Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, July 30, 2010

Getting Clarity

When you have a disagreement with someone you care about, what do you do? Do you blather everything you want to say and share everything you feel, no matter how hurtful or harmful it may be? Do you listen quietly to the other person, or are you formulating what you want to say as they are speaking?

Good, clear, communication is crucial in any interaction, but it is especially crucial with those we love. Because harmful, hurtful words never leave us. Each time one is hurled (either our way or by us at someone else) it erodes a little bit of the love. If such things continue, at some point, there is no going back. It cannot be salvaged.

So what can we do to avoid such damage? I've trained myself to calm my internal emotions down when someone is saying things I don't want to hear. I must do this in order to listen. If I don't understand what the other person means, or I am making assumptions about what they are saying, I ask questions to get clarity.

Once we are both clear about how the other feels, we can then begin to work our way through the issue. This is the hard part, because I've learned I must speak my truth, and sometimes that means the other person will be hurt - not by my words, but because of what I feel I must do. But for me, the consequences of not listening to my own heart and soul are much more devastating than the consequences of not speaking my truth when disagreements arise.

How about you?
Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Telling the Truth Tuesday - commitment to self

Yesterday I wrote the first words of my new work in progress - my first foray into the world of fiction. They are not words that will in all likelihood remain in the manuscript, but they represent my commitment to myself and what my soul seems to need to thrive--to write.

Writing my memoir fundamentally changed how I move through the world. It was as if I stepped into the person I was trying to become. This piece is moving me further along that path. And here I thought I'd arrived...heh heh. I guess we don't ever arrive at who we are becoming until our last breath.

My time commitment is, hopefully, easily attainable - two sessions per week, twenty minutes per session. More is permissable. Less is not. Yesterday was session one. I did it. That's all that counts for now.

Do you make commitments to yourself? How are you at keeping them?
Blessings,
Karen

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday Musings

On Friday, I talked about comparing ourselves to others, and in my case, falling short. This exploration on my part led to a very profound shift in me. I've been struggling with how to identify myself at this point in my life. I left a very successful career in public relations in 1999, just as I turned 50. The goal was to write full-time. For 10 years, I did. That's what it took to complete my memoir, although that includes a four-year stint to complete a college degree I'd begun in 1969.

Now, at 61, if I self-identify as a writer, I don't feel very good about myself because I don't meet society's expectations of success. So when I looked at other writers I've become acquainted with online and see all they are doing for their writing careers, I knew I wasn't cutting it. Not because I'm not good enough. But because I haven't been willing or able to do those necessary things.

My take-away from this self-exploration is that I do not see writing as a career. In 1999, when I quit my job, I did see it that way, however. Now, not so much. Writing is simply something I must do. It's the way I make sense of my life and my world. If my writing finds its way into the universe somehow, that will be wonderful. and I will figure out what I need to do around that issue when and if it happens.

But for now, I am simply going to keep writing...

Blessings,
Karen

Friday, July 23, 2010

Comparison is an act of vengeance against yourself

I can't stop comparing myself to others and falling short. It's one of my worst character flaws. Someone who began blogging the same time I did now has way more followers than me and many more commenters. Others who began writing after me now have manuscripts submitted to agents and publishers. Don't misunderstand, I don't begrudge these folks what they've achieved. I'm just jealous.

But the truth is, I haven't had the energy to do what it takes to make this blog more successful. And to market my memoir. Which makes me ask myself why I'm writing in the first place. Because it's what I do. And I don't want to stop. But what I need to shift is how I label myself. If I label myself a writer, then if I'm not doing all the writerly things I think I'm supposed to be doing, then I'm not successful. Then I get down on myself. Then I'm miserable.

So, I am going to stop calling myself a writer. I'm Karen. It's who I am, not what I am. I'm on a journey of healing. I seek to grow emotionally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. On that path, I write, I sing, I folkdance, I read, I hike, I play with my hubby and my friends and my dog, and I share here about all of the above.

Comparison is an act of vengeance against yourself. I heard this in the 12-step programs. It's something I need to remember. How about you?
Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Telling the truth Tuesday - Obsessions

I'm reading Geneen Roth's new book, "Women, Food, and God." Roth has written several books on compulsive eating and recently appeared on Oprah touting this new one. On the show, she spoke the spiritual connection she found as she looked at her food obsession. It intrigued me because I, too, found that the need I was trying to fill inside me with food was really a spiritual need, not a hunger need.

Truly, I thought I was done once I hired a nutritionist rather than do another diet. That was a huge shift. Then, after losing 40+ pounds, something else changed. I no longer wanted to overeat or indulge myself with food. Yes, I still craved things that weren't good for me, but I didn't always have to listen to those cravings. Since I've been maintaining this weight loss for a few years now,I thought this issue was over for me.

But a few weeks ago, a good friend gently told me she thought I was still a bit obsessed with food. It made me angry. Then it made me think about whether it was true. Sadly, I think she's right. Even though I don't obsess about what I'm going to eat every minute of the day, I do worry when I eat out. I worry when I don't poop enough (sorry, I know, TMI). I worry about how much water I'm retaining.

Now, how much of this is obsesion and how much of this is because I'm hypoglycemic, I'm still trying to figure out. The hypoglycemia forces me to eat every few hours so I don't panic and get extremely anxious and irritable. This means I'm eating when I don't necessarily feel hunger pangs in my stomach. Roth advocates not eating until you are hungry and learning to distinguish between thought hunger and true body hunger. I'm all for that, but if I wait until my body hunger kicks in, I'll be a raving lunatic.

I'm slowly working my way through the book and realizing food truly is an obsession with me. Obsessions obscure emotions we don't want to feel. So once again, I am looking deep inside to see what lurks in my unconscious that I don't want to see, hear, feel, or touch.

Are you obsessed with anything? Does it rule your thoughts as food does mine?
Blessings,
Karen

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Musings

A footnote to Friday's post about the VA. It was profoundly moving to perform for vets, their families, and the wonderful caregivers who work at the VA. For our last number, we sang "America" acopella. We'd practiced it many times and I had no emotional reaction, but when we began singing it, I looked out into the audience and saw tears, hands on hearts, heads bowed, and I got so choked up I had to stop singing for a few measures. After the performance, the Public Affairs specialist told me they'd had a hard week at the VA, and we were a breath of fresh air. If I could, I think I'd just go park myself in the lobby and sing all day, if it can bring one moment of sunshine to those dark places in people's hearts.

I'm by myself this week. Hubby is on a business trip to Charlotte, NC. I've had to ask our dog-sitter to come by every morning and evening to give Buddy (our dog) his insulin injections. We don't want me passing out while I'm home alone, do we? I don't think so. But Buddy's doing great - he's blood sugar levels are regulated and he's his peppy self again. Whew!

My writing isn't happening. I'm beginning to be okay with that. I don't know if there is some internal mulching going on, or I need a time out, or what, but I am so working on not judging what I do or don't do, feel or don't feel, think or don't think. Performing has taught me that. We can make mistakes, but the audience doesn't care as long as we show up and give them something of ourselves. If I'm fully present, and sharing myself, if my voice cracks, so what? I've learned to shrug it off. Because truly, in the scheme of things, what matters is being here and being the best we can be in a given moment. And when we're not our best, recognize it, acknowledge it, and move on.

I guess that's enough musing for one morning. What are you musing about today?
Blessings,
Karen

Friday, July 16, 2010

Giving back

Today, my singing group is performing at the VA hospital here in Albuquerque. After moving Dad here in 2001, I spent a lot of time there. Because Dad was a World War II vet, he received all his health care from the Veteran's Administration. I have nothing but admiration for the folks there who dedicate themselves to caring for our military personnel. My dad has been gone for 5 years now. He never got to hear me sing with a group. He died before I began my singing in public journey. So this is bittersweet for me. But giving back to this community feels good.

My father didn't have a lot to be happy about in his life. He was most proud of his time in the military. In my heart, I am dedicating this performance to my father, a man who made my life miserable most of the time growing up, but whom I came to love and honor during his last years on Earth. If you want to read a bit more of my story with my Dad, check out the articles/essays tab and read "My Father's Keeper."

How is your relationship with your father?
Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Telling the Truth Tuesday - Being quiet

This part of my spiritual journey is a time for quiet. It's a new place for me. I've always been one who has to talk about what I am going through. I still do, to some extent. But it's much quieter this time. It doesn't feel as if there are things churning up inside that I need to get out or I'll explode. I'm not in panic mode--anxious, frightened, desperate to move on to a more comfortable space. I am much more accepting.

There is a reason Native Americans honor their elders in ways our culture does not. Once I attended a Native American ritual. The elders were seated in a place of honor and treated with the utmost respect and dignity. When the meal was ready, the elders were served first. The whys of this are varied, but mostly, I think it is because elders have lived longer, learned much, and have come to a peace within themselves about life and living.

I am an elder in my family now, as both my parents and my husband's parents are gone. It is an odd feeling, because I am still hyper-aware of the younger aspects of myself still with me. But more and more, there is a wise energy that permeates my being, keeping me grounded and centered. And quiet.

Blessings,
Karen

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Musings - Imagination

Many of you who read this blog are fiction writers, so I assume you have wonderful imaginations, that fantasizing or making up events and people is something that comes naturally or easily to you. Not so with me. I must have had a good imagination when I was a small child, because I remember making up stories, songs, acting out plays, making artwork. But somewhere along the way, those things got shut down, along with my Spirit.

As I've worked on myself these last 30+ years, I've reclaimed many of those lost parts of myself. I'm very in touch with the damaged little girl inside me who was so terribly hurt. I have great compassion for the teenage part of me who made such poor choices in order to feel loved and accepted by boys. The young woman who lost her young son is always with me. There are some wounds that don't ever heal--you just learn to live with them. But I'm just beginning to try to find that very small creative child who believes anything is possible, and when she can't find what she needs in the real world, her imagination takes over.

This is so far out of my comfort zone, it is hard to put myself in the meditative place I need to go to allow the magic to emerge. But one day at a time, I'm inching closer. What about you? Has the magic of childhood followed you to adulthood? How does it manifest in your life?

Blessings,
Karen

Friday, July 9, 2010

Getting new information into my brain

I've been singing along with records since I could talk, which amounts to about 60 years. I remember lyrics to most of the songs I've ever sung along with. That's probably thousands of songs. Even if I haven't heard a song in years, if it comes on the radio, there I am, singing along, remembering every word. But trying to get new lyrics into this brain of mine -- that's another story.

I know it's probably an aging thing, but sheesh, that makes me mad. Why can't we do a brain dump or something to rid our brains of data we no longer have use for to make room for new stuff? Today it is so time-consuming for me to learn lyrics. I have to sit down and think about the story arc of the song--what's it saying, in what order are things happening, what triggers can I use to remember the sequence. Then I have to sing it over and over and over and over again until it sinks in. Oy!

The same with names of things. This weekend we hiked in the Pecos, where the wildflowers were spectacularly sprinkled throughout the forest and in the meadows. I don't know the names of most flowers and plants, but my friend R. does. No sooner would she tell me the name of one, then we'd see it again a few minutes later and I couldn't remember what it was called. Sigh!

What I've realized about all of this is that one, I have to accept this--I really don't think I can be doing more to keep my brain active than I already am. Two, if something is really important to me, I have to work much harder than I used to to get it into the brain and keep it there. And three, getting upset about it only adds stress to my life that I don't need right now.

Truly, my goal is to age as gracefully as I can, rather than go kicking and screaming about the changes that are sure to come along. So, how about you? Are there things you've noticed that don't come as easily? Do you have any tricks of the trade for remembering new things?

Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Telling the truth Tuesday - Don't take things personally

I hope everyone had a wonderful Fourth of July break. Our time at the cabin was heavenly, except for the monsoon rain we hit on the way there. Never saw rain like that since I moved to New Mexico in 1994. The thunder and lightning lasted all Friday night. It was an awesome storm. Sorry there are no photos, but we forgot our camera!

We shared our cabin with good friends, a couple with whom we play mah jong once a month, and who folk dance with us. We've known them quite a few years. Here's what I want to talk about today - how I am having to learn not to take things personally when someone I care deeply about makes comments about me and my life and how I do things.

Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile know that I've lost 50 pounds over the last few years and have been maintaining that weight loss for the last two years. I'd lost and gained weight more times than I can count for over 40 years, so to be stable in this area is huge. In order to maintain my weight, I need to manage what I eat and when I eat it. There's a difference between managing and obsessing. I used to obsess about food. I'd wake up in the morning thinking about what I would eat, could eat, should eat. Now, I pretty much know what I can and can't do and what the consequences are if I do something different.

Managing my food means I don't always eat what others are eating. So at the cabin, for example, one couple is responsible for say breakfast, cooking for all. The other couple is responsible for dinner, cooking for all.
R & T were making breakfast for us. I knew their breakfast would contain way too many calories and throw my balance of proteins, carbs, fruits, fats, etc., completely off, so I brought my own breakfast.

Later on in the weekend, as we were packing up to go home, R and I sat on the porch and the conversation came around to food. I said something about being grateful I no longer obsess about food, and R looked at me and said, "I think you do still obsess about food."

Now, normal people probably would not have gotten upset about that remark, but I'm not normal. I didn't get upset the way I used to, doubting myself, getting all emotional, having a heated discussion. I simply asked her what she meant. She explained that not eating the same food as others when we're together, to her is obsessive. I eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day. I also cook things in the crock pot and hubs and I eat during the week. There are two reasons for this. One, I don't enjoy cooking, so this means I don't have to cook every day. And two, I really don't care all that much about food any more. My life is not about the food. Food is just sustenance. R, on the other hand, is a gourmet cook and cannot imagine eating the same food every day.

There's one other factor for me. I'm hypoglycemic and if I don't eat at certain times, I get panicky and extremely irritable. So I frequently have to eat before everyone else. I still sit at the table and share in the conversation, but I may not be eating. For me, the meal is about the company and the sharing, not the food. Some folks have an issue with this as well. Why can't I snack before hand and then eat the meal with them, they ask. Well, it's more calories than I want in my body if I do that.

So it made me think about how our culture is so heavy on food being the center of entertainment. Am I being rude by eating my own thing in social gatherings? I told R that perhaps I needed to add additional foods into the mix, but for now, what I was doing worked for me.

What do you think? Would you be offended if we went out to eat and say, it was 7 pm and I'd already eaten at home? Or if I came to your house for dinner and I only ate certain things that were served and not others.
Inquiring minds want to know....

Blessings,
Karen

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Monday Musings - Independence Day

Today our country celebrates its independence. We are so very lucky to live in a country in which we are free to do as we please. Rather than think about all the countries who are not so fortunate, I just want to celebrate freedom in all its manifestations.

Blessings,
Karen

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy July 4th

Happy July 4th Weekend everyone. We are off with friends to our cabin in the Pecos Wilderness. Hubby grew up going to this log cabin his father built with several friends back in the 1950s. It is my idea of camping--indoor plumbing, a stove, refrigerator, a fireplace and a cozy bed. And nature is right outside the front door. The cabin has a lovely porch looking out on the tall pine and aspen trees. After a day of hiking, we kick back with a glass of wine, I pull out the guitar, we sing a bit, have dinner, and spend the evening playing games. Sigh! How lucky are we?

How will you spend this holiday weekend?
Blessings,
Karen