Tag Archives: love

The Election Outcome – Fostering Love and Kindness

This post is written in the format of a letter to my son.

The presidential election was two days ago. I was heart-broken over the outcome, although I was not surprised by it. I’m going to share my Facebook posts from yesterday with the intention of letting you see how I was feeling and the impact it had on me.

“I am heartsick.”

My heart literally hurt. I felt nauseous. I had feared for quite some time that this would be the outcome of the election, but continued to hope I was wrong. It was inconceivable to me that there are so many people in our country that think the bigotry, misogyny and bullying displayed by our president-elect is okay. That still floors me, but I am gaining another perspective on it as well.

“The only path forward is love. Love is what heals the hurt and fear that has created the world we live in. There is power in intention, so intentionally send your love and healing to our nation. There is power in numbers, so join together in sending your love and healing energy. I will join you there.”

I felt an overwhelming need to do something. And using my energy and intention in a positive way was the only thing I could do at that moment. Going forward there will be opportunities to do something in the physical world, while continuing to hold an attitude of love.

“The election is over, the people have spoken. I will not contribute to greater division by criticizing the new president-elect, or those who voted for him. Something is seriously wrong in this country when the majority of people feel so much fear that they feel the need to choose a leader who traffics in fear.

We need to look deep and see that those people have real fears that are not being addressed. I have no tolerance for bigotry in any form, yet I understand that it comes from a place of fear. We need to understand and address those fears so that we can all come together.”

Like so many others, I was on overload from all the negativity surrounding the election. I wasn’t going to perpetuate that personally, and I wasn’t going to immerse myself in other people’s negativity. Again, I wanted to focus on the path forward, and it is essential to acknowledge and address that there is a reason half the nation voted the way they did. We need to accept that reality and then do something to shift it if we don’t like it.

“I am reminding myself that the US government was designed with checks and balances. The presidency is only one component. There are so many prominent Republicans that spoke out against Trump. My hope is that as Senators and Representatives they are strong enough to continue to stand up for what is right as we go forward.”

Yes, I am still scared about what the outcome of this election will bring. And at the same time, I don’t want to catastrophize. Remembering that our nation’s government was structured in a way to prevent the abuse of power by one individual has helped me a lot. A friend commented on this post that her hope was that the Republicans and Democrats could come together because of this, and that is one of my hopes as well. There has been so much divisiveness in the past eight years, and perhaps this president will be the catalyst for the two parties to band together in the country’s best interest.

“So many people are posting what is in my heart, too. Let’s actively make America kind again, by actively being kind to everyone we meet. Lead by example and we will change the world.”

Late on election night someone added me to a secret Facebook group supporting Hillary. Although my vote was more about voting against Trump than voting for Hillary, seeing the posts in this group gave me a lot of hope. There were millions of others who feel like I do, who are devastated and scared for our country, who want to protect the rights of women and minorities, who want to take action from a place of love and kindness.

“Allow yourself to grieve. I am grieving the loss of illusion. Our world is not (yet) the way I hoped for or wanted it to be. After grieving, then it will be time to deal with reality and the actions I can take to be part of the shift towards my dream of how our world can be.”

Many people in the secret group, as well as my friends, were posting that they couldn’t stop crying. I had not allowed myself to go there yet, because my fallback position is always to buck up and take action. I tried writing a blog post, but I couldn’t do it, and I knew it was because it was too soon. I needed to grieve. I needed to allow myself to feel (beyond the physical heart and stomach ache).

And so I cried. And cried. And cried some more. Crying is not something that has come easily to me in the past, and although I am getting more comfortable with it, it still sometimes takes me a while to allow those feelings to surface. I know that it is a healthy thing to do, to allow emotions to process through rather than suppressing them. And so I cried.

“Many people are expressing that they are scared because of the outcome of the election. Yes. It is a scary thing. And, I still believe that we don’t have to allow this election to define us. In our own lives we can be revolutionaries that will not allow hatred to go unchallenged.

I have been scared for the past year; I could see the writing on the wall, the parallels to Nazi Germany. We do not have to allow that to happen to our country.

Yes, there are steps we can take through the political process. But what I’m asking us to do is to take action personally. Every single day. To approach every interaction with love and kindness. To stand up for our brothers and sisters whose voices are not heard. To challenge every single thing you witness that does not come from love and kindness.

Don’t be afraid to confront. Don’t be afraid to cause a scene. Approach with good intent, but don’t be bullied into silence. Stand up and be heard. It’s easy to say, and very hard to do. But I’m going to do my best to make this my personal mission.

Because I’m scared and I don’t want to be. Because I will not be made to feel powerless. Because I don’t want to live in a world of hate and discrimination.

We can each make a difference. Every single one of us. Please, please, please do whatever you can.”

Yes, I have feared this outcome for the past year, even as I worked to avert it. It began when there was so much controversy over the Syrian refugees, and I was confronted with the fear many other people were feeling. I began seeing then the parallels with Nazi Germany. Only in this case instead of the Jews, it was the Muslims.

I am fearful for all minorities, whether minority by race, religion or sexual identification. And, of course, I am fearful for women. But I don’t want my fear to turn into anger and hatred. Instead I want to use it to fuel actions that will affect positive change with or without the buy-in of our president-elect.

I have often thought of the brave Germans who hid and protected Jews during that awful time. Would I have the courage to do the same? I have truly wondered about this many times. Do I have the strength to stand up for others when my very life may be threatened in doing so?

I have never been sure, have always feared I would be too cowardly. The opportunity to prove differently is here, and I intend to take it. I am not going to be quiet. I am not going to go along to get along. I am going to do whatever is in my power to protect myself and others from bullying and discrimination, and to preserve human rights for everyone.

Letter 2: What I Believe

This post is written in the format of a letter to my son.

I think it’s important to share my beliefs with you, because that is a very quick and easy way to gain a lot of understanding about who I am. We have not talked about these things, except in passing. Partly because as I became more clear on what I believed and my spirituality became a priority in my life, you were becoming a teenager, and I was afraid of being judged by you.

I realize now it was a big mistake not to share the path I was on, what I was learning, who I was becoming. Even though I believe that we each have our own path and our own beliefs, and yours may not look anything like mine, I let go of the chance for the discussion, and for you to see that it’s okay to talk about what you believe even when others may disagree.

My beliefs have been developed and honed over many years of both internal and external exploration. However, I also believe that I have always had a knowingness of their truth, and the journey has been more one of remembering than learning or discovering. Many people speak of this remembering, and it rings true for me, as each of my beliefs is something that resonates deeply within me whether I have had experiences that validate the belief (for me – not external validation), or not.

In this letter, I’ll briefly share what I believe. In a later letter, I may dive deeper into one or more of these topics. This is a varied list, and in no particular order:

  1. I believe that my path may or may not be like anyone else’s. We each have a right to take our own experiences and decide for ourselves what we believe. Even though I may not have the same beliefs as you do, I respect your right to believe as you do – if what you believe (and the actions those beliefs may fuel) does not harm anyone. It is not my right, nor anyone else’s, to impose their beliefs on someone else. Period.
  2. I believe that we are each divine. We each have a soul that is eternal, and that soul is divine.
  3. I believe in reincarnation. We come here (or somewhere else other than Earth) many times. The purpose of these lives is to learn. I believe that prior to each life we choose what it is we want to experience and to learn in that lifetime. Though we always have free will, opportunities will present themselves throughout our lives to facilitate what we have come here to learn.
  4. I believe we are all connected. Each of our divine souls are part of a divine whole. We are separate yet all one at the same time. It’s like each soul is a drop of water in the ocean. When in the ocean, the drop is indistinguishable from the ocean itself. Yet the drop continues to exist, as its own thing.
  5. I believe an internal shift in me affects the whole. Because we are all connected, if something shifts in me, then something shifts for every soul.
  6. I believe in surrender. Surrender is having faith that what shows up in my life is there for my benefit and accepting it rather than fighting it. It’s not about being passive, but rather going with the flow rather than trying to swim upstream. I accept that I don’t know the big picture, but trust that whatever is in my life is ultimately for my learning and growth.
  7. I believe in the power of intention. My thoughts create my reality, and I can direct those thoughts to create a better reality, or I can choose to be a victim by not accepting responsibility for my life.
  8. I believe that peace, both internal and in the world, is a product of surrender.
  9. I believe in taking inspired action.
  10. I believe that everything happens for a reason.
  11. I believe that love is the core of our divine souls. There is no such thing as evil. People take actions that are not loving for several reasons. One may be that it is their role in this life, in order to facilitate the growth of others. Another common reason is that they are in tremendous pain and don’t know that surrender is the only path through that pain, so they lash out.
  12. I believe that as humans, we each have an ego. This is part of the human experience and is not part of our divine soul. The ego is necessary for the human experience, and facilitates our learning and growth as we work to transcend it.
  13. I believe in intuition and psychic abilities. Through accessing my higher self – the divine soul – I can have access to information that is not learned through traditional methods.
  14. I believe it is possible to communicate with souls who are not currently in a body. We all have this ability, but most of us have not developed it.
  15. I believe that dreams contain information and messages, either from my higher self, or from the collective we are each part of.
  16. I believe the material world, including our human bodies, is made of energy. We can shift our experience by shifting energy in our bodies and around us through energy medicine like acupuncture and EFT, or simply through intention.
  17. I believe in astral travel.
  18. I believe that we reincarnate in soul groups, and have had many lifetimes, in different roles, with the primary people in our lives.
  19. I believe in synchronicity.
  20. I believe in the validity of many metaphysical tools such as astrology, numerology and handprint analysis.
  21. I believe that, ultimately, we each are on a journey of enlightenment that takes place over many, many lifetimes. We each have the same goal in the end, to reach the place of unconditional love and peace.

I realize this list is a bit of a hodge-podge, but I hope it gives you a bit of a view into who I am and how I approach being in the world.

Follow Your Heart – It Knows the Way

I have been in New England for about a week, exploring and deciding where I want to move. I knew that part of the draw was that many of my ancestors came from England and Scotland and settled in this area in the 17 and 18th centuries. I also realized before beginning the trip, that beyond discovering what felt like home to me, there was work to be done in healing myself and ancestors, and releasing shared grief. I didn’t know exactly the cause of this grief, or the form the healing would take, but was open to what showed up.

Two days ago, I started out in a lovely frame of mind. I had spent the night near Portsmouth, NH and was exploring that area. I had discovered the day before that I really want to be near the ocean, so I decided I would explore down the coast between Portsmouth and Boston. I wasn’t feeling great physically because I had a bit of a headache, but I was in a great mood. Until…

After lunch in Gloucester, MA, I decided to see what Salem was like. Whoa!

As I got closer to Salem I began to feel nauseous, to the point where I felt I might throw up. I am very sensitive to the energy of those around me, and the energy of this place was making me physically ill. Given the history, this is not surprising. And, it is sad that nearly 400 years later that energy of grief and guilt and shame has not yet dissipated.

Needless to say, I didn’t stop, but chose to drive on to Boston.

I reached Boston, where I would be staying at the apartment of a friend who is out of town. I struggled a bit finding a place to park, but ultimately it all worked out, although I was left feeling pretty grumpy.

I had begun to feel a bit confused about where I wanted to settle. I had brought along my pendulum to help me sort out how I really felt. Using a pendulum is a way of doing muscle testing. Our bodies have wisdom that it is sometimes difficult to access through our minds and thinking.

So, later that evening I got out my pendulum with the intent of asking about some of the places I had visited, and were they the right place for me. I immediately felt overwhelmed with grief and loneliness. I cried for a while – a hard cry that led to rapid breathing and yawning and an urge to vomit. Yawning for me is a physical sign of energy being released. Intellectually I realized that this grief was not mine, but that of my ancestors, and this process still was difficult to go through.

At one point, when the crying had slowed down, I thought again to use the pendulum, which had been in my hand the entire time. I had been walking around the apartment as I was releasing all this grief, and I was in the bedroom. I stopped walking and took out the pendulum and attempted to calibrate it by using standard statements like “My name is Laura” (true) and “My name is Sam” (untrue), but the pendulum did not move at all. So I tried the straight-forward use of the words yes (true) and no (untrue). But still the pendulum did not move at all.

I was upset and frustrated, and even a little pissed off. At that moment I looked up and noticed a wooden block with a saying imprinted on it: “Follow Your Heart ~ It Knows the Way.” Ah… I didn’t need the pendulum, all I needed was to feel what my heart told me.

The day before I had been at Cape Elizabeth, Maine, right on the Atlantic Ocean and my heart held a warmth that I had not experienced anywhere else on my journey. I noticed it at the time, and paid attention to it. I didn’t need the pendulum.

I don’t know for sure that this means I will settle in Cape Elizabeth – although I have had a couple of people, one of whom I didn’t even know until a couple of days ago, offer to talk with me about that area.

What it does mean, for sure, though, is that I can trust my heart. I got this message loud and clear, with actual written words!

So, I will follow my heart.

Mother’s Day Part 1 – Lessons My Mother Taught Me

Mother’s Day is always good for bringing up stuff for me. It began when I was at the store the other day looking for a card for my mother. We’ve had a rough go of it – at least from my perspective. I don’t think she is conscious of how difficult I have found our relationship, even as I have tried to address some of the issues with her over the years. And of course that is part of the problem.

Looking for a Mother’s Day card is always interesting. Most of them are all about what a wonderful mother the person in question has been. How loving, how supportive, how… fill in the blank. The problem is that I don’t feel that my mother was a good mother for me. Yes, we always had food, clothing and shelter. My sister and I were not physically abused. My mother was not an alcoholic or a drug addict. She was the epitome of a good, responsible citizen.

Unfortunately, that was not enough. I didn’t get what I needed most: unconditional love.

Yes, I know she did her best. Yes, I know she was the product of her own upbringing and environment. And, as I have told my counseling clients many times, just because you can understand and have compassion for why someone acted a certain way, does not make it okay that they acted that way.

I do have compassion for my mother. And I still did not get what I needed as a child.

This morning I was looking at all the tributes to mothers on Facebook, and it was in my face again. I couldn’t honestly say that I felt the same way about my own mother.

In thinking about this more, I realized that, in fact, I got exactly what I needed from my mother. My relationship with my mother has been my greatest source of personal and spiritual growth.

Here are the lessons my mother taught me.

  1. Perfectionism. In my mother’s world you must do something perfectly, or you fail. An A- is not good enough. 2nd place is not good enough.

The real lesson:  I am already perfect. As a soul I am whole and perfect. It is the human part of me that needs to work on becoming perfectly myself. Because I’m already perfect.

  1. You have to earn love. This is a corollary to #1. The reason you need to be perfect is so that people will love you. Otherwise, you will be abandoned and alone.

The real lesson:  As a spiritual being, I am love. I don’t have to seek love from others, because that is who I am – and who they are – at the core. I have the love of Spirit, no matter what. No matter what I do or don’t do.

  1. What others think of you is more important than what you think of you. Starting to see a pattern here? Yup, once again about earning the approval / love of others. This time by being what they want you to be, which may not be who you really are.

The real lesson: Be true to myself. People come and people go. Some like me, some don’t. In the end, I’m the one who has to like me.

  1. Rules are made to be followed. If you break a rule / law, you will get in trouble. People will find out. They won’t like you anymore. Boy, was I good at following the rules! (I still struggle a bit with this and judgement of others when they break rules. But I’m working on it!)

The real lesson: Rules and laws are useful to keep society in check. And I do what feels right to me. If what I’m doing harms no one else (for me this is the litmus test), then so what if it’s against the rules?

  1. Right and wrong are opposites and clear cut. My mother has a strong sense of right and wrong – and difficulty seeing a situation from anything other than her own perspective. My sister and I used to say, “There’s our mother’s way to do something and the wrong way.”

The real lesson: I know what’s right for me. I don’t necessarily know what’s right for you. And there’s a whole lot of grey between those opposites of black and white.

In looking back over these, they really are all closely related. They’re all about judging and being judged in order to give or earn love. I guess that’s the crux of my issues with my mother and her way of being: I constantly felt judged and was constantly trying to earn her love.

These days my mother and I have the best relationship of our lives, in my opinion. I accept her for who she is, but I don’t buy into her stuff. That’s about her, not about me. I rarely feel guilty that I’m not being her vision of a “good daughter.” Once I gave up the guilt and the feeling of obligation that caused it, it was a lot easier to want to spend time with her.

I don’t have any illusions that my mother will ever become the mother I wish I’d had. But I do feel compassion for her and her own struggles, and I recognize the ways in which she tries to show me that she loves me. I’ve let go of feeling that every good deed from her comes with a price tag attached (that’s one I forgot to mention – if I do something nice for you, you owe me), and instead just express my gratitude for whatever the favor is.

Finally, I am grateful for the lessons I learned through having her as my mother. I believe that we pick our life lessons and who will play them out with us before we come for another lifetime, so obviously I set this all up for my own benefit. I guess I can’t be mad at anyone about that, but myself!

I Give Myself Permission To Not Know

Yesterday I had a session with my BodyTalk practitioner. She talks to my body silently and uses muscle testing to get answers. A few minutes into the session she asked me, “What would you like to give yourself permission for?”

Immediately I knew that I wanted to give myself permission to not know. I’ve recently (and off and on for the past 18 months) been in a place of not knowing where I’m going. It creates a lot of stress. I wanted to be okay with not knowing.

I also have realized through a situation with my teenage son several months ago, that my need to know is tied to control; the idea that I take responsibility for everything and have to fix that which is “broken.”

At that time my “not knowing” what was going on for my son was very stressful for me, and I realized it was because if I didn’t know what was happening I couldn’t fix it. And…I came to the understanding that it wasn’t my job to fix it.  Whatever it may be.

“Needing to know” has been my way to keep myself safe. If I am ever vigilant about what’s going on around me, I can protect myself and those I love. But that is just an illusion. I cannot control what happens. At best I can mitigate circumstances.

Trying to control is another way that my lack of trust shows up. Lack of trust in myself, others and Spirit to be able to deal with whatever. And hypocrisy in that I say I believe that the world (and Spirit) is benevolent, and that everything will always be as it should be. But by trying to control I’m really saying I don’t believe that.

So as of yesterday, I give myself permission to not know.

When I Don’t Trust Others, I Really Don’t Trust Spirit

Last year I realized that I have been over-protective of my son in a way that is not healthy for either of us. I have taken on his difficult emotions so that he did not have to feel them. In doing this, I’ve kept him from learning and growing in certain ways.

In learning to have a more separate existence from him, I’ve realized that I don’t trust him to keep himself safe. That I have a very deep fear – terror really – that if I don’t protect him he will not survive. Intellectually I know that we each need to be responsible for ourselves, and that he has his own path and lessons to learn in this lifetime.

But as a mother, it can be really difficult to find that fine line between protecting a vulnerable child who doesn’t yet have the skills or wherewithal to take care of himself, and over-protecting to the point where the child doesn’t have the opportunity to learn those skills.

My son is almost an adult now. The line is much clearer than it was when he was younger. And yet…

Some things have happened in the past several months that have really brought to light how much over the line I have been in my son’s life, and the need to find a better balance. I totally get this. Again, intellectually. And yet the terror remains.

If I truly believe that we each come here with a purpose, and our own life lessons to learn (which I do), then I need to be able to trust that whatever happens is for my benefit, and for my son’s benefit. When I don’t trust him to take care of himself, I really don’t trust Spirit. I don’t trust that all things happen for the benefit of all.

I do have faith. I do believe that the Universe is benevolent.

I realize that being able to fully trust and surrender to the benevolence of Spirit is a remnant of my control issues. Throughout my life until somewhat recently I have felt that I’m the only one I can rely on. That it is my responsibility to keep myself and those I love safe.

We’re all works in progress, and I would guess that letting go of control (or rather the illusion of control) is one of my life lessons. How freeing it must be to be able to rely on others, and on Spirit. To not have to be in charge of everything.

And at the same time it feels pretty darn scary.

So, one step at a time, one situation at a time.

The circumstances with my son are there not only for his benefit, but for mine. To give me the opportunity to choose to trust him, and to trust Spirit.

I’m Always Amazed at How Everything (and Everyone) is Connected

I continue to be amazed at how connected everything (and everyone) in my life is. There is no doubt in my mind that we are all connected and that everything that happens in my life is related.

The past several weeks I’ve been feeling a lot of doubt and confusion about my career direction. It has been really difficult for me, because I’m usually quite decisive and action oriented. Although I have just spent a year not doing much externally because I was going through a lot of learning and growth and change.

But in November I had my a-ha about the direction for my business and I was really excited about it. Then I wasn’t. Over the past few weeks I’ve really questioned my direction and what I should be doing with my life. For several years I have had the strong sense that I have a mission, a specific life purpose, and I have been incredibly dedicated to fulfilling that.

Now I was having the “run away and hide” thoughts that I used to have in my previous career. I was seriously considering, and beginning to pursue getting a “real job.” But it didn’t feel right. Each step I took in that direction I was confronted with something that made me recoil. I knew that was not what I wanted to do.

And yet, I was feeling tremendous doubt about my path forward on my mission. It felt like there was a big step up to the next level and I just wasn’t up to it.

Then yesterday I had a session with my BodyTalk practitioner, Pavitra. She does some other modalities, too, like Pysch-K and Access Consciousness. I told her about my doubt and confusion, and that was what I wanted to focus on. In addition, there has been some pretty traumatic stuff going on with my teenage son (who lives with his dad), but I felt that was kind of in a holding pattern and was not where I wanted to focus.

Pavitra began the BodyTalk process, which consists of her asking silent questions of my body and using muscle testing for the responses. There is a whole protocol that leads her to subconscious beliefs I hold that are creating the issues.

Anyway, the short version of the story is that this self-doubt and confusion I had was not mine. It belongs to my son, and I have been holding it for him. This made a whole lot of sense to me. I had become aware last year that throughout his life I have felt the difficult emotions for my son (as well as a couple of other men in my life, including my father).

I have been doing some work over the past several months to release those emotions that are not mine and send them back to their rightful owner. So when Pavitra said this doubt and confusion was not mine, it really clicked for me. Given the difficulties my son has been going through recently I could completely understand that he is feeling a lot of self-doubt and confusion about his life and his next steps.

Even though I did not consciously take on those feelings for him, I think it has been such a habit for me that it just happened naturally. I have been doing some work with an energy healer, Wendy, to help me separate myself from him energetically, but I guess old habits die hard.

The positive of all of this, is that because we are connected, doing my own work and healing myself helps to heal him, too.

So even though I was very specific at the beginning of the session that I didn’t want to focus on the situation with my son, here it popped up anyway – AND it was related to the issue I did want to work on, that feeling of doubt and confusion.

Amazing!

Eagles, Part I – Spirit Is Always Present

Friday was my birthday. Several weeks earlier I made plans to go by myself to the Olympic Peninsula. Part of my motivation was to spend some time alone in nature. To reflect and meditate on what I wanted to create in the coming year.

On a clear day when I am driving the hills of Seattle near my home I can see the Olympic Mountains. Over the past couple of years I have felt a pull to go to the Olympic Peninsula, especially to the northern part of the coast where it is rocky and wild.

However, that is not a day drive, as it takes four hours or more to get there, and requires planning for where I would stay overnight. With my birthday coming up it seemed like the perfect excuse for this getaway.

I’ll admit, too, that the other part of my motivation was that I didn’t want to end up alone and with no plans on my birthday weekend. It was something of preemptive strike to make plans for that weekend so that I was choosing to be alone rather than ending up alone.

On Friday I had no special birthday plans. I did a Skype call with a friend from church that was business-related. I met a new friend for tea, and she bought my tea and pastry, which was nice and unexpected. I saw a couple of clients and went for my monthly acupuncture appointment.

I stopped for dinner at my favorite Thai restaurant on my way home from the acupuncturist. Nothing special and I was okay with that.

When I got home it was still early in the evening, and I suddenly felt very lonely and sad. It was my birthday, and no one had invited me to do anything to celebrate. Of course the flip side of that is that I had not let my friends know that I wanted to do something. But either way, I felt very sad and sorry for myself.

I was even beginning to feel like I didn’t want to leave on my weekend trip the next morning. I had a vague sense of loss or grief at leaving home for the weekend. I worried about my cats, which of course are fine on their own overnight.

I did what I frequently do when I begin to feel sad, lonely or grief-stricken. I distracted myself by playing games on the computer and reading. I hoped I would not be feeling this way all weekend.

When I awoke Saturday morning I did, indeed, feel better. I had been thinking about the route I would take to the hotel. Where would I like to go, what would I like to see and do on the way?

After treating myself to breakfast out, I decided to go to a park at the south end of Hood Canal: Penrose State Park. My family had gone there many times when I was a child. Sometimes we would go for the day and go clam digging. When we got home my dad would make chowder with the clams. Other times we would camp overnight, hike in the woods near the water, and dig caves in the sandy bank at the water’s edge.

I hadn’t been to Penrose for about five years, and prior to that had not been since I was an adolescent. This stop was a nostalgic one for me.

I arrived mid-morning. There had been a little rain while I was having breakfast, but now it was dry, with some broken clouds. I had brought a raincoat and boots because the weather can be unpredictable, but I was thankful that I would not need them – at least not right then.

The tide was about halfway out, and the spit of land where we walked to dig clams was fully exposed. I decided to take a walk out on this spit. The path along the top of the spit was somewhat rocky, and required a certain amount of attention to my feet and where I was stepping so that I didn’t turn my ankle.

As I walked this spit of land that stuck out into the water, I would occasionally look around at the view: land close in on both sides, still and quiet water, a seagull or crow here and there.

I noticed streams of water spurting up from the ground in the wet areas on either side of the pathway. I remember that seeing these fountains was how we knew there was a clam, and would start digging to find it. It was a fun and warm memory of time with my dad.

After ten minutes or so, I was about halfway down the length of the spit. I was continuing my slow walk, looking around me occasionally, but also focused on where I was stepping. To my left I suddenly heard the beat of wings and looked up to see a bald eagle taking off from the ground not more than ten feet away from me!

He flew back to the forested land at the edge of the water and perched on the top of an evergreen tree. From where I was standing I could only see him because of his white head. I was amazed (and a little disappointed) that I had come so close to this eagle, and yet had not noticed him there.

I know that eagles symbolize Spirit. I realized that this experience was a message that Spirit is always with me, whether I notice it or not. Spirit watches over me even when it is hidden in the top of a tree and I can’t see it. It is still there, just waiting to be noticed.

I was (and am) so grateful for this experience, this reminder. I had been feeling sad and lonely, unloved and uncared for, yet Spirit was with me all the time, loving me and caring for me. All I had to do was pay attention.

Why Do I Resist Showing Appreciation to Others?

I have been aware for quite some time that I have difficulty expressing appreciation for others unless what they have done is significantly above and beyond. On surveys I’m loathe to rate anyone (or anything) a 5 out of 5, even when there’s nothing that could be improved. I hate standing ovations. Very occasionally I feel one is deserved, but usually when others stand at the end of a performance, the voice in my head says, “That was fine, okay, even good – but it wasn’t outstanding.”

Why do I feel I have to ration my accolades? What is the threat I associate with showing appreciation for others?  Why do I always come down on the side of “they don’t deserve it,” or “they haven’t earned it?” What do I have to lose by showing appreciation for the most minimal or ordinary of acts? Why can I only praise the extraordinary? If something has made my life better by even an iota, why not say so?

These are questions I’ve been asking myself a lot recently. Last week I received feedback from several people that this is an area of growth for me, and I know it is true. It hurts to hear that I am not appreciative of others. This is not how I want to be perceived, nor the person I want to be. And yet I resist. There must be a reason.

Why do I feel I have to ration my accolades?

First of all, is this how I feel? Yes. So I must believe there is a limited supply of appreciation to go around and I don’t want to waste it on someone, or something, that is undeserving. But is it true that if I express appreciation, and then find someone even more deserving, that I will have used up my limited supply? Of course not!

This is an attitude of scarcity, not abundance. I want to embrace abundance in all areas of my life, so this is a good place to start. It doesn’t cost me anything to tell someone that I appreciate their work, their kindness, or their gifts. It takes awareness, which I can cultivate.

What is the threat I associate with showing appreciation for others?

Okay, now we’re getting a little deeper. Yes, it does feel threatening to acknowledge the brilliance of someone else. Part of this is again about an attitude of lack, or scarcity: there’s not enough brilliance to go around. If I acknowledge their gifts, then it reduces the possibility of me having gifts as wonderful as theirs, since there is only a limited amount of brilliance (according to this perspective). This is nonsense!

At a deeper level, the threat is about not being good enough. If I appreciate someone and they don’t appreciate me in return, then I feel “less than.” If I like you and you don’t like me back, there must be something wrong with me. So I’ll wait for you to like me first, then I’ll decide to like you.

When I am authentic, my value is not tied to whether you like or appreciate me. I know that I am a valuable soul and that not everyone will like me or appreciate my unique gifts – and that means nothing about me and my value.

On this same theme, if someone has gifts that are similar to mine, I am constantly comparing myself to them. If I praise them, then it feels as if I have put myself a level below. Intellectually I understand that appreciating someone else says nothing about me, other than I am good at appreciating others! Inside it feels like win-lose. If I acknowledge your gifts, then I am saying I have none myself, or that mine are less than yours. Again, this is a load of you-know-what!

When I feel begrudging of extending praise, I can remember that praise is free, and limitless. I can also center myself in the knowledge that my value has nothing to do with you. Whether you are a shining star or a dim little light bulb has absolutely no effect on my unique talents and gifts.

Yes! That’s it! What you do or don’t do has nothing to do with me. I can show appreciation for you, your talents and your accomplishments and it doesn’t change a thing about who I am. Other than now I am a more caring and loving person by giving you kudos.

Now that’s a win-win perspective: being appreciated feels good and expressing appreciation feels good. We both get to feel good!

Why do I always come down on the side of “they don’t deserve it,” or “they haven’t earned it?”

This attitude of deserving or earning praise stems from my earliest childhood. I was raised with the belief that you had to earn everything, including and especially love. Earning appreciation is an extension of this belief. I’ve run up against this belief when learning to be happier, as well.

My belief these days is that everyone is deserving of love, happiness and also appreciation for who they are and what they bring to the world. This belief about earning or deserving anything is an old one, and I no longer want it in my life. Now that I’m conscious of how it affects my willingness to appreciate others, I can choose to tell that little voice in my head that it’s wrong.

What do I have to lose by showing appreciation for the most minimal or ordinary of acts? Why can I only praise the extraordinary?

This is, again, about the belief that you must earn my appreciation and also, that by praising you, I place myself below you in value. Asked and answered.

If something has made my life better by even an iota, why not say so?

Now that I have become aware of the reasons behind my resistance to showing appreciation, I can consciously look for opportunities to praise even the everyday or ordinary. If something has made my life better by even an iota, I can say so

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

My next door neighbors have two miniature greyhounds.  I’m sure they are very nice dogs, but they bark. Every time they go out into the backyard.  My computer is in the kitchen, which is at the back of the house, so I spend a lot of time there.  My bedroom is also at the back of the house.  You can see where I’m going with this.

A little over a month ago I finally got annoyed enough, after being woken up once again by the barking, to talk with my neighbor about this problem.  He and his wife are a nice young couple and have lived in the house for a couple of years.  I told him that the barking had become a problem, and he said they would figure something out.

The barking subsided for the most part, and after two weeks of not much barking I left a thank you card for the neighbors and dog treats for the dogs.  Goodwill.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last.  I’ve noticed over the past week that the barking is back to the level it was before we had the conversation, and twice I’ve been woken up by barking, most recently last night.

I obviously have to talk to them about it again.  I hate conflict.  Really, I do.  My pattern with conflict is usually that I avoid the discussion. I hope the problem will go away, or I try to tolerate it. I examine over and over whether my complaint or concern will be perceived as a valid one. If someone approaches me with a conflict, I usually accommodate them.

And when I just can’t stand whatever it is any longer, I explode. After all the avoiding, tolerating and accommodating, the pressure builds up and I get really angry.  Sometimes way out of proportion to whatever the issues is.  I would like to be more comfortable with approaching a conflict in the early stages before I’m ready to explode.

Last night after I was awoken by the barking for the second time this week. I laid in bed thinking about talking with my neighbor – again – about this problem.  I felt angry that I needed to talk to them again. Why couldn’t they have just kept doing whatever they had been doing for the past month?

I felt angry that they were so inconsiderate to allow their dog out at 11 o’clock at night.  It seems like common sense that when our houses are less than 10 feet apart, and the doggy door opens right next to my bedroom, that you would not let your dogs out that late.

I felt anxious about talking to them about the dogs barking again, even though I have a valid reason. I considered calling instead of going in person (kind of distancing).  I considered leaving a note (definitely distancing).  But I know that I need to speak to them in person.

It took me a while to go back to sleep.  Not because the dogs woke me up, but because I got upset about being woken up.  To begin with, I was angry that it was even an issue.  Then I slipped into worrying about talking with my neighbors about the problem.  After I went back to sleep I even had dreams about it.

This is silly!  It’s just a conversation with my neighbors, and even if they are unhappy about what I have to say the worst that could happen is that they will not make any changes in what they do with their dogs, and that they will be angry with me.

This last part, them being angry with me, is the core of my anxiety about conflict not just with the neighbors, but with anyone.  It is a very deep-seated fear for me; it feels emotionally unsafe for others to be angry at me – I will be abandoned, rejected or hurt in some other way.

I understand some of the reasons I have this fear, yet understanding why does not change those feelings.  I believe that the only thing that will change this fear is putting myself in situations where others may be angry with me, and dealing with the results.  This is part of being authentic and speaking my truth.

In many cases I will not be abandoned or rejected for approaching conflict with someone else.  In fact, they may not be angry at all.  In other cases my older experiences may be repeated where I am rejected because someone is angry at me. Intellectually I know that this does not make me wrong or bad, and I need practice and experience of detaching from others’ reactions. Truly knowing and accepting that their reaction has nothing to do with who I am as a person or whether I am a good or valuable human.

This is big practice for me.  But if I am truly committed to being authentic, then it is practice I must do.  I must say what is true for me and ask for what I need, even when I fear the other person’s reaction.  As long as I act with authenticity, love and compassion I can let others own and take responsibility for their own emotions.