Use It or Lose It: How Fear Warps Your Perspective

Your perspective sometimes lies. You think you’re being self-aware but you’re buying into an excuse to relieve your doubts and fears.

I thought I had my life in control.  I thought I had been doing the right thing by discarding the unessential to focus on what was necessary.  The trouble is that I was counting on my perspective to be the reality.

My routine of walking every day for exercise had dwindled to only walking when I absolutely had to get somewhere. I had a great idea for a painting, and got lost in doing what I love do. Busy with more important things than have to take the time to exercise, my rationalization to skip my exercise seemed reasonable.

I would only take the required steps from my car to the grocery store. The closest parking space became my priority.

My son came to visit. He noticed how sedentary I had become.

Use it or lose it,” he entreated.

After that I couldn’t help but recognize how much l would talk myself out of doing something that’s good for me because I felt lazy. I wanted to take better care of myself, but found ways to legitimize any excuse. “I’m too tired”, “I’ll definitely get to this tomorrow”, “I’m on a roll and I don’t want to disrupt the creative flow” were just a few of the justifications that passed my test for validation.

But it wasn’t just exercise that I stopped doing. When I was unable to continue some action I had faithfully taken in the past, after an interval of inaction, I had a hard time getting back in the routine of doing it again. I would procrastinate and ended up doing nothing at all.

We are creatures of habit. It doesn’t matter if the activity is something we love to do or if it’s something we do out of necessity. If the habit is broken, it’s like having to start again. And it doesn’t seem to matter if we have to or not. We still put up resistances making it harder to commit to the change.

Recently I had the flu that lasted for a month. I was sick and had no energy, so I didn’t write on my blog. I tried, but finally had to accept that I wasn’t going to be able to. Better to rest and to take care of myself, I thought. When I finally regained my energy and I felt better, you might think I would take action, but I didn’t.

I found every reason imaginable to excuse myself for becoming so inactive. It’s hard to think of something to write when you haven’t written for a long while, it’ll be easy to get back to it when some really good idea comes to me, and I deserve a little rest after having to endure being sick, were valid excuses, I thought.

I’d find other projects to keep me busy. I accepted invitations I wouldn’t normally accept when I was committed to posting on my blog every week. I began to prepare more fancy dishes because I just had to try that recipe making the rounds on Facebook.

Finally, one day I had to face the truth. I was procrastinating. I had allowed myself to become a victim again. Full of fear, doubt and worry, I became anxious. I began to itch all over.

Looking up itching in one of my favorite books -Heal Your Body by Louise L. Hay-the probable cause for itching read, “Desires that go against the grain. Unsatisfied. Remorse. Itching to get out or get away.”

Our bodies tell us the truth, I’ve found.

That sounded right. I’d been reacting to my fears and not to my consciousness. My perspective had been clouded because of not wanting to  have to stand up for myself and control my situation. It was as if I had become another person, someone who I didn’t recognize. I had always been eager to do what I love.

Once I woke up to the fact that my doubts, anxiety and fear were causing me to cower, I was able to easily reclaim my power. I knew now that I would write whenever I decided I would.

But just to make sure that I’d follow through, I made a commitment to write every day for a month. A month is a long time and enough time to reclaim a habit.

This is the first of my 500 words writing sessions, and I’m looking forward to what will come up next.

And the icing on the cake is that after writing this blog post, going back to painting was just as easy. If you work through any hesitancy toward change in one area of your life, you’ve worked through every other obstacle you’ve talked yourself into.

Who Am I? Answering the Big Questions of Life

cropped-burning-bush-1.jpg

The bigger questions of life, such as, “Who am I“,  come up when we’re dissatisfied with our lives, unhappy with the choices we’ve made, or maybe overwhelmed with working and not getting ahead. We thought that what we wanted would make us happy, but it isn’t. We’re bored with our lives, or we’re tired of pretending to be something we aren’t.

Man, Know Thyself.

– Socrates

You probably have seen this quote. I had read this many times, but earlier in my life, I judged it. I thought only a self-indulgent, narcissistic and pompous, a pedantic person would contemplate questioning, “Who am I”. I mean, we’ve lived with ourselves and already know all our idiosyncrasies, our faults, and our strengths.

Then I found myself being asked the question. I was feeling depressed in my thirties and not sure what was wrong with me. I had been sure of myself before that, having success as an artist, and I was loving my life. Now I was feeling worthless and unlovable. Nothing about my life was fulfilling anymore.

 My husband and I joined a group led by a psychologist. The group was an extension of a Parent Effectiveness Training class we had taken.

I find it ironic that after learning how to deal with our children more effectively, we ended up having to deal with ourselves.

Here we were, in a group playing like children in the class. We played games which our reactions-I realized later-would possibly trigger negative experiences.

In one of the games we played, a group of eight of us sat in a circle. Our psychologist instructed us to tell everyone else ten things we were when it was our turn.

I thought this would be easy.  “I know what I am. I am a mother, a wife, an artist, a good cook, a contributing member of our community, a woman, a teacher, a docent, a traveler, a fair skier, and a better tennis player.”

But, when my turn came to answer, “I’m nothing” was all I heard as I rattled off the list of things I had mentally prepared to say.

My reaction to the question “Who are you?” startled me, upset me even more than my inability to feel happy had before. Now it had become official. There was definitely something devastatingly wrong with me.

I can laugh at myself now that know better. I don’t see that reaction I had in the group as tragic today. If I were to face a similar encounter now, I would respond differently. I would celebrate.

I would see it as a chance to start with a new, clean slate, a blank canvas on which I could create the woman I wanted to be. But at that time I wasn’t aware of what I know now.

The realization that I believed we are what we achieve, convinced me that so I had become the woman I was because I was seeking approval and respect. I did it out of fear of being rejected.

The sad part to me now was not that I realized what I’d become was nothing, it was that I didn’t know who I really was.

Through counseling, I discovered that I didn’t really know what I liked. I had been so eager to please others that I didn’t have a clue what I’d prefer eating, which movie I’d rather watch, or what songs were my favorite.

I didn’t know that my thoughts were the reason I had become so unhappy; that and the belief that I was the victim of life’s circumstances. I hadn’t been able to see I had choices.

I have this quote on my refrigerator:

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

Unknown

I did end up having to find myself (aka: Know thyself) before I was able to create myself as I preferred to be. This is also what creatives need to do. An artist has to develop the skills to paint what they wanted to share, and a writer needs to write a lot before they can be aware and adept enough to know what they really wanted to express.

We have to do the same in our lives. We have to have the skills and know-how to be able to discover what is in the way of our being happy.

I bought the quote for my refrigerator as inspiration while I created a new me, and through the process, I realized I didn’t want to create myself as anyone who needs to impress for approval and respect anymore. I had come farther than that. What I wanted now is my self-respect, sense of worth, and the confidence I was lacking.

What I’ve found since then is that creating ourselves isn’t a one-time thing. It’s a never-ending journey.

Because of circumstances and events that are thrust in our lives, the changes we face force us to change, too. The woman I was is not the woman I am now. And future versions of myself will evolve from one moment to another depending on the realizations I’ve made.

Sometimes we make awarenesses that will enhance who we’re being.

Now I’m certain I don’t have to remain stagnant. I can change any time I want to be happy.

Who am I? I’m nothing like I’m going to be.

For more on Self-Awareness go to https://wp.me/p9td7w-w3

Faith: Why Sometimes What You Want Doesn’t Come the Way You Want It

I know, it’s frustrating. We want something and then take the action to do whatever we think it will take to receive it. We pray or we follow the “experts” guidelines to manifest our dreams, and many times we receive what we’ve focused on, but many times we don’t. Losing faith and bewildered, we haphazardly try every other way we come across or think will work to receive what we are wanting.

Or we give up wanting anymore.

Why does this happen? Why are we able to receive something we deeply desire sometimes and not at other times? I’m sharing the following story of a time I desperately wanted to get pregnant, finally did, and then had to face my worst fear. I chose this story because I want to show how when you get what you wanted, but it comes in way that that leaves you with more pain than you could have imagined, that in the end, if you develop faith, the experience brings you the most magnificent, wonderful gift you could have ever fathomed.

I tried to get pregnant for two agonizing years. My husband and I were tested for any reason that we couldn’t, but there wasn’t any reason. Finally, three years after marriage, I gave birth to a baby girl.

Fearful of losing my hard-won treasure, my new baby, I became exceedingly over-protective.

What mother agonizes over all the ways that she might kill her baby every time she has to drive with her child in her car? Even though she’s had a hard time conceiving? Or panics when her daughter is a little older and slides down a kiddie slide? Or worse, when her daughter does finally get her first boo-boo, she worries that the scar has maimed her daughter for life.

I was that mother. I knew I was being irrational. No other mother I knew worried like I did about their first child. It wasn’t until a friend of mine offered to pick my daughter up one day from nursery school that I finally confronted the reality of what I’d been doing .

When my friend came to my house with my daughter, Carrie, she told me that the teacher had asked her “Can’t this child do anything for herself?

It was as if a bright light had switched on. A flash of reality bursting forth! The truth was out. I’d been hurting my daughter more than I had admitted to myself.

What I’m doing to protect Carrie is worse than all the accidents she’ll have if I give her the freedom to learn from her own mistakes.

I convinced myself that if I were to have more children, I wouldn’t have the time to keep tormenting myself with these disturbing thoughts. However, it wasn’t any easier to have another child than when I was trying to get pregnant with Carrie. Desperate, I begged my husband to agree to adopt a second child. He was adamant. The answer was “No.”.

Finally, two years later I gave birth to a second daughter. My husband and I brought Samantha home to her big sister, and Carrie was delighted with this new bundle of joy sitting on her lap. I finally had all that I so desperately wanted now.

One month later, I drove the baby to her doctor’s office for a one month checkup. As the doctor had his stethoscope upon Samantha’s heart, I wondered about his concentrated intensity as he fixated on the sounds coming through his stethoscope for what seemed a long time. But I relaxed when his mood lightened after discarding the instrument to check Sandy’s throat and eyes.

Two hours after I had gotten home, I picked up the phone.

“Doretta, I heard a murmur in Samantha’s heart this morning in my office,” the doctor told me. “I’ve made an appointment for her with a ventricular pediatric specialist. It may be nothing but I think it’s prudent to get it checked out.”

Nervously sitting in the waiting room of the specialist’s office while he tested Samantha’s heart, I tried to think about anything but what I was afraid of. Finally the nurse came to tell my husband and I that the heart specialist would give us the results in his office. Unfeeling and cold, seemingly reciting a prognosis he’d delivered thousands of times, he told us that Samantha had a ventricular septal defect. I could hear words I didn’t want to hear as I, half-awake, in a stupor, told us “if she gets pneumonia or needs dental surgery she needs to have antibiotics”, “we normally don’t do surgery for this defect until she is at least seven years old”, and at that time, the ‘60’s, he told us, “most children with this defect don’t live past the age of eighteen”.

My husband and I walked out of the doctor’s office, stunned, heavy-laden, with no idea how to cope with the news. We made an appointment with a another heart specialist to confirm this doctor’s diagnosis. The specialist we saw was a friend of ours, and because he was so regretful to have to confirm that Samantha’s life was at risk, he expressed his concern in a very disheartening way. “I’m so sorry,” he kept repeating. This was, in a peculiar way, a lot harder to hear than the bare facts laid out by Samantha’s doctor

When we got home, I talked to God.

One thing I have to confess is that the only other times I had spoken to God were times when the turbulence of an airplane shook me to the core, and I feared for my life. But now I had another, better reason to speak to God. My new baby might die.

The incongruous nature of my request forced an even more inappropriate way for me to approach God. “What is this?” I asked. “Some kind of joke?”

I asked you for another child so I would stop worrying all the time that something would happen to Carrie. So now you give me another child, but this child has a real, tangible, even worse reason to worry?”

My husband and I went to the mountains to get away and heal from such a devastating blow. We wanted to be able to get our feet on the ground again. Samantha’s fate was out of our hands. How would each of us cope living with the knowledge that this hole in Samantha’s heart might mean she won’t be with us long?

In the mountains my husband and I took long walks, our feet crunching fallen leaves that autumn. The only sounds were the rustle the wind made as it passed through the trees. Here in nature, with the stillness, we were able to let go of the fear and open our hearts to love.

When we arrived home, I made up mind that even though I didn’t have control of the Samantha’s condition, I did have control over how I would handle it. I could turn over Samantha’s fate to God. I could and did imagine a gigantic bubble of light around Samantha and sent the bubble into the Universe to keep her safe.

Several years ago I learned a way to perceive an experience I didn’t ask for and didn’t know the reason it had come into my life. The advice I received was to embrace any experience that you didn’t expect, don’t really want, wish it hadn’t happened, by realizing it’s come into your life for a reason you can’t know now. The best way to perceive it is to assure yourself that even though you don’t know why this happening, there has to be something better coming or else it wouldn’t be in your life. This approach has helped me enormously to get through some very hard experiences.

And then recently I understood the reason why I had to experience having to face my worst fear when Samantha was born. The reason is that when we ask for something we’re having trouble manifesting, and something we didn’t want comes to us instead, is that we have unknown, deep-rooted blocks and fears preventing us from attaining that which we want. It’s as if God, hearing we want what we’re incapable of receiving, lovingly brings the lessons we have to learn in order to have what’s been evading us. Once we break through the obstacles by being honest with ourselves, being patient and opening ourselves to love, we are in a position to receive what we wanted.

We’ve learned that the barrier preventing us from having what we want isn’t outside of us.  It’s our fear misrepresenting whatever truth we could learn from to create our dreams.

That’s exactly what I learned from the lessons I received after praying for another child. I thought I wanted another child to stop worrying so much, but the opposite was true. I had been so focused on my needing to safeguard and protect my first child, I had to learn how to have faith in a Higher Power to do that job.

When I took Samantha to Houston, to the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston to have her 7 year old evaluation with Dr. Michael DeBakey, he told me it was a miracle. The hole between the two valves of Samanths’s heart had healed sufficiently to warrant forgoing the operation.

The miracle was not just that Samantha’s heart had healed, but that the experience had held another gift for me. I had been forced to make peace with Samantha’s future. I had accepted that she may die, and synchronously, I developed faith and a deep gratitude for the gift of being with her and loving her. Her heart problem had opened up my heart to allowing God to take care of her. I had learned to Trust.

If you liked this story, please Like it on this website:  https://medium.com/@dorettabendalin/faith-why-sometimes-what-you-want-doesnt-come-the-way-you-want-it-7a59e76567e4

How Curiosity Sparks New Ideas

Curiosity has me pondering changes I might take on my blog.  I’ll explain.

Yesterday I received an email from someone touting a new way to interact with other people who share the same interest on my website.  I was curious so I read to the end of the lengthy article.  Rather than the blogger lecturing to their audience, I would be building relationships with other like-minded followers, people who are also curious and want to be in deeper discussions, answering each other’s questions, and learning from each other.

I guess that’s what you could describe as a tribe.  This would be a group of people interested in the same subject, dedicated into delving into their experiences, sharing what helped them to overcome blocks and obstacles, and growing as a result.

This concept piqued my interest because I’m feeling more and more that I’m closing myself off  by separating myself from other people.  Blogging requires me to find subjects other people would be interested in, and I don’t really have a clue without some repartee.

Besides that, I love learning.  Writing by myself doesn’t give me the opportunity to have exchanges and to learn from others.

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

Walt Disney

This sounds more exciting, more stimulating, and more interesting to me than sitting yet again in front of the computer, trying to come up with the idea that will make a difference.  But  without feedback, I write material that interests me at the moment I’m writing.  But I envision a much more meaningful interchange with the help of a group of people who have similar interest.  I see us in a lively exchange of ideas, making new awarenesses, and receiving  inspiration to try new things.

We’d all be inspiring each other to move forward.

I’m curious about how this could work.  Certainly I need to have feedback from those of you who might be interested in such a group.

Would you be interested exploring how your creativity shapes you and your life?  You might want to share what you’re aware of with a like-minded group of people, people who wouldn’t look at you curiously, wondering what the heck you’re trying to say?  Have you ever considered meeting with more people who “get” you?

Please comment on this post if you’re also curious about being in a group such as this one.  Share any ideas which have.  And please let me know if you’d be interested in helping to form this kind of tribe.

The button to post a comment is to the left of the post.

Thank you so much.  I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Doretta

If you’re interested in reading more about this subject, go to:

http://try.mightynetworks.com/start-a-blog-in-2018/?utm_source=Mighty+Network+Hosts&utm_campaign=f1292b500a-5StepsEmailtoInactiveHosts_080917&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a0d6be056c-f1292b500a-29020521

How Self-Awareness Makes What We Do Fun

This painting, entitled The Winding River, reminds me of the path I’m on now.  As I took all the steps I had to in order to arrive at my goal, I came to more self-awareness and more sure of what I really want.  All the sudden epiphanies I’m having now are providing new ideas with more choices to make.  So, I’m finding more and more that the way to my destination hasn’t and will never be a straight one.

“As you become more clear about who you really are, you’ll be better able to decide what is best for you – the first time around.”

― Oprah Winfrey

The definition of self-awareness is: knowledge and awareness of your own personality or character.  I learned a lot about myself when I wrote a memoir.  As I wrote and went deeper into the reasons I had acted the way I did during some past experiences, I discovered strengths and weaknesses, vulnerabilities and passions, and in some cases, idiosyncrasies.

From these awarenesses I discovered that sometimes I rely on other people’s judgments of how best to achieve my goal, when it’s obvious that the person’s approach won’t benefit what I want to express.  Sometimes I see that what I’ve accomplished contradicts what I’ve just learned about myself.  Always though, clarity makes it obvious what I’m really striving for.

“Wisdom tends to grow in proportion to one’s awareness of one’s ignorance.”

― Anthony de Mello

I’ve always known there’s more to learn.  I remember when I received my B.A. degree in English and Art, thinking, This degree just shows me how little I know.  However, when not actually learning in a classroom setting, or some online course, or reading a book, living your life doing the same things each day, we tend to keep things we know about ourselves hidden.  We may not have considered them because our lives have become structured.  There may be things we are ashamed about; or things that we really don’t think important or things simply best forgotten.  It’s easier and safer to go with the status quo.

When I committed to writing a memoir, I knew I’d have to be more honest with myself than I ever had.  But I was ready.  My life was a mess.  I wasn’t happy in my job.  I wasn’t making enough money to pay all my bills, and then my body broke down so that I had to quit my job.  Bodies are like that.  They close down when we wallow in stress and inaction.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

― C.G. Jung

Now that I’m aware of how much influence our unconscious choices have in key areas of our lives, how much they influence, sabotage and sometimes derail our desires, I always check in to make sure that the decisions I make are coming from my heart.  If it feels right, despite everyone else’s opinions, it’s the right choice for me.

So far, for me, this has proven true.  Yes, it’s harder.  Yes, sometimes you have to deal with other people’s dissatisfaction and discomfort, but in the end, it’s you who has to be happy doing what you love.

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.

Helen Keller

The gift of self-awareness is that it steers us in the direction of certainty and faith.  Our journey becomes more enjoyable, even when confronted with difficulties.  We’re no longer all over the place, questioning ourselves and our decisions.  We’re full of conviction, making the journey easier and more fun.

For more about self-awareness, go to https://wp.me/p9td7w-uA.

Why we often create the same theme multiple times?

I came across the painting above going through 300 slides that were recently converted to digital.  It’s one of many paintings I did in the past depicting lovers in a jungle scene.  Since I’ve been noticing that same themes  crop up in my artwork a lot, I asked myself:

Why have I felt compelled to examine this particular subject over and over again?

This quote may elucidate this conundrum:

If there were only one truth, you couldn’t paint a hundred canvases on the same theme.

Pablo Picasso

Many writers and painters have often used the same theme to create their art. John le Carre wrote spy fiction.  J.M.W. Turner, considered the founder of English watercolour painting, was famous for his landscape paintings with their unconventional emphasis on light, colour and atmospheric effects.

And then, there’s this that further clarifies why I felt drawn to paint this subject.

I do not think writers ought ever to sit down and think they must write about some cause, or theme, or something. If they write about their own experiences, something true is going to emerge.

Doris Lessing

I know it’s getting into muddy waters discussing “alternate” truths.  It’s been a hot topic since Kellyanne Conway spoke those words in defense of our president.  But without questioning what a truth is, how can we know how our truths affect us?

The one thing I know for sure is that knowing a truth doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the same truth for someone else.  We all carry a set of beliefs that we hold as the truth. This doesn’t make my belief any more true than what’s true for others. 

Our truths may be like other people’s truths, but often they are not.  Contrasting beliefs can often causes division and sometimes conflict, especially when some people want to force their beliefs on other people.

My own beliefs have changed over time.  Big changes have caused new, different circumstances in my life, and with those new circumstances I felt impelled to reevaluate what is the truth for me in the present.

The Impressionists faced harsh opposition from the conventional art community in France, but through the impressionist’s independent exhibitions and their well-heeled admirers, they were brought to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s.  This was a result of the changing belief and acceptance of impressionism as art.

So it stands to reason that there’s no one truth.

Even though I was painting the same theme many times, the paintings included different subject matter.  Some were the jungle scene with a single person, some included a couple, some depicted dancers. 

The answers to my question began with remembering the time I first saw a jungle scene in a painting.  It was a painting by Rousseau of a woman next to a lion in a jungle.  The painting impacted my 12 year old self because I’d been struggling with the truth that women didn’t count for much in the fifties.  My interpretation of having the lady next to lion, both peaceful,  meant that a woman could be as strong as a lion–a colossal awareness for my disappointed and angry self at that time. 

As I look at my different jungle themed paintings now, I realize that I have approached each successive painting with a new viewpoint of the subject—updating the truth.  No longer needing the lion to remind me of my strength, I am safe in a jungle alone.  Lovers and dancers are depicted enjoying the beauty and expansiveness of the setting.  I am aware now that it was that jungle scene which set me free to be my highest, true self and now I’m free to be there in any guise I choose.  

The truth does emerge when we paint our experiences.

What is necessary to achieve

Flowers-on-my-porchWhat is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.

Willam Henry Davis

 

I’ve been so busy working on so many tasks.  I’ve been fixing problems with my WordPress site, having to keep up with the course I’m taking, the Intentional Blog Course, and I’ve begun learning how to use Adobe Photoshop Elements on my computer.  And those are just a few of all the projects I’m working on.

What I love doing is this–writing.  This and painting fill my heart with joy, and I wish I did not have to undertake the work it takes to achieve some degree of success.  Trying to bolster my confidence, I came across this quote:

Any great achievement is preceded by many difficulties and many lessons; great achievements are not possible without them.

Brian Tracy

I’d also add what I’ve realized since I began this journey into marketing my writing and art. To my surprise, after I successfully conquer another challenge, I am more to myself than I thought of myself before.  With that much more confidence, I notice traits like perseverance, tenacity, and determination dominating my thoughts.

I can do this!, has become my mantra.

Overcoming difficulties, I feel prouder of myself, which makes it even easier to take the next step.  What also helps me stay the course is dreaming about the outcome.  Working toward something grandiose is easier than getting through a job for the paycheck.  A fulfilled life is more satisfying and enduring than having a lot of money with no passion.

Art is a form of supremely delicate awareness… meaning at-oneness, the state of being at one with the object.

D. H. Lawrence

When I sit down for another day of building another necessary skill to reach another goal, I remember that I chose to do this for the pleasure I will have in the completion of it.  That makes it easier to accept.  I find myself no longer allowing myself to whine and groan over what I’m needing to do.  I remain aware of the fact that this skill I’m working on is going to make my work easier in the long run.  Just like my painting and writing, when I become one with what I’m doing, the flow begins and I feel happy again.

As skills are just as important to writing and painting as talent and creativity, skills are necessary for moving forward in life.