Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Broadening our future by redefining past stories

A few months ago if you had asked me about my childhood, I would have told you my default story. It's been the same story I've always told - how my dad left us several times and my mom was a struggling, emotionally charged single mom. "It was a hard childhood," I would have dramatized. "One with lots of emotional turmoil and uncertainty."

When I came across the prompt to write about my favorite childhood memories of summer a couple months ago, for a split second I defaulted to my sad story. But as I thought about summers back in the small town where I grew up, I was able to quickly list 10 things that had been really wonderful. I realized that there really are good stories to be told about my childhood, and that I had unconsciously covered them up by focusing on the sad times instead.

We all have things in our past that were hurtful, and as humans we tend to hold on to those things as part of who we are. Perhaps we do this as a defense mechanism, rationalizing that by holding on to those events we may be better prepared if it happens again - we remain cautious when we no longer need to be. And sometimes, quite by accident, those things can dominate our story. They become the part of our story that defines who we think we are.

What if we began to re-tell those stories from a different perspective? What if, instead of the terrible thing, we remember something good around it? Might we even find a lesson we learned as a result? Or something good that finally came out of something bad that happened in the first place?

Of course, there are things that have happened that are always going to feel like the worst thing ever. That's life in this current body. But what if the next time you think about that time you do so with a bit of self-compassion and nurturing in the mix?

One of the things I've been working on this past year is forgiving my father for not being the dad I wish he had been. As an adult I realize his actions were selfish and had nothing to do with me. His choices were completely out of my control, and one of the ways I'm working on finding forgiveness for him is by revisiting some of my childhood memories through the eyes of an adult.

One of my earliest memories - and always one of my main stories - happened when I was five years old. I was coloring at our kitchen table when my parents entered the room and were having a heated discussion about my dad leaving. My mom was hysterical and was begging him not to go. My dad "couldn't take it anymore" and it was clear that he was [from my five-year old vantage point] running away from home. I remember being frozen with fear. I didn't move a muscle, afraid that I would be noticed there at the table, with my little hand wrapped tightly around a blue crayon.

I can close my eyes and recreate that entire kitchen scenario in my mind and body - and believe me, I've done just that many times over the course of my life. That single memory has haunted me for years! But now, as an adult, I can put myself in that place and have different thoughts about it. I can tell my five-year old self, "It's ok, Debbie. This is not about you. Mommy is scared right now but she'll be better, and everything really will be ok!" And really, everything has turned out just fine for me in the long run - and ultimately for my mom as well! That was an upsetting moment, but it was over a long time ago.

I have become a compassionate observer of that story, rather than the frightened child still experiencing the event.

As I practice sending nurturing thoughts to that particular piece of my story, I am more free to find forgiveness for the people I'd blamed for the wrong that had been done. I am able to articulate feelings now that I couldn't as a five year old, so I'm able to bring a different perspective to that part of my story. Is it still a sad memory for me? Of course. But it doesn't define my entire childhood anymore. I have a healthier perspective through the eyes of an adult.

The simple act of listing my 10 favorite summertime memories brought about a refreshing realization that I have made progress in my quest for healing and forgiveness. Even though there were hard times, the good times totally outnumbered the bad. I'm personally dedicated to bringing the good memories to the forefront - to have the good things become my main story instead of the ones I used to tell.

I wonder what stories you tell about your past. And I wonder what stories you could heal from a perspective of love and compassion for yourself and maybe those who may have wronged you. Might you be able to change some of your own stories that way?

Monday, August 31, 2015

This weekend on our piece of the planet

Hi everyone!
I hope this weekend recap finds you well and happy. It was a deliciously busy weekend on our piece of the planet. Doug took a much needed break from the new house remodeling and headed north to camp with his brother, and I had my monthly yoga teacher training weekend - a total of 13 hours of anatomy lecture, yoga poses and yoga friends. I loved every minute!

Saturday morning I hit the ground running. I couldn't resist snapping a photo of the beautiful morning light streaming through our kitchen window - though the photo doesn't do that moment in time justice. I've packed most of our personal treasures in preparation for our upcoming house move, and it's actually been nice to not have so much clutter around. I'm thinking I may keep things to a minimum in the new house. Maybe.

A turtle story: Saturday morning I was rushing around here, admittedly with too many irons in the fire. I fed the turtles, started water for tea, put some eggs on to boil, got in the shower... About an hour later I came out to the kitchen to find our dog, Lucky, pacing around the kitchen table. Underneath the table was a big blob of something...was it a rock? What in the world... OMG - it was REXY! In my scurrying I had accidentally left the atrium door open, and our male box turtle wandered on inside and made his way to the kitchen table.

I picked him up and examined him for dog tooth marks but he was perfectly fine. So I held him down close to Lucky for a final dog sniffing and praising. What a good doggy!!! With our upcoming move we've been concerned about creating a new turtle habitat that was dog proof - just not knowing how Lucky would be with our shelled pets. We still wouldn't give Lucky free access to the turtles, but it's good to know his instinct for them is on the gentler side. Phew!

Saturday: Hurried housework in the morning, corralling a turtle, teaching yoga, learning yoga, practicing yoga, dinner with Carrie, and a visit to see her beau at his place of employment.

Sunday: Hurried housework in the morning, a 30-minute astrological phone reading from Debra Silverman (so cool!), lasagna soup made in the crockpot for dinner, more learning/practicing yoga, coming home to find Doug safely returned and Carrie here for lasagna soup, finished up laundry, enjoyed this sunset, fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Now comes Monday, in her typical here-too-soon fashion, ushering out the final day of August. I have lots of cool things on my calendar this week with a three-day weekend on the horizon (yay!).

Here's wishing you the best possible outcomes for every little challenge you may face this week.
Remember, it's all about perspective...

Friday, August 28, 2015

Just a Quote for Friday

"Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier."
~ Mother Teresa

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Mandala Canvas Art

I have been wanting to try my hand at a mixed media mandala and I finally had my chance this past weekend. I know, I know. We're moving and there's stuff to pack and sort and...well...I have to feed my soul somewhere in the mix too. :o)
I've made my share of mixed media canvases. I love the process of adding layers of color and texture to a canvas and seeing how the final piece emerges over the course of the project. It's just so fun and gratifying.

I actually started this canvas a couple of months ago by adhering some thrift store sheet music to a 12" x 12" canvas. Then I drew a loose mandala that I didn't care for right from the beginning. The layers of paper caught my pen as I drew, making the lines jagged and not pleasing to my eye. At the time I decided to step away from it for a while, vowing to come back to it at some point when I had the gumption to take it in a different direction.

Then I found myself in Louise Gale's online Mixed Media Mandala Class and this happened:

I added layers of acrylic paint, watered down a bit to keep it opaque. I finally used an empty paper roll as a stamp and that was fun - will definitely do that again. The next photo is what my canvas looked like after about 30 minutes last Saturday morning. The word "REFRESHED" was placed on the canvas for photographic purposes only. I kind of liked it there...

I almost didn't want to cover this background with anything! It was just fun to look at imagine the possibilities, you know? But I am so glad I did cover it, because this just might be my favorite mandala ever!

I used watercolor paper to paint strips of paper and then cut the petals you see glued on my canvas. I love that the thick paper stands out and gives this piece more dimension. I used a fine black Sharpie sparingly, and a gold Uniball pen for pop. The rest of the lines and dots were added with acrylic paint.

This piece will hang in my new craft room some day, along with all the other mandala canvases that are surely in my future. As I type this morning, there's a partially completed pink/orange/white canvas to my right...

A girl's gotta' feed her soul, you know.

Monday, August 24, 2015

This weekend and the new orange tree

Good Monday morning to you, blog friends.
It's been one week today since we got the keys to our new house. I am absolutely amazed at how much Doug has accomplished in one week's time over there! And, if we think about it, it can be a bit overwhelming to consider how much is still left to be done before we can actually move in. But we try not to dwell on that too much...

From the time we got our keys and continuing throughout last week, I have been nagging gently encouraging Doug to not over-do it. He's still recovering from knee surgery (and doing well, but still...) and the work to be done is so physical. One needs to pace one's self, I say. Like the turtle, you know? Slow and steady wins the race.

Anyway. "We" agreed that he would take Sunday off and relax, but then we started talking about the orange tree in the new backyard. She's been sorely neglected and in dire need of some love and attention.

So early yesterday morning we headed over for a couple of hours and worked on the orange tree together. I'm going to guess that it's been a couple of years since any of the fruit was removed from this tree. The oranges on the tree ranged from hard-dry-little balls (a few years old) to yellow-orange dried-out fruit from last year's crop. And! If you look closely you'll even see small green fruit forming this year's crop.

The goal yesterday was to remove all the old fruit and to give the tree a deep watering. Mission accomplished!

Our next door neighbor was on the other side of the fence cleaning his pool and he popped his head over the fence to say good morning. So we finally met a neighbor. His name is John and he nicely offered to help pick some of the expired fruit if there were some we couldn't reach near his side of the fence. We politely declined, but how nice!

There's speculation about this tree, wondering if the oranges will be fit to eat or if this is an ornamental orange tree. Fingers crossed they'll be fit for consumption one day. And orange marmalade...
We filled at least seven 5-gallon buckets with expired fruit. And Doug made a well around the base of the tree for watering. Wow this ground is hard and dry!

How sweet to find a bird's nest hidden in our orange tree - a little sign of life and new possibilities for the future of this tree.

We took Lucky with us and introduced him to the new digs. He did what any self-respecting male dog would do and marked his backyard territory while we pulled old oranges off the tree. I think he likes the new place!

We were home and Doug was on the couch with his knee elevated by 10:00 a.m. I spent the rest of the day in my craft room. I packed some stuff and purged a LOT so I feel really good about that this morning. Carrie and I are having a yard sale in a couple of weeks and I have a lot to contribute to the stack!

It was a productive weekend and now there's a fun-filled week on the horizon. Working our way toward Friday once again.

Slow and steady wins the race...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Just a Quote for Friday

"There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect."
~ Ronald Reagon

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Being brave by choice and by necessity

Today I tell a tale of a day when life gave me challenges to rise above.
And then a tale of a young friend who is braver still.
Brave thing #1:
It was a morning like any other. I was running late for work and still needed to feed the turtles, make sure the cat wasn't locked in a closet or my craft room for the day, and put the dog outside.

We’ve been dealing with an excessive number of pigeons in our backyard. They congregate near the patio and wait for Lucky to walk away from his food bowl. As soon as he turns his back, they flock to his bowl and devour his food. So annoying.

So on that particular morning, Lucky and I headed outside and were greeted by about six pigeons waiting for his bowl to be filled. Lucky's instincts are to lunge at the birds. He does this cute little hopping movement and runs a little circle around the yard, making sure all the birds scatter – so adorable. Except for on that particular morning when he lunged and one fearless pigeon was all, "Meh" and Lucky caught the bird. As in, killed the bird. Right in front of me!

I tried hard not to freak out. Lucky is a dog and he was just doing what came naturally. And it might upset my bird loving friends to know that I dislike pigeons so much I wasn't really all that heartbroken for the planet to lose one. The thing that was most upsetting was that Doug had already left for work and I knew I had to deal with a freshly dead bird. Ew.

Removing a dead bird was challenging, but doable in Doug's absence. The image stuck with me the whole rest of the day.

Brave thing #2:
I teach a yoga class on Wednesday evening and it's always a rush for me to get home from work, change clothes, and head for class. As I stepped into our garage to leave for class, I saw something run underneath my car. Ugh. A scorpion.

Now, I could have just hopped in my car and drove off, leaving the scorpion to roam our garage and possibly be around to sting one of us in the future or worse - make more scorpions. Doug wasn't home from work yet and I figured, "Hey, I've already dealt with a dead pigeon today..." so I pulled off my flip-flop, got down on my hands and knees, reached under my car, and I squished the scorpion. I squished him a few times. Ew.

Brave thing #3:
After the scorpion incident, I headed for class. I was so happy about my class plan for that night. I loved the sequencing of poses and the quote I chosen to share. I had read through it a few times and felt really proud of myself for what I had in store for my students.

When I got to class I rolled out my mat and got things set up. I greeted my students as they arrived and settled in. And then I realized, I didn't have a copy of my class plan with me. Gulp.

Now, experienced yoga teachers typically don't use notes - or if they do they hide it well and it's never been noticeable to me. And there was nothing for me to do but wing it at that point - and it went really well! I remembered most of the poses I'd planned to lead and, on the fly, I re-themed my class to be about stepping out of our comfort zone. My students were none the wiser. Phew.

All those chances to be brave in one day?! Sheesh. I was pretty full of myself by the end of the day, telling Doug about my courageous accomplishments.

Another kind of brave...
I've had the good fortune to befriend the 9-year old daughter of a friend of Doug's. I met her one evening at a family gathering and we became fast friends. She lives with her dad in a household of boys - an older brother and a younger one in the mix. At the end of the evening I asked if she'd be interested in attending a yoga/mandala workshop that I would be co-leading soon. She didn't even hesitate when she said, "Yes!" I asked if she'd ever practiced yoga before - if she knew what yoga was - and her answer was no, but she still wanted to go with me.

On the day of the workshop her dad dropped her off at our house. I was nervous for her! She barely knew me, knew nothing about yoga or mandalas, had no idea where we were even going, but she showed up at our house ready and willing.

She stuck fairly close to me that afternoon and she loved the workshop! When I took her home she thanked me sweetly and gave me a hug. In a conversation with her dad later, he told me she can’t wait to practice yoga with me again sometime and I was so impressed. What a brave 9-year old girl she is!

And isn't that how life is? We encounter these little challenges along the way that we can face head on, or choose to walk away from. Facing our fears along life's path helps us build confidence, and that confidence can have a snowball effect on our psyche. The more we practice stepping out of our comfort zone, the more our comfort zone expands bit by bit.

I know that my little friend will have many more opportunities to be brave as the years roll on for her. But now she knows yoga and I know I can dispose of a dead pigeon if I need to.

And I've since taught a few more yoga classes without having notes on hand. :o)
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