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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A-Z Challenge: Z - Zen

This is the last day of the a-z challenge. I want to thank all the hosts for putting this challenge together.  Arlee Bird at Tossing It Out 
Jeffrey Beesler at World of the Scribe 
Alex J. Cavanaugh at Alex J. Cavanaugh 
Jen Daiker at Unedited 
Candace Ganger at The Misadventures in Candyland 
Karen J Gowen at Coming Down the Mountain 
Talli Roland at Talli Roland 
Stephen Tremp at Breakthrough Blogs


My blog has grown in followers and commenters and I have met so many great, creative bloggers. 


For the last letter of the alphabet, "z," I've chosen the word zen. To me this word embodies the inner peace I have been striving to find my entire adult life. It means ridding oneself of the outer and inner clutter. It means connecting with Spirit and our Higher Selves and making choices and decisions from that place, rather than the place of fear or anger or discontent.

My life has become about getting to a zen place and staying there as long as possible. And finding ways to bring myself back to zen when I lose my way.

Have you found zen in your life? If so, how do you stay there?

A big fat thank you to all the a-z participants who have chosen to follow me. I hope we can stay connected.

Blessings,
Karen

Friday, April 29, 2011

A-Z Challenge: Y - YES!!!!

On the "N" day of the A-Z challenge, I wrote that "No" is a complete sentence. Today, I want to talk about saying "yes," which can be equally challenging. I'm not talking about saying yes to someone asking you to do something - that part is relatively easy. I'm talking about saying yes to yourself. To your deepest, darkest desires. I was unable to even admit to myself inside my own head that I wanted to write for so many years, I'm embarrassed. And I've wanted to play the piano ever since was 8 years old. My parents couldn't afford a piano, so they bought me an accordion, which I hated. It's taken 54 years for me to give myself the gift of piano lessons.

I went to a community college after graduating high school. Then got married, had a child, supported my husband while he finished school, then supported another one while he started a business, then supported another one while he changed careers. Saying yes to me took way too long. So don't wait. Say yes to you now.

Is there something you're wanting? Come on, fess up.
Blessings,
Karen

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A-Z Challenge: X - Xena - Warrior Princess

I don't like violence. That includes violent TV, movies, books. But I have to admit, I loved watching Xena--Warrior Princess when it was on television a few years ago. I've thought about why I could tolerate that particular show and not others and the reason is that there were few things when I was growing up that depicted women as completely fearless. Xena attacked whatever she thought wasn't right, without a thought to her own safety. But she could take care of herself very well, and didn't depend on anyone else for that.

Positive female role models were hard to come by when you were born in 1949. It was Donna Reed, Leave it Beaver mom, Doris Day, and the roles these women played were subservient to the men in their lives. The women's movement changed things tremendously, but that's a whole book rather than a blog post. Suffice it to say, by the time Xena came along in the 1990s, I was aware that women could be powerful. But fearless - not so much.

I can't say I am fearless, but I am less likely to not do something because I am afraid.
What about you?
Blessings,
Karen

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A-Z Challenge: W - Willingness

When I was 28 years old, I lost custody of my only child, who was 4 years old at the time. I was catapulted into a deep depression, filled with despair. I began keeping a journal, pouring my heart and soul onto those pages. It became a therapeutic tool for healing, one of many I would find along the way. But underlying all the tools, programs, books, things I did to heal, there needed to be an attitude - a willingness to do whatever it took to get me where I wanted to get to. That willingness has enabled me to accomplish so many things I never thought possible - going back to school at 52 to get my college degree and graduating Summa cum Laude. Writing and publishing my memoir. Starting a singing group, Sugartime, and getting good enough to perform at certain venues around town. Losing 50 pounds and maintaining that weight loss. Finding a loving husband (it took me several tries, but we've now been together 15 years and grow happier together each day).

Are you willing to do whatever it takes for you to achieve inner peace and those things that will fulfill you?
Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A-Z Challenge: V - Voraciousness

voracious |vəˈrā sh əs|
adjectivewanting or devouring great quantities of food he had a voracious appetite.• having a very eager approach to an activity his voracious reading of literature.
I love this word, although I only use it when referring to myself as a voracious reader. But I love thinking of it as having an eager approach to any activity. I want to be voracious about life, all aspects of it. In my friendships, in my writing, in my singing, whatever I do, I want to approach it voraciously.Do you?
Blessings,Karen


Monday, April 25, 2011

A-Z Challenge: U - Understanding

Understanding is one of the most important things we must learn if we want to live lives filled with inner peace. Because if we don't understand, we jump to erroneous conclusions which can lead to all sorts of problems.

Understanding ourselves is the first step. Getting to know what we like, what we don't like, what ticks us off, what pushes our buttons. Know yourself well enough to know why you react the way you do so you can change your reactions if you need to.

Those skills give you the ability to deal with difficult people and unpleasant situations in a healthy way. So if someone says something that upsets you, or makes you angry or sad, ask for clarification, rather than jump to conclusions about the person, i.e. they're out to get me, or they don't love me, or they're trying to get me to do something I don't want to do.

I can't tell you how many times I have assumed the wrong reason someone said or did something, or guessed at someone's intentions and was completely off base. Sometimes people don't realize what they're saying or doing is hurtful and has negative consequences. Understanding can work wonders in both people in that kind of situation.

Do you understand yourself well enough to know when you need clarification or you're assuming away? I'm still learning...

Blessings,
Karen

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A-Z Challenge: T - Telling the Truth

Oh, I just had to do this one because of my regular Tuesday feature - Telling the truth Tuesday, even though today isn't Tuesday. So here's my truth for today. Tomorrow I turn 62. My social security checks will begin being deposited into our savings account in June. I've written about this before. I don't know how the time flew by so fast that I am now old enough to get social security, but here I am. My son in 38. No grandchildren yet, but hopefully, one day...

I am not happy with what I see in the mirror. White hair, some wrinkles. My knee aches all the time. I get tired faster. BUT....and it's a big but -

In the meantime, my truth is that I am where I am. I am relatively healthy and strong and active. I am blessed with a loving husband and an amazing community of friends, both real and here in the virtual community. I am getting to do things I've always wanted to do and enjoying life, for the most part. I'm learning to roll with the challenges better and to truly be grateful for the successes.

What's your truth today?
Blessings,
Karen

Friday, April 22, 2011

A-Z Challenge: S - Simplicity

You can tell from my other posts during this challenge, that the 12-step programs had a great impact on my life and my psyche. Another of their infamous slogans was Keep it Simple, Stupid. KISS. I didn't like it so much because of the stupid tagged onto the end of it. But the notion of simplicity makes great sense.

How often do you engage in a conversation and you are asked a question, but rather than answer it directly, you go off on tangents that may or may not have anything to do with the question you were asked.

Or in your writing, do you complicate a simple scene with too much information or too much dialogue or too much description?

I used to love drama and crisis. Bring on the complications. Oh, a problem? Yippee, I'll get right in there and fix it. Well, those things no longer thrill me. In fact they derail me. Probably did back then as well and I didn't even know it.

Nowadays, I love keeping things simple. Just let me write my blogs, without distraction, or work on my novel. Keep distractions to a minimum. Or, if I'm having a dinner party, I don't have to invite 16 people. I can keep it to 4 or 8. And the menu doesn't have to be elaborate. Simple, easy, elegant.

Do you like things simple or complicated? What works for you?
Blessings,
Karen

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A-Z Challenge: R: Random Acts of Kindness

The other day I was in the supermarket. In front of me was a young women with two children. She was counting pennies, hunting through her pockets and her purse, desperate to find enough money to pay for her groceries. I told the cashier to put her balance on my tab. It was only $10 or so, but that doesn't matter. My energy and emotions soared the entire rest of the day. It felt so damned good.

When I lived in New York, I remember going through a toll booth once and was told to go on through, the car in front of me had taken care of it. It was such a shock. We get so used to people dumping on us that when actual kindness occurs, we don't know what to do.

The movie, Pay it Forward, was all about this. But I remember a slogan from the 80's, Practice Random Acts of Kindness. I'd forgotten, until this challenge forced me to think of topics beginning with different letters. I'm grateful I remembered. What random act of kindness can I do today?

Actually, I am going to perform at a Senior Center today with my singing group, Sugartime. It's not random, but it is kind. We really do cheer people up when we sing. I won't get to visit all of you till later today.

How about you? Practice any random acts of kindness lately?
Blessings,
Karen

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A-Z Challenge: Q: Quiet, please!

Quiet is such a hard commodity to find in our society. Everything makes noise. And if there isn't external noise, my internal voices are screaming at me. To find quiet, to really be still, is an art and a true gift.

I am lucky I work at home while my hubs still goes to a job. My only companion is our dog, Buddy, and unless other dogs in the hood are barking away, he's pretty quiet. I live in a quiet community as well. I don't hear car noise and my neighbors are all still working, so during the day it's quiet here.

I can't write if music is on. I start singing and it distracts me. And classical music puts me to sleep.
I'm getting to the point where I don't even want the television on, because it is addictive and hypnotic. I'd much rather read in peace and quiet. This is an issue when hubs is home, because he doesn't read much and likes the TV on.

Do you manage to find peace and quiet in your world?
Do you need it?
Or does the noise and chatter of life inspire you?
Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A-Z Challenge: P - Pardon me, I'm writing here...

Learning to become protective of my time and energy is difficult. It is almost impossible for me to not answer the phone if it rings, no matter what I'm doing. Nor is leaving emails alone for a few hours, or checking to see who posted what on their blog. Making writing a priority is important to my well-being, so I'm learning a new phrase: Pardon me, I'm writing. If the phone rings, and I must answer it, I will say these words. Same if the doorbell rings. Or my mind tells me to go to the grocery store or do the laundry or make that phone call. Pardon me, I'm writing here....

Bye for now,
Karen

Monday, April 18, 2011

A-Z Challenge: O - One Day at a Time

Probably, my favorite slogan of all from the 12-step programs is One Day At a Time, because what this teaches me as that worrying about the past or the future is a waste of time and energy. I can't do anything about either one. All I really have is this one moment in time. And yes, sometimes I chunk it down to one minute at a time. Because if I'm worrying about what is going to happen five hours from now, I'm not focusing on what's right in front of me.

Blessings,
Karen

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A-Z Challenge: N - No is a complete sentence and an award

Before getting into today's a-z challenge topic, I need to thank Alex at http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/ for passing along this award. I just love the image. Alex is one of our intrepid hosts of this awesome challenge and I am so grateful to him for his support, encouragement, and creativity. Thanks, Alex. I hereby pass this award to: Paul Anthony Shortt at: http://paulanthonyshortt.blogspot.com/ one of my new followers (thanks to the challenge) and a wonderful writer.

Okay, and now for today's topic: No is a complete sentence.

Do you have a hard time saying no? Most of my friends have a problem with this, because they are nice people and want to please others. In most companies or organizations, the busiest people are the ones who volunteer most frequently.

I used to say yes to everything, whether I wanted to do whatever or not. I was so afraid to hurt your feelings or make you not like me or be left out of something. Oy.

Here's the deal. If we are taking good care of ourselves and living our lives in balance, we must learn to say no. And we don't have to give a reason why. No really is a complete sentence. Now, if it's a good friend or family member, we can explain ourselves, if we feel we must.

But if a telemarketer calls, do I have to tell him why I can't talk to him now and why he should take my name off his list? Absolutely not. If Aunt Millie, whom I haven't spoken to in 10 years calls, asking me to do her a favor, do I have to drop everything and do it? No.

This doesn't give us a license to be rude. No can be said gently and even lovingly. You might include, "No, I'm sorry, but I can't." But stop there - don't continue on and say why.

And you must train yourself to stick with your no. It's kind of like when I go to buy a new car, I have certain parameters and a price I won't go beyond, no matter what the salesman says or does. It's the same with saying no.

Is this something you struggle with?
Tell me....
Blessings,
Karen

Friday, April 15, 2011

A-Z Challenge: M - Making Peace

It took me a long time to make peace with my past. There seemed to be a lot to overcome: growing up with parents who did not know how to parent; being sexually abused at six years old; trying to figure out how to live without adequate guidance and direction, making bad relationship choices, losing custody of my only child. The list goes on, but I've written about all of that in my memoir, so I won't do it here (you can all thank me later).

The reason I'm mentioning it at all is because making peace with our past is so important to living a life filled with inner peace in the present. If we carry all that baggage with us, we are never content. One of the hardest things to make peace with was accepting my parents for who they were, understanding that they would never change, and that they did the best they could with the skills and knowledge they had.

Once I stopped blaming and judging them, my life got better. Once I forgave my ex-husband for lying to a judge so that he could get custody, my life got better. Once I forgave myself for all the mistakes I made, my life got better. It's not about the other people. It's about you. That is what forgiveness brings. It doesn't mean condoning or accepting bad behavior. It means I let go of the angst and pain surrounding it.

I am still making peace with bits and pieces of my past. It is a lifelong journey.
How about you?
Blessings,
Karen

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A-Z Challenge: L - Live and Let Live

Oh, I love this slogan. It says so much in just four words. Let's look at them. First, Live. We have a finite amount of time on this planet, in this incarnation anyway, for those of us who believe we come back. How are we best going to use that time?

I spent so many years on auto-pilot, I am determined to live my life to the fullest for as long as I possibly can. What that means for me is to pay attention to my priorities and try to focus on those things that are most important. The way I get in touch with my priorities is to do an exercise where I fast-write my life goals, taking about 2 or 3 minutes to do so. Then I fast-write my 5-year goals in the same amount of time. Lastly, I fast-write what I'd do if I found I only had six months to live. Believe me, your priorities become quite clear doing this little exercise.

The second part of the slogan is Let Live. If only the world would learn how to do this, war would be eliminated. It means letting others live the way they want to live. We don't get to judge or try to change what they say or do. We accept. Now that is very simplistic, I know. But in our own personal lives, if we can learn to allow others to be themselves, our relationships get much smoother. That doesn't mean people won't do things to upset us, and if what someone does impinges on our lives, we have to say or do something. But it does mean if Mrs. Jones spends more than she makes or wears too much makeup or is desperately trying to look younger than she is, well, that is none of my business - unless she asks my opinion.

So, live and let live. Just for today.
Blessings,
Karen

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A-Z Challenge: K - Keep the Focus on Yourself

Keep the Focus on Yourself sounds so selfish, doesn't it? It's one of the slogans from the 12-step programs, and it was one of the hardest for me to get. I grew up with a mother who told me I shouldn't try to win games because the other people would feel bad if I won. How weird is that?

Keeping the focus on yourself doesn't mean become self-centered, self-absorbed and narcissistic. It means focus on on how you feel and don't try to figure out anyone else. It doesn't mean ignore those around you who are in pain, it means pay attention to your own needs and don't overstep your bounds. It doesn't mean forget about what you promised someone else you'd do, it means paying attention to your own limitations and honoring them. If you promise something, make sure you aren't damaging yourself by accomplishing it - think it through before agreeing to do it. But if you did agree and you find you can't follow through, be honest with yourself and the other person. Re-negotiate the terms if possible.

Since I didn't learn living lessons from my folks, the slogans helped me tremendously. By keeping the focus on me, I don't lose myself the way I used to. And I can be much more present for those in my life who love and need me.

How about you?
Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A-Z Challenge: J - Just Me

It's taken me almost 62 years to realize that it's just me here. I had so many voices inside my head - parents, teachers, friends, bosses, inner critics, that I had no idea what my own voice sounded like. That's why when  I began taking voice lessons a few years ago, it was so hard. The sound of my own voice was foreign to me - and I didn't like it much.

If you've had a healthy childhood, you are probably lucky enough to have had a successful individuation during adolescence and young adulthood - separation from parents and the home you grew up in. But if you never learned the things you were supposed to learn as a child and then an adolescent and young adult, you struggle with those issues much later than most.

In my past, I was never enough. Wasn't pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough, talented enough. I still struggle with some of these issues, and probably always well. The difference now is that they don't rule how I live my life and who I am. I can separate out the critical parent from the authoritative boss to the jealous colleague and figure out what I really think and feel. What a blessing!

Just me is really okay. How about you?
Blessings,
Karen

Monday, April 11, 2011

A-Z Challenge: I - If only

Do you spend a lot of time in the land if if only...if only I'd lose those 10 pounds, if only I'd told so and so exactly what I think, if only so and so liked me as much as I like them?

I spent most of my life in if only land and let me tell you, it keeps you from living life fully in the here and now. Because in if only land, you are either in the past wishing you'd done something different, or in the future, imagining what life will be if such and such happens.

I have to work very hard at staying present inside my skin. The easiest way for me to lose myself is to become unconscious. There are so many ways I do this - watching junk on TV, playing spider solitaire or mah jong solitaire (for hours).

One way I've taught myself to stay aware is to focus on details - what color shirt am I wearing, what is that person saying over there. This has actually helped me as a writer, to focus on specific details.

How about you? Are you living in the land of if only or are you right here with me?
Blessings,
Karen

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Award

I want to thank Dierdre at:
http://astorybookworld.blogspot.com/p/awards.html
for giving me an award for inspiring blog. I am honored.
Blessings,
Karen

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A-Z Challenge: H - Happiness is an Inside Job

Happiness is an inside job. No other person, place or thing can make you happy. If you're like me, and grew up on fairytales, hoping to live happily ever after once you found your prince or princess, this concept is difficult to accept. It goes contrary to everything society reveals to us: Hollywood, romance novels, we're all suckers for happy endings.

But real life simply doesn't work that way. More than 50% of marriages end in divorce, etc. etc. So it's up to us to find the ways to bring ourselves joy and inner peace. For me, this has been a lifelong process.
And now, I finally have the tools and wisdom to know what to do.

If someone says or does something to hurt me, I find the words or actions I need to bring peace to myself - not to the other person - but to me. If I am agitated, I have a toolbox to turn to to figure out why.

As I quote in my memoir, "living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all we see," from the Beatles Strawberry Fields. I spent too many years living on auto-pilot, frozen inside myself. Now, although pain, anger, sadness and other negative things inevitably come into my life, so do those happy moments. All we can do is savor them.

Blessings,
Karen

Friday, April 8, 2011

A-Z Challenge: G - Growth

When I lost custody of my only son when I was 28 years old, it catapulted me into a major life crisis. Depressed and filled with despair, and hating myself more than anyone can imagine, there were times I no longer wanted to be alive. But it was also the beginning of a journey of healing that continues today, 34 years later. I have grown, spiritually, emotionally, and physically, in so many ways. At that time, I made a decision that I was willing to do whatever it took to be content - at peace with myself.

Growth is not easy. It takes work, diligence, perseverance. And most importantly, willingness.

Are you willing?
Blessings,
Karen

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A-Z Challenge: F - First Things First

They tell you when you are on an airplane to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, and then your child or companion. It's a valuable lesson - put yourself first. At 62, I am finally learning to do this. In the past, everyone else mattered much more than me. Oh, you want you see that movie - sure, it doesn't matter that I've wanted to see such and such forever.  Sure we can go for Mexican food, even though there is nothing I can eat on the menu. You want me to drop everything and come over to talk. Well, this is one where it may be okay to let go of your own needs to help a friend, as long as it's not all the time and one-sided.

I have a list of things I want to accomplish each day. In the past, the list was a mile long. Now, there are six: exercise, blog, write, practice singing, practice piano, and do my knee exercises. The only ones that aren't absolutely mandatory are writing, singing, piano and blogging. If I am to remain a healthy person, I have to walk and do my knee stuff. But If I don't sing and write, I am miserable, so those are mandatory as well. Blogging is part of what I do as a writer, so that's kind of important as well. So, I do what feels most important in a given moment. I am finding that works.

Putting first things first helps keep the priorities where they need to be.
Blessings,
Karen

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A-Z Challenge: E - Eat, Sleep, Chill

I guess I'm on a 12-step slogan theme here and didn't realize it. Another slogan I love is Don't get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired, hence: Eat, Sleep, Chill.

I am hypoglycemic, so when I go more than 3 hours without eating, my blood sugar drops, I get extremely anxious and irritable. I know this about myself, so I do everything I can do eat every few hours. My friends know that when we make plans to eat out, if it's too late for me, I'll either eat before I come and just have tea, or I won't go. I can't snack before hand, because I am weight conscious and that's too many calories.

Getting enough sleep is crucial to well being. If I get too much (which rarely happens any more), I slog through the day groggy and out of sorts. If I don't get enough, I slog through the day, groggy and out of sorts. It throws me off balance, making decisions is difficult because I'm not centered. So I do everything I can to get enough sleep (a minimum of 6 hours, 8 is best).

As for chill - well, if we don't learn to take things in stride, give ourselves time to calm down before responding to anything, we get ourselves in trouble. I used to be an extremely reactive person. I have learned to either take a deep breath before speaking, ask for a time out, or simply say how I'm feeling and go from there. But just reacting without thought makes us say things we will regret later.

If there's one thing I've learned from the many bad relationships I've had, it's that we can't take back those harsh words and they leave a lasting impact. The other person may forgive us one time, two times, ten times, but a little bit of the love erodes each time and at some point, a threshold is crossed and it's over.

So, Eat, Sleep and Chill.
Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A-Z Challenge: D - Difficult Decisions

One of the things I realized as I took care of my elderly father and mother-in-law is that aging brings limitations. The body begins wearing out - hearing goes, eyesight dims, knees and hips give out. You must learn to live without some things you were used to having.

At 62, I am facing such a limitation. My left knee has stage IV osteoarthritis - there is virtually no cartilage left - bone is on bone. I am a folkdancer - it is something that brings me great joy. And it is the thing that brought hubs and I together - something we share together. If I continue folkdancing, my knee will wear out even faster and I will need total knee replacement much sooner. If I stop, there is no telling how long I can prolong things before needing the surgery.

I have received conflicting information about whether or not I will be able to folkdance after total knee replacement. It hinges on how well the knee can rotate with metal inside it to function.

I am choosing to let go of dancing now and delay the surgery as long as possible. I told hubs we will have to find other things we can do together. There is a deep sadness in thinking I might not ever dance again, but I am also accepting it rather gracefully. I've decided to do something I've wanted to do since I was 8 - take piano lessons.

Perhaps that is a key ingredient in aging. As one thing happens that brings limitation, we can find a substitute. Who knows? Difficult decisions are challenging, to say the least, but if we can find ways to fill the loss which comes from a decision, then maybe they won't be so hard.

Blessings,
Karen

Monday, April 4, 2011

A-Z Challenge: C - The 3 C's

The 3 C's - another slogan from the 12-step programs: I didn't cause it. I can't control. And I can't cure it.
For someone who feels responsible for everything and everyone around her, this was a difficult concept to grasp.

I was an only child and my parents did not have a good marriage - the understatement of the century. They fought constantly. And I was used as a pawn between the two of them. Early on, I decided it my not only my fault that my parents were unhappy, but that it was my job to fix it. I carried that into other areas of my life as I grew up, particularly relationships. If you were upset, somehow it was my fault.

When I began my healing journey, I tried anything and everything to "fix" myself. One of those things was attending 12-step meetings, even though I wasn't married to an alcoholic, my parents weren't alcoholics, and neither was I. But I was dysfunctional. And the 12-step programs helped me tremendously.

What the 3 C's taught me is that a) I didn't cause your problem, whatever it may be. My parents each had their own issues and they brought those problems to their marriage and created their own mess. b) I can't control it. Nothing I say or do can affect your problem. I can't make it go away, I can't diminish it, I can't control your behavior or how you treat me. I can only control myself and my own actions and reactions.
And lastly, c) I can't cure it. If you have a problem, it is your responsibility to deal with it. I can support you by offering comfort, suggestions (but only if you ask me for them), etc. I can't fix it. Period. Stop.
After spending most of my life believing I could fix, not only myself, but everyone else's problems, I am stumped when I can't. This simple slogan helps me remember.

Blessings,
Karen

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A-Z Challenge: B - Be Gentle With Yourself

Be Gentle With Yourself - sounds simple, doesn't it? Maybe for some, it is. For me, not so much. I drive myself hard. And if I don't meet my own expectations, well, let's just say I don't feel particularly good about myself.

So how am I learning to work with this slogan (yes, another one from the 12 steps). Someone suggested I wear a rubber band around my wrist and every time I catch myself having a negative thought, I snap it. It actually makes me laugh, snapping me right out of the negativity.

I no longer set unrealistic goals for myself. Rather than set a word or page count for each day, I say I am going to write, and whatever comes or doesn't come, if I've given myself the time to sit down and write, then that's okay. Along these lines, I don't overwhelm myself with impossibly long to-do lists that I must accomplish in one day or one hour. And here is the kicker - if I don't finish my to do list, I don't beat myself up - hence, I am being gentler with myself.

One last thing. If I screw up, and believe me, I do, I no longer tell myself I am a no good person who doesn't deserve to live. I acknowledge I am human, and that humans make mistakes. And that all I can do is do the best I can in any given moment. And I'm learning to stop making excuses for myself.

How about you? Are you gentle with yourself? If so, how?
Blessings,
Karen

Friday, April 1, 2011

A-Z Challenge: A - Awareness, Acceptance, Action

The A-Z Blogging challenge begins today and I have chosen to continue writing about my life journey using the letters of the alphabet to help with topics. Today, it is Awareness, Acceptance, Action.

Awareness, Acceptance, Action is a slogan I learned in the 12-step programs. I went to Adult Children of Alcoholics and Al-Anon for many years, although my folks were not alcoholic - just dysfunctional. What this slogan teaches is that when faced with a dilemma or a difficult issue, you must first become aware of it. For me, an example would be when I was taking singing lessons with a critical teacher. At first I was only aware of how badly I was feeling. Slowly I began to see the criticism and how it was affecting me.

Once you are aware of all the parameters of a situation, you must accept what is. In the singing example, I needed to acknowledge to myself that this was how this particular teacher operated - I couldn't change that fact. I could change my responses, but I was still feeling awful. Acceptance means fully realizing that this is the way it is.

Once that occurs, one can take action. I could have chosen to stay with that teacher and try to get them to understand what they were doing and how it was impacting me. I could have chosen to stay and try to learn how to not feel so bad. Here is where you get to plot out all the different ways you can choose how you want to deal with your situation. I chose to leave that teacher and find one who was a better fit.

I've learned the hard way that jumping into action before becoming fully aware and fully accepting of what is happening, doesn't work very well.

Blessings,
Karen