in any sporting goods store in the camping section, and can also be purchased online. I suggest you buy a stove that allows you to place a pot/pan on top. And for fun, cook hotdogs over the flame from a can of sterno – just like camping!

#3) Stock up on canned goods (you can because you have a manual can opener!). Tuna is good to have on hand. There are other canned meats available as well. A wide variety of soups are out there! Things like non-refrigerated pudding cups, applesauce cups and fruit cups are good to have on-hand to satisfy a sweet tooth.

#4) Did you know that you can freeze milk? Well, you can! Just remember that you need to empty some of the container first due to expansion when it freezes. Also, milk thaws very slowly, so I tend to buy a few pints from a convenience store to put in my freezer. Lunchmeat and cheese also freeze well.

#5) If you don’t already have one, invest in a cooler. If you lose electric for many hours or days, just put your frozen foods in the cooler and sit it outside!

#6) If you are a coffeeholic like me, life changes drastically when you can’t have a cup due to a power outage. Now is the time to buy a box of single-use coffee bags (they look and act like tea bags). I also have a steel thermos, which, if I suspect a power outage, I will fill with boiling water. Now, I’ll be honest, this stuff isn’t nearly as good as fresh-brewed coffee, but even bad coffee is better than no coffee, right?

#7) You won’t want to be opening and closing the refrigerator door more than necessary. Be prepared by having, on hand, a bunch of condiment packages for things like mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise. These little packages don’t need refrigeration and they are handy for making sandwiches, etc., even tuna salad (which again, you can make because you have a manual can opener!).

#8) The joke that goes around Pennsylvania, where I live, is that, at the first sight of a snowflake, there is a mad dash to store to buy milk and bread. A little trick to keep bread fresh longer, without getting moldy, is to put a stalk of celery in the bag with the loaf of bread. Celery tends to dry out, and it will ‘suck up’ the moisture in the bread so that it doesn’t go moldy! (Me? I live alone and it takes me a good while to go through a loaf of bread, so mine goes into the fridge when I bring it home.)

#9) Make sure you have paper plates, paper bowls and some plastic utensils on hand. Whether you have a dishwasher or wash your dishes by hand, no hot water means they can’t be washed. No one wants to look at a growing pile of dirty dishes filling the sink! This is also true for hot and cold drinking cups.

Though I know it’s not really true, a part of me wants to believe that being fully prepared plays into reverse psychology with Mother Nature – you know, like carrying an umbrella to keep it from raining. I’d prefer to be prepared for a disaster that never happens than to be unprepared when it does happen. Think of these ideas as insurance!