In Response to Poetry

Kings English 2

The King’s English Bookstore

The first time I entered the quaint bookstore was with the intent to meet up with a newly discovered writing group.  I sat next to two women I had decided were going to be my new best friends.  That is until they pulled out their poetry.  Ugh!  My eyes rolled.

After the meeting, the small talk began.  My two distant acquaintances approached me and welcomed me to the group.  As we chatted, one of them made an off-hand comment,  “One of these days we’ll have you writing poetry.”  I politely smiled, but in my head….Yeah, that’ll NEVER happen.

I had no interest in poetry, thought it was pretentious, obscure and took way too much effort to try to make sense of. Just say it! Why hide the meaning(s)? Tell me a story; a clear, to the point, understandable story!

But after being inundated with poetry – once a week for 4 years, I found my self becoming curiouser and curiouser and the closed mind began to creak open. Sometimes, I even allowed the thought, that I could be making poetry harder than it needs to be, rumble around instead of  swatting it away.

I sat silently, week after week, my face a blank, as my writing compatriots read their poems about the intricacies of a leaf swirling down a drain, the sensuality of preparing risotto and historical recollections of an abusive father narrated in admiration.  I came to realize that I too had stories to tell, things I wanted to say, ideas to convey.  But these things, if written in a large story, would dissolve.  No one would even know they were there.  How could I convey my ideas and make them be heard and understood?

Many, many evenings later, while we, the writing group, recited our stories around a dull light, something happened which caused me  to want to push my prejudice aside, stop standing on the side-line and join in.  This tiny moment of ten very different people, coming together, sharing the same space and lifting one another needed to be recorded.  I would do that in a poem.

I would like to suggest that the reason I went against my belief of poetry being a loathsome thing is because… I was put under a spell.  It’s true.  You see it was one of those inspiring nights when the imagination and creativity were flowing through all of us as we sat bunched together, in the small living room of one of our member’s homes.  The lights were dim with only a fireplace to read by as we snacked on cheese and nuts and tea, (don’t ever forget the tea in this group.)  By the end of the night, my defenses were down.  I could no longer resist.  And so at midnight, I drove home with this, my first poem swirling in my head.

 

 

 The Writing Group

I sit with mind alterers, bamboozlers, mesmerizers

They tell stories, wax poetic

The narration begins

the ghost of a dolphin swims into the room

it jumps, then dives

the story concludes

the dolphin exits

its eternal smile

rests upon us all

Then parents

long deceased appear

Staring lovingly upon their child

taking his turn at an ode to his past

7 colors of a sunset blaze in the desert sky

our source of light

while joined

in a dim room

A bejeweled lifeless beetle

swirls amidst water and leaves

until it disappears down its bygone drain

A man named JC

Trampled flowers

Coffee drinking bears

Porcelain talking dolls

46 Crayons

Beginners color

Trying to find the lines

Experience paints

crossing in, out and around the lines

Each reader creating their picture

Their original work of art

Strangers revealing their most intimate parts

Articulate beings

Dogged by a whispering, unsettling voice that demands

Express this!

Create that!

For you are unfulfilled unless!

After my first piece, I repented heavily of my stubborn ways.    I discovered that writing  poetry actually helped me define my writing into a more compact form.  It’s amazing!  I’ve discovered it actually tells a story in half the time of any other type of narration.  Uses much more depth, more meaning, more visuals and can do it as if it were a song.

When my poem was on paper, and when I could do no more, I read it to the writing group.

While reading, my voice didn’t shake, nor did my hands, I just couldn’t breathe.  Literally, I could not catch my breath. And then, because my nervousness was so obvious, it made me even more self-conscious/nervous.

I don’t know why I was so nervous.  Well, actually, I do. In regards to poetry, a  couple of women in this writing group are frikking amazing.  Actually, they’re all really good with poetry but one woman in particular.  Her writing is so amazing that she received a grant for a poetry study with someone,  I think he was a Poet Laureate,  don’t ask me for details.  It’s poetry.  I wasn’t following it at the time.  I just know it was something/someone big because when she announced her prize, the room filled with gasps and aww’s. I went with it.

Because I was so new to the experience of poetry, and those in the room were so advanced,  I worried how my poem would be received.  It was so simple in comparison to theirs.  Would they call me out?  Laugh at my lame attempt?  Give me a condescending pat on the head?

At the end and to my relief, they didn’t call my bluff.  They didn’t laugh, and in fact, they were very kind and gifted me with high praise.  I’m not sure if the praise was given because the poem was about them, or they feared my, ‘just short of having a panic attack’, nervousness would turn into a full on ambulance ride, or, if they just liked it.  I decided not to over analyze and go with the latter.

So to make a short story very long,  I wrote in the previous blog about how some writings speak to me as if requesting a response.  Below is my response to those writers/bloggers of poetry, artists of the written word  whose works speak to me.

A Writing Review On A Poet Laureate By…A Person With No Writing Authority Whatsoever.

Thank you Billy Collins

Billy Collins

I picked up your book at the library.

The one with the black bear on the cover.

A friend from my writing group suggested it.

He is a writing genius so I could not doubt.

 

I’ve never really liked poetry. Too flowery,

too clouded in obscure words,

meanings so deftly hidden that one cannot understand them

without a book of translations.

 

Often too dark, too hopeless,

she doesn’t love me, the world is a cruel place,

I shall kill myself ‘

Zzzzzzzzz!

 

As I said, I picked up your book and began reading.

My excitement bounded from heart to head

from lips to eyes as I perused through.

Your writings are simple!

 

I don’t mean kindergarten simple, rather concise, clear, understandably simple.

I found myself smiling, often.

Sometimes, the smile was from the joy of reading your poem,

other times, simply from the joy of being able to actually follow a poem.

 

Your stories; so intimate, personal, revealing so much about you, your day.

It made me think I knew you, that I too would enjoy sitting out in my garden,

the sun pleasantly shining down upon me

while enjoying a book of poetry from long ago.

 

I shut your book, lost in your pleasant scene.

But the Bumblebees caught my eye as they buzzed around the Black-Eyed Susans;

the hummingbird distracted me as well, as it zipped past my head

on the way to a delicious meal of Zinnia nectar.

 

Then the vision was lost. I looked around, back in my world,

no blue hydrangeas here. And no one who would actually enjoy

a thick book of poetry about stone walls with no windows.

Ah, I had been mesmerized.

 

But wait, I said to myself.

I often misinterpret poetry, reading along thinking

it’s a story about a wonderful mountain scene when actually

it’s a story about the death of a new bride

or something completely dark and opposing.

 

Was I misinterpreting your writings as well?

Was the dry humor actually condescending observations

made by a man who thinks too highly of his ability to put words to paper?

I’m sure you’ve heard of men becoming that after a time of too much fame, too much praise.

 

The last thought could only be fleeting though as I reread

and as I rediscovered that indeed,

your writings were simply what they were.

 

With my expression of why now explained,

I end with the intent of this writing in the first place

which is to thank you.

Thank you for giving me the gift of the joy of reading poetry.

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Creating Is Spiritual

Watercolor panMy mom paints. She has a picture of a cat she painted hanging in her family room. It’s not just a picture of a cat though. The viewer is standing outside watching the cat through the latticed window as it peers out towards him or her. The outside wall in which the window is framed into is stone with varying tones of colors and shapes. This picture fills up the entire 11 X 14 paper.

I look at that painting and marvel at how perfectly the individual chosen colors come together, at how the individual brush strokes create the curves, the lines and detail until a picture of a cat peering out into the day is formed.

I marvel that human beings, so like other animals, so base, so stymied by their earthly condition can find within themselves the ability to think so far beyond and above their basic needs that they pick up a piece of wood, add some fibers to it, refine it, then dip it in colored additives created by things they found within and upon the earth, then brush those colors around on a canvas in such a specific way that it creates jaw dropping, awe inspiring works of art.

What drives us to do that? Because it is a drive: a drive so unrelenting that we feel incomplete, unfulfilled unless we obey it. Where does that silent, demanding drive, which seems so beyond the human capacity, come from?

I look at Apes, chimpanzees, etc. To me, that is as far as an animal can and should be able to go when relying on its own self. We, as natural man, should be as simple as the Ape.   Yet we are not and I don’t believe it has anything to do with us. Because our species like any other species is solid, pre-formed and organized into a very specific manner. That thing which lifts us beyond our limited intelligence has to be something outside of ourselves.

Do you ever have those moments when you marvel that you are able to accomplish something you really believe, as a simple being, you shouldn’t be able to do, yet here you are doing it?

Creating is rising higher, …No…. Creating is ‘being’ lifted higher. Creating is a gift. It is not something we are able to give ourselves. It is a gift of unspoken knowledge that there is a higher plane of fulfillment, completion…spiritual.   There is just no other way to explain it. Creating is spiritual.

Turning on the light

Difference Between Kind, Nice and a Doormat: Giving up the cake

Howdy doormat

Can I tell you that when I hear someone say, “she/he is so nice” it instinctively makes me groan in disgust. Of course, if I’m talking with someone I have just met and they make the comment about someone we both know, a loud groan of disgust would be socially inappropriate. Instead, I smile widely and try to say something nice back, such as: “ Yes, isn’t she/he.” Why do I do that? Because it’s the only way I can distract my mind from going to that sarcastic place in my head that has no filter and will betray me with a rude, off-putting eye roll.

Have you noticed that when one is calling someone, ‘nice’, their voice usually goes up at least one octave.   As if they themselves become that sweet, nice person just by saying it.

I don’t like the word, nice, for the reason that it is ‘the’ word thrown around, yet no one seems to know what its real definition is.

For example, I was talking with a friend on the phone the other day. Her married son, daughter-in-law and two small children moved into her 5th wheel stored next to her house. Why did they move into her 5th wheel?   Because she already had her five children living with her in her four bedroom house.

After a few weeks of this, she approached her son with the request to help with the grocery bills.   The son became irate and told his mother that he couldn’t and how dare she ask him such a thing. Didn’t Mom understand he was trying to save for a new house?

Mom didn’t respond.   Instead she turned from the trailer and left. But while telling me about the experience she concluded that, “Well at least he knows how I feel. And then with a burst of pride she adds, “I’m just too nice.”

Too nice?

Yes, she did ask nicely, I have no doubt of that. But is that really what nice looks like or was she just trying to justify an inability to stand up against an angry outburst?

To me, her initial request sounded like a well-founded need of, “Hey, I’m drowning here and could use some help.” For Mom to back down from that request because she came up against resistance is not my definition of ‘nice’.

Let’s define “nice”.   1) Giving pleasure or joy. 2) Good and enjoyable 3) Attractive or of good quality. 4) Kind, polite and friendly 5) Amiably pleasant 6) A city in France. (I know it’s just the spelling not the pronunciation)

I have another friend. He was born with a birth defect that affects his mobility, not his mentality, although many people throughout his life have gotten the two confused. He has never been able to run as fast as anyone, was always the last to be picked for the team, if at all. He was that kid that was pushed down on the black top and then laughed at, pushed into his locker, tripped on his way to class, looked at with scorn by other girls, etc, etc.

He doesn’t really talk about it. In fact, he always has a smile. But because of his past he is much more mindful of the importance of a kind gesture or word and thus he uses them consistently. He is the epitome of kindness. He ALWAYS has a kind, supportive word. Is it annoying? As in all things there is a balance. My friend takes his emotional support beyond the normal boundaries. He gives it even when it’s not asked for or needed. And so sometimes… it can be annoying because everything that is said he turns it into “Oh you poor thing, I need to help you feel better. It would be so much more enjoyable to have a conversation/relationship with him if he stopped relating to everyone within his own perspective that the world is a hurtful place, we are helpless within it and I will do my best to help you stay afloat.

Is kindness and nice the same? Although both are appreciated and admired traits, their connotations are different as their definitions are separate and individual. Kindness is defined as: 1) Of a friendly, generous or warm-hearted nature. 2) Showing sympathy or understanding, charitable. 3) Humane, considerate 4) forbearing, tolerant 5) agreeable, beneficial. 6) Having or showing a tender, considerate and helping nature.

And within those two definitions, although Doormat can be easily perceived as intermingling amongst them, it actually has its own definition. In fact, I found the definition of Doormat from a Cambridge dictionary. “A person who accepts being treated badly and does not complain.” But it’s more than that isn’t it? Other definitions add to and clarify: “a person who allows others to dominate them.” And finally, the best and most thorough definition: “They don’t always fall in line with the expected quiet or shy person, they can be outgoing.   A person who desperately wants to be called a best friend and believes being nice and kind is the best way to achieve that. They try to be there for anyone who needs them no matter what the personal costs and expects nothing in return. They to some extent enjoy being used because it makes them feel important or needed, if only for that moment.”

Now see, Doormat, Nice and Kind are all separate ideas, definitions, etc. To me, my friend should have used kind to confuse with Doormat instead of nice. Why? Because reading through each definition of ‘kind’ seems to be more of an action or gesture than a personality trait. As well, the lines seem to have the ability to be more easily blurred. For example, my friend could have told herself, “I understand my son’s goal and should be more agreeable, considerate. By doing so, I am showing kindness.”

Did you see how I so easily blurred kind and doormat?

I blurred it because had I been my friend, I made the comment with no thought of my own needs, my own self, my own dignity. I allowed my son to push me beyond what I was comfortable and/or capable of giving and what I needed.

Nice or kind is the manner in which you accomplish a task, not how you prioritize a task. In other words, you don’t forgo the ‘No’. The ‘no’ is necessary. It’s when you need to say, no, you do it in a nice/kind manner.

To those who see themselves blurring these lines often, they may see the balance between the three trivial, but I don’t believe it is. Firstly, it affects how you interact or don’t interact with others. As a matter of fact, it defines your success in all relationships: romantic, friendships, even your professional relations. None of that is trivial. That’s your life!

For example, did I mention how I keep my first friend at a distance? Although she is fun to be with, hanging around her for too long gets to be too emotionally draining as I listen to her complain about how others take mistreat her, yet she refuses to simply say a firm No. I wonder how many other people avoid her for the same reason.

And my friend with the birth defect, his main desire in life is to have a spouse as well as deep, fulfilling friendships. Yet his perspective makes him try so hard to please others that he sacrifices his own self in doing so. And because of that he is perceived as someone who doesn’t know himself well.   He is perceived as unreliable and unable to take care of himself. Thus women don’t see him as strong, a leader, a caretaker, rather someone who needs to be lead and taken care of. Women are his friend but that’s about as far as it goes. At work, when leadership opportunities become available, he sits back waiting to be asked, because assertive isn’t ‘nice’, thus, losing out on promotions, etc.

This habit, this learned response, has to be recognized and eradicated. No one can live the life they fully want to live until they let go of that inner voice that tells them who they are and what they have to offer is less than what everyone else has to offer.

The balance for being kind, being nice, doing for others is doing it without completely losing yourself.   I had a friend who was a therapist tell me once, if you can give without expecting anything back and without resentment, than you are giving. If you are giving because you are expecting something back, a favor, the kindness returned, their good will, etc. and if you know if you don’t get something back that you will be resentful, then you need to listen to that and know its okay and even important to have the courage to say “No, I will not do that.

Example, there is one piece of chocolate cake left, you grab it. This cake isn’t just any random cake, this is your cake. You bought the ingredients, you made it and now you would like to enjoy it. You sit down to begin eating when another person decides they want it too. They whine and complain, degrade you, tell you your selfish because you won’t give them the last piece of cake. Do you give in? Let’s go back to what my friend suggested. If you can do it without resentment now or later, then okay letting the other person have the cake is up to you. However, I don’t imagine you would have began eating the cake if you didn’t want it.

But then you begin to doubt yourself. You put more priority on their words then your own. Are their words true? Are you selfish because you aren’t giving up what you wanted, when they have no more claim to it than you do? No, probably not, but then that voice says, “but I’m nice and that ‘s what nice people do, so if I’m not giving in then I must not be nice. So you give up the cake.

Whoa. Again with the doormat/nice definitions blurring. Not sharing your last slice does not make you selfish, it doesn’t make you a bad person. You know this yet you defer to their opinion. Why? Why do their words have more meaning to you than your own? Why do you automatically take their words for truth and deny your own truth? Why are you giving more value to someone else then yourself? And why is it so important that you define yourself and predicate your worth with only one word, ‘nice’? There are more things you can define yourself as, such as: funny, organized, prompt, assertive, confident, athletic, talented, creative, intelligent…you could go on and on. Yet you stay and limit yourself to, ‘nice’. Why?

I was flipping through the channels one evening. It landed on an interview with one of the General Authorities. The journalist re-read a quote the General Authority had said many years ago. It was not a politically correct statement. The General Authority at first laughed nervously, “Did I say that?”

The journalist didn’t respond. Then the General Authority pulled himself up, cleared his throat and firmly replied, “Well, if that’s what I said, then that’s what I said. I stand by it.”

AND THAT, MY FRIEND, IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NICE, KIND AND A DOORMAT.

Not because he said something others didn’t like and refused to apologize. Well, sort of.

I mean it wasn’t because he said something others didn’t like, it was because he stood by what he said, and not out of arrogance, stubbornness or pride. It was because he believed what he said was right and wasn’t going to doubt himself just because others didn’t like it and pushed against him. He trusted and believed in himself.

Had he been a doormat of course he would have apologized /back pedaled immediately. Because, as a doormat he would have understood that pleasing others was more important than staying true to himself. Why does a doormat do that?   I believe someone significant and with great authority in his life, through actions as well as words told him time after time that his opinions/ideas/decisions/feelings weren’t valid. In order to get along, to have approved love and acceptance, he should be agreeable despite his own convictions. And when he did those things, gave up himself, he was rewarded with approval.

I’m not saying we should NEVER apologize or compromise. We should always be humble enough to apologize, see our part in a misunderstanding.   Because of course there are going to be times when we are wrong or have thrown out a thoughtless word or comment.   We all put our foot in it at times.   I’m simply saying that if every fiber of your being believes in what you are saying, doing and if it is kindly said, then trust yourself, be loyal to yourself, value yourself, and stand up for you as well as behind you.

I think of this General Authority outside of church, at work, for instance. Accomplishing his tasks in such a way that he is being true to himself, thereby unswayed by others potentially negative attitudes, desires etc. What must his superiors think? Believing in yourself and following through in those beliefs is a leadership quality. Who do you think is going to get that promotion?

At home, do you think his kids are going to push him, test him? Probably once or twice or until they learn he stands behind what he says, then that will be that. Will they look to him as an admirable, strong father figure? Duh. Will it be a peaceful organized home? Yep. Will his spouse look to him as a strong father figure, trust him, proud to be with a man she can always rely on? Of Course…unless she’s a total mess.

I pondered for some time as to how this man reacted to an uncomfortable situation with confidence and conviction. It made me wonder how I would have reacted. Actually, I knew how I would have reacted. So I decided to use it t to make a much needed change within me.

Now when I say things to others which don’t seem to go over well, instead of questioning myself, and analyzing myself until I’m twisted into knots and end up apologizing even though I shouldn’t, I say to myself, “If that’s what I said then I stand by it, because I know I wouldn’t have said it unless I believed it. And I wouldn’t have believed it unless I had studied it and it had been proven time and time again. I believe in my own intelligence, I believe in my own wisdom and experience. If that’s what I said then I stand by it and I’m going to leave it alone. And you know the interesting thing is that since there is no more self-doubting, there is more confidence. As well, I find I no longer have such a high tolerance for being treated less than I deserve. And since I don’t tolerate it, my self-esteem has greatly improved. Apologizing for every little thing is not treating myself as I deserve. I do, however, for kindness sake, always try to choose my words carefully, as I want the person to know that what I am saying is mindful of them.

I’d like to tell you about a third friend, she has a genuine concern for others. She always thinks the best of others. She never says negative things about anyone. Yet she has very clear boundaries. If you cross those boundaries, she will discuss it, gently explain that you have crossed her boundaries. She will call you out every time. Because of that, she’s a little intimidating. People call her tough. Yet I have discovered her to be the very epitome of kindness, niceness. She is the balance. And she is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.

So, do be kind and even nice to others but don’t lose yourself in the word by forgetting to be kind and nice to yourself as well.

I am nobody's doormat

4.1.1

Singing In The Toilet Stall

man peeking over toilet stall

Do you remember singing in the bathroom as a small child? I’m not sure I do. I probably did.

I don’t know if boys do, my younger brother never did, and I don’t follow small boys into the men’s room to find out.

But little girls do. When the world is right, mom is near by and they are pretty darn sure the world is there’s to command, happy little girls sing in the toilet stall. And it’s sweet, innocent, wholly free and wonderful.

I was at church the other day when an under 6 year old came in with her mother and sisters. She began singing, completely oblivious that there may be anyone else on the other side of her stall to overhear her.

Her carefree attitude, I must admit, was a little contagious. I found myself wanting to sing too.

Did I? No, of course not. A grown woman singing in the toilet stall is just weird. Pretty sure everyone would have ran out of there and some over zealous mother would have called security.  “Ma’am,” the security officer would demand as he rapped on my stall door. “There’s been a report that there is drug activity in here. We’d like you to step out of the stall without flushing.”

So although I didn’t join in, I did let that little girl’s enthusiasm and joy spread onto me. In my head, I began singing my own song. I let go of the worries, the disappointments, the looming bills, and just sang a little song in my head. Then I skipped out and down the hall to class just like that little girl.

No, of course I didn’t. But in my head I did. Do you know how much fun skipping is? Have you ever tried to skip without it making you smile?

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the growth and independence becoming a mature being affords me, however I often miss the things we let go of in order to become that mature adult.

For starters, I miss that lack of self-consciousness, the lack of concern of how one appears skipping down the hallway. Yet, transitioning into adulthood we have to give that up, to some extent, because our larger world outside of our safe little home we stepped away from, requires that we learn to work with others, to compromise, to be mindful of other’s feelings and concerns. Skipping down the hallway, at my age, singing in a public bathroom stall are pretty iffy.

By the way, I applaud all moms who have little girls who sing in the toilet stall. I applaud them because in my mind, little girls like that are happy, content little girls. Their world is a reliable, safe place. Good job mom!

tumblr_mmpm2uDaLt1qg4blro1_500_zps168c690d

Choosing Kindness

james-franko

My children, in an out of state college, left me with a lot of empty time on my hands. Time to do those things I had always wanted to do, time to contemplate, time to look back as well as forward.

I decided I would greet this new place by doing those things I’ve always wanted to do.  Among other things, I would find that enigmatic thing called “kindness.”

“What?” you may be saying.  “Of all things you could choose to do, why are you choosing such a quiet, uneventful thing?  It’s not exciting, it’s not physical, and you won’t come home after a month of being out on the road of kindness with pictures and fantastic memories or stories. ”  So why did I choose it?

I chose it because I finally had the energy, desire, time, wisdom and ability (maturity) to contemplate my own growth.  I was not going to waste it.  So that’s all true but there’s more.

Did I mention how many relationships I have pushed away because of my unkindness?  My first experience, I recall, was in kindergarten.  I remember being bossy and pushy, telling everybody what to do.  Pretty soon I found myself standing alone.  No one would play with me.  It continued on in that manner.  Words would come out of my mouth and suddenly, I’m standing alone.

I never understood why either.  I knew I always meant well.  I knew I had a kind heart and sincerely cared about others.  So why were my words always being misunderstood as harsh?  Why was my honesty and bluntness unkind?  Didn’t they know I was only saying those things to help them?  Mentally, did you just say, “Ohhhh, I see” ?

So now, do you understand why its so important?  I was tired of being that person no one ever accused of being, ‘kind’.   It was time for a change.  This was my opportunity to finally own what I was doing to myself and others and then figure out how to change it.  After all, as my friend Mary says, “All life is about relationships.”

It’s true.  I know this small word is so powerful that it affects and reflects upon every aspect of our relationships, be it a simple passerby to a more deeply held relationship such as family and other loved ones.  Try to name one thing you have accomplished without interacting with anyone else, without relying on someone else, even if only slightly.

As well,  what experiences stand out to you the most?  I’ll bet you’ll say, when those  you interacted with were exceptionally kind or when they were exceptionally unkind.

I have to admit, the thought of making a drastic change within myself was kind of scary.  Although maybe not as big as jumping from a plane would be….maybe.  I mean I was letting go of a part of me.  Would I get lost?

I think the hardest part was simply figuring out how to start.  Because how does one grasp onto that kindness within themselves, magnify it and then radiate it outwards?  How is it that some people are more prone to be described as kind then others.  What is it specifically that makes a person kind? I think everyone has their own definitions.  I came up with mine after intently observing my co-workers.

What I saw was that  kind people don’t go spewing their negative, gossipy, uninvited opinions all over.  In fact, I noticed that rarely did they say anything negative about anything.  So I kind of knew that all along, yet, in the past was never willing to admit it because frankly, that was going to take an awful lot of self-discipline.    But now, I was sure the work would be worth it.

ok, so the goal would be to not say unkind things about others.  you know, follow “The Golden Rule” – if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”  No gossiping and the super hard one, to see and express things with a positive perspective.

Was it easy?  NO! I mean how do you just stop being this person you’ve always been and suddenly become a different/better version?  How do you suddenly rid yourself of that snarky running monologue in your head that’s been there as long as you can remember?  How do you stop perceiving things around you as only you do?

There were so many times, especially at the beginning, when the pull to say something negative about a co-worker or a customer who was exceptionally obnoxious, arrogant, even smelly was so powerful, I was sure I would literally explode.  At other times, I had to actually run away from groups of friendly co-workers in the  middle of dissecting another co-worker behind their back.

It didn’t take long to realize even though I wasn’t verbalizing the snarkiness, I was still thinking it.  So there really wasn’t much change because, ‘we act upon what we think.’  Meaning, my negative thoughts caused me to perceive the situation in a negative way, which in turn showed through my face, my body language and projected outwards.  It wasn’t too hard to interpret by the person looking back at me what I was thinking.

I realized the trick to this change was not just merely holding my judgmental, critical comments in, rather I had to actually change my thoughts.  To do that, the golden rule needed to be tweeked.  I was going to have to add the word, “think” to the phrase, i.e. :  if you can’t say or think anything nice, don’t say or think anything at all.

I had two different methods to do this, depending upon the situation.  The first, was to distract myself whenever a negative thought popped in.  A phrase I remember from a movie I had seen kept coming back to me.  The movie was, Point Of No Return.point of no return

Bridgett Fonda is an angry, murderous criminal because she reacts to upsetting situations with her fists.  Anne Bancroft, who like a brilliant diamond, is perfectly polished, although just as hard.  She is Bridgett’s …etiquette coach.  Anne is trying to teach Bridgett to respond to an upsetting situations with poised control.  She demonstrates by forming a fake smile and saying, “I never did mind about the little things.”  (You have to say that with your head tilted and your hand lifted gently and twirling ever so casually.)

When the temptation to be my old self reared up, when I had found fault in a co-worker, a customer etc., I would say that to myself.  And yes, in my head my hand was casually twirling around.  For example, if one of my co-workers had come in with an extremely ugly tie, the thought would light upon me, “That is the ugliest tie I have ever seen.”  If I didn’t squelch that thought quickly, I stress ‘quickly’ because the longer I let it stay, the harder it was to get rid of and the more it built upon itself.  For example: “What was he thinking? Man, that guy has the worst taste.  Seriously, what was his wife thinking by letting him go out with that tie?  Well, she let him, she must have just as bad taste as he does…”  and so on.  Next I would go find a friendly co-worker, “Hey did you see so and so’s tie? What is with that ugly tie?”  And then we would laugh about it for a minute or two.

The problem is what’s coming next; the co-worker from around the corner.  He hears it and now guess who  is the schmuck, has created an awkward situation, offended and, once again, cooled off a potential great friendship?

So instead of going through all that, in my head, I would put on that menacing forced smile and say, “I never did mind about the little things.”  It instantly put things into perspective, meaning:  his ugly tie wasn’t really that big of a deal and certainly didn’t affect me in anyway.  So why was I so concerted about it?

At first, I had to say that ‘a lot”.  In fact, at times repetitively.  Sometimes I could move on from there.  But if I couldn’t let it go, then I would go into my second chosen method – to focus on something else.  I think this second step is important because you can’t just stop thinking of something, you have to replace the thought with something else.  Try it.  Have you ever tried to just stop thinking about something without first replacing the thought?  It’s tough.

I took care of this by choosing to think of something positive about the guy with the ugly tie.  I chose to focus on my co-worker’s positive attributes, such as how kind, funny or successful he was with customers, or how great his sense of self must be to have the confidence to wear an ugly tie and not care what others thought.  Thinking of those things made the ugly tie insignificant and again, because we act upon our thoughts, it caused me to appreciate the co-worker even more.

In this scenario, had my co-worker stepped out from around the corner while my friend and I were talking, he would have heard me talking about what a great person he was instead of his ugly tie.  So much better, don’t you think?  I mean, who doesn’t like to be around people that appreciate you?

I don’t remember how long it took to make the change a habit.  Because I was always mindful of the goal, I didn’t really recognize it had become a part of me until many, many months later.  Even now, I remember that moment.  I remember standing by myself at work, waiting for a customer when the thought suddenly came to me that I felt different.  ( Side note: it didn’t matter that it was almost a year because this was a ‘rest of your life’ change not a ‘losing 10 pounds’ or ‘until the change occurs,’ change. )

I realized my head was calmer.  I was calmer.  I wasn’t expending all that energy thinking about what everyone else was doing,  if they were doing things right, etc.  Instead, I felt free, light…happy.  I had energy to focus on me and my own goals and accomplishments.  I was smiling more and laughing more, which in turn, made those around me smile more and laugh more.

My fears of losing a part of me, I discovered , were all in vain.  That snarky running monologue was gone, but I didn’t disappear into oblivion.  In fact, I didn’t lose myself at all.  I just…tweeked myself.  I really liked it.  I liked me.

Although my desire was seemingly small and insignificant: huge were the consequences.  For example, I had permanently altered how I looked at things around me.  I realized when I made the habit of finding what was good about people, I began to do the same to myself.  When I stopped judging and critiquing others, I stopped judging and critiquing me.  I began to feel more confident in myself.  I began caring less and less about what others thought of me.  Instead, I began focusing on what I could do, instead of what I couldn’t do.  What I had to offer instead of what I lacked.

It was a while after that on a very slow day at work, that a very good friend off-handedly said to me, “I probably shouldn’t say this because I know you don’t talk  about other people, but…”.  OK, did you just hear my squeal of excitement?  It was a casual, simple comment, but it meant the world to me.  In my head, I cheered.   After all, I had worked hard to hear that!

Link

Yeah, this is a little behind. I have no excuse.

Before I begin writing down my New Year’s resolutions in the next blog, I feel I should make my peace with 2013, say good-bye and send it on its way.  2013 – these are the things I would like to say to you:

You were pretty awesome… most of the time.  Most of the time I loved you, thought you were the best and one of my favorite…well almost, cause no year is ever going to be able to compete with ’88 and ’89, the year my children were born.  Then there was the year I got married. That was pretty awesome too but it didn’t work out so, that one kind of turned into a bust.

Anyway, like any relationship, we had some really great times as well as some pretty horrible times.  Summer was great! I hiked and explored, finally met some great friends, and worked hard to accomplish goals.  In fact, I have never worked so hard, been so stressed, grown so much, learned so much, been more frustrated, felt more despair, exhilaration, happiness, fulfillment, and laughed more than this year.

So with that being said; IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO GO.  You have been exhausting. I appreciate all that you have done and all that you have prepared me for in order to meet 2013.  Thank you.  Really. But seriously, I’m worn out. You’ve got to go.

And now 2014, I welcome you with eager anticipation.  Although 2013 set the groundwork for accomplishing my goals, it just wasn’t able to get me there.  2014 – I put all my hope, faith and deepest desire that with continued work, you will see me fulfill those goals and bring the desired financial as well as personal rewards.

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” -Edith Lovejoy Pierce