Posts Tagged ‘challenges’

Holding Onto Grudges Can make Your Arms Tired

September 25, 2015

The world can sometimes be an angry place.  Well, at least some of the people in the world seem to be angrier than usual.  I can actually understand that because, as a recent victim of credit card theft, I have been feeling a little cranky myself lately.  I always prefer to think that people basically want to help each other and show compassion. Sadly, some people’s milk of human kindness seems to be skim milk!

Years ago, Randy Newman wrote a song describing the confused state of a world in which people still have the core desire to help and forgive others, yet are afraid that they will lose part of themselves if they give too much, so they hold on to anger and fear. One of the verses goes like this:

“Bright before me, signs implore me to help the needy and show them the way.  Human kindness is overflowing….but I think it’s going to rain today.”

I have had to remind myself that while I might be justified in feeling ticked off in certain situations (did I mention credit card theft?) there is only one letter difference between Anger and Danger. Danger comes when anger runs amok.

There is an old movie, “The Portrait of Dorian Gray.” In that film, Dorian Gray was an angry, bitter man who couldn’t let go of his anger and he treated people badly.  In his attic, there was a painting of Dorian, which began taking on the manifestations of his negativity. Every time Dorian’s anger got away from him, and he hurt someone; an ugly gash or scar or horrible expression would appear on his likeness.  Dorian, himself, never changed; but his portrait became a hideous image of the monster he had become.

I think that’s what happens to us when we allow negativity, anger and an unforgiving spirit to dominate our lives. Our souls become our portraits and bear the scars of our anger. Eventually, all of that poison makes us sick and the weight of the grudges we are holding crush us.  Lest you think that it might be nice to remain young and unlined while your picture takes all of the beating; the rest of the story is that Dorian’s anger finally caught up with him and he turned into dust. Bummer.

Anger can be productive, if you are standing up for something that is important to you and it gives you the incentive to change something that needs to be changed. But that is a result of healthy and controlled anger…not the kind that stays inside and makes you into a hissy, snarky troll. So, before your anger turns into danger, try to channel that energy into something productive. Do it before you turn into dust!

Linda Henley-Smith is an author, speaker and coach who helps people find their funny bones and put things into perspective. Check out her website at  www.lindahenley-smith.com

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What I Learned While I Was Invisible

September 9, 2015

In the Broadway show Chicago, there is a song about feeling unimportant and invisible. A man sings that Mr. Cellophane should have been his name because people walk right by him, see right through him and never even know he’s there.

Although it sounds pitiful, I think that many of us have experienced that feeling at some point in life. You may have wondered if anyone really cared about what you thought or if anyone really even saw you. It can be a pretty lonely feeling, but it’s important to understand that feeling invisible comes from within you and not from other people.

Sometimes it happens when you have long defined yourself by your relationship with another person or perhaps by a job, and that role ends or becomes less prominent. Many people retire from longtime careers and suddenly feel as if they no longer have a purpose. I have known some who worried as they aged, that people would no longer look AT them, but would look THROUGH them. And sometimes people lack self-esteem and believe that whatever they have to say or offer is not worth anything. They convince themselves that nobody would care about their opinion. They feel invisible because rather than defining their own essence, they leave it up to other people! When you feel invisible to yourself, it’s no wonder that you feel invisible to others!

I know these things because I have felt invisible. It happened at a time when everything in my life fell apart and I was catapulted into a world of confusion. I felt lost, betrayed and rather non-existent. Fortunately, I finally realized that I was creating my own cloaking device and eventually worked through it. Here is what I learned during my self-imposed invisibility.

  • I realized that my feelings of invisibility were a result of me abandoning myself!
  • I had to believe that even though my life had drastically changed and I was no longer in the same position as before, I was still a person of worth. Things were different, but I still had a lot to offer.
  • I came to understand that there are those who will only acknowledge people when they need something from them. I chose not to be affected by those people because their opinions had nothing to do with who I really was.
  • I learned that I needed to love and be visible to myself rather than to worry about being adored and praised by anyone else. My feelings of self-worth needed to come from within me rather than to depend on outside validation.
  • I no longer defined myself by what I owned, who I knew, what position I held or how I looked.
  • I took time to reassess my life and my goals. I realized that my faith had to be greater than my fear.
  • I began to understand that other people’s feelings and opinions were not more valuable than mine and I learned that acknowledging my feelings is very important. If I ignore and discount them, others will not deem them important either. Feelings are a kind of inner guidance and they shouldn’t be ignored.
  • I stopped giving situations, circumstances and other people the power to define me. I started to create my own experiences by engaging with others and participating in life! I realized I didn’t have to wait for someone else to make the first move; I was capable of introducing myself and starting conversations!
  • I started to appreciate who I was and where I was at that time. I allowed myself to heal with the knowledge that my wounded self was carrying a sense of rejection which really didn’t really exist.

Now I know that people are only invisible if they allow themselves to be. Mr. Cellophane felt invisible because he apologized for his existence. No one should ever do that! Our lives are fluid and they will change…often many times. Sometimes we’ll be on the top and sometimes we won’t. There will be times when we may not measure up to someone else’s standard of beauty or intelligence or wit, but that doesn’t matter. We are all worthy, loveable and very visible beings. Just remember that visibility begins with the love you show yourself!

Linda Henley-Smith is no longer invisible. Visit her website at

www.lindahenley-smith.com

Keep Going Even If Your Hat’s On Fire!

July 22, 2015

One of the most cited Shakespearean quotes is “All the world’s a stageand all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.”

I have spent a great part of my life on the stage, in theatrical and operatic performances. Performing in front of a live audience sure prepares you for a lot that will happen to you in life! Anyone who has ever performed knows that there will be times when the unexpected happens. I have forgotten lines, popped out of costumes, lost hairpieces into the orchestra pit, sung the wrong lyrics and much much more! I’ve even caught myself on fire, which I will explain later. I have stared embarrassment in the face, and I have survived! This is why I feel that Shakespeare got it right when he said that we are all players on the stage of life. Real life experiences often parallel stage experiences. Here are some of the things I have learned:

Sometimes you have to have to jump through hoops to get where you want to go. I have been through lots of “cattle calls.” That’s when you stand in line with hundreds of other hopefuls; carrying your head shot and resume, practicing your vocal scales and keeping limber with knee bends, while waiting your turn to stand in front of a panel of people who often look at you like you are just another prize cow. Think ‘A Chorus Line.” I once did an entire audition for a director who was eating a sandwich and talking on the phone. When you are an actor, this is kind of a rite of passage. Most of us have to put in our time to get where we want to be. In real life, there are steps we have to take in order to achieve our goals and although it takes time and effort, perseverance is the key.

You don’t always get the part you want. There have been times when I was perfect for a role…at least in my head! Instead, I was cast in another part that actually turned out to be a better one for me and one for which I was clearly suited. Had I turned down that role, I would have missed out on a wonderful opportunity. I have experienced the same thing in real-time. Disappointments are a part of life, but we can’t always see the big picture. We tend to dwell on what we didn’t get, rather than to appreciate and make the best out of what we have.

Sometimes, you will mess up. Oh boy, have I messed up…on stage and off! After a mistake, I felt self-conscious and inept and I assumed that everybody was judging me. The thing is…most of the time, it was a huge deal to me, but nobody else really even noticed because they were focused on other things besides my mistakes. When goofs happen on stage, the audience rarely even notices the errors that the actors think are glaring, because they are having fun just enjoying the production. The truth is that when I messed up on stage, I finally realized that I was making it all about me! When I finally “got it” that I wasn’t always the center of attention, I felt rather liberated. The same thing applies to our mistakes in real life.

Expect the unexpected. In theater or in life, don’t ever think that you are in absolute control of everything! This was permanently etched into my brain the time I was performing in an opera, in which I wore a glorious costume complete with a much-feathered hat. There happened to be a candelabrum on stage, which was to be moved by my “lady-in-waiting.” As I reached for the high notes, I began to smell a strange odor which could only be described as burning feathers. I kept singing, but my mind flashed to bar-b-qued chicken, before someone threw a bucket of water on my flaming head piece. You can’t always be prepared for everything, because you don’t know what everything is! But life is never boring when you’re open to opportunities!

Keep going! Everyone is familiar with the line, “The show must go on!” No matter what happens, on stage or off, you have to keep going! There will be failures and disappointments and confusion and chaos…but that’s what makes a good show and a great life!

All the Sounds of the Earth Are Like Music

June 24, 2015

The opening song in the Broadway musical, Oklahoma, tells of the beginning of a day that promises to be beautiful. One of my favorite lines is “All the sounds of the earth are like music.” It reminds me that if we focus on listening to the positive things around us, the sounds can be glorious!

I am not discounting the horrible events that are happening in the world nor am I suggesting that we ignore them. But if we focus only on the hurt and anger, and don’t consider the positive aspects of life, we will start to see the world through bleak and hopeless lenses. Negativity breeds negativity. A kind, loving and hopeful attitude can help us to break that cycle.

When I am feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, frightened or angry, I have found that if I stop for a moment, move away from sound pollution (noise), take deep breaths, close my eyes and just listen…something magical happens. It as if my sense of hearing is heightened. Everyday sounds of the world around me become music. Sounds odd…I know. But you see, every sound that we hear has a tone. The law of music is working throughout the whole universe. A bird chirping, lawn sprinklers turning, the squeal of a child playing, even the wind blowing through branches…all become a symphony when we listen with a different ear. They are the soothing sounds of normalcy…the sounds of life.

People have been acknowledging this for years and years. You may have heard the phrase “Music of the Spheres.” Pythagorus was the first to theorize that the whirling planets produced tones. Today, musical terms appear frequently in astronomer’s descriptions of space. We may not be able to perceive all of these sounds with our ears, but the music is deep within us, and it is exquisite if we will just be still and listen. And we hear with more than our ears; we perceive the world with all of our senses. As Einstein wrote, “We all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.”

The wholeness of the universe is so much greater than what we see on the news. While we can’t turn a blind eye to what’s going on, we will be much more able to make a difference and contribute in a productive way if we take time to listen to the sounds that are good and life-affirming. When we do that, we can reenergize and refocus our thoughts and look at the world with fresh eyes and a new attitude.

It has been said that music soothes the savage breast, and to paraphrase Johann Sebastian Bach, the purpose of music should be to refresh the soul. How wonderful that it is all around us!

Nature (and my dog) Hates a Vacuum

June 16, 2014

At the risk of setting everyone off on a “Frozen” song, I am going to mention the words “Let it Go.” Now that the song is stuck in your head and you probably hate me for bringing it up, I shall continue on.

Anyone who has ever experienced heartache, confusion, fear, disappointment or upheaval knows that eventually you have to process what has happened, accept that you have been bumped out of your comfort zone and your life has probably been changed a bit.
And most of us have learned that if we are to continue to move ahead in life, we have to unstick our feet from the wastewater of worldly woe (don’t you love that?) and release any negativity that has resulted from a difficult situation. It is important to turn loose of the emotional baggage that is no longer serving us well. We have to face the negativity, stop hiding behind it, and be willing to let it go.

But there is another part of the puzzle and that is that nature abhors a vacuum. I think Aristotle said that. My dog also abhors vacuums and he hides from them under the bed, but he is not as famous as Aristotle. Obviously, Aristotle was not referring to a Hoover; what he meant was that when something goes away, the place it occupied needs to be filled with something else. In this case, when we release our negative thought patterns, they need to be replaced with some positive ones.

The first step is to introduce some new ideas and possibilities into your thoughts and get in the habit of practicing positive thought replacement. Rather than focusing on what you have lost, try to think of something positive that may have come from the situation. I recently talked with a woman who was trying to recover from a major financial crisis. She told me that until this happened; she never had realized or appreciated how many supportive friends she had. Her words were, “Believe it or not, I have reconnected with so many people who are willing and even happy to help me pick up the pieces and start again. Were it not for what I thought of as a disaster in my life, I would never have known just how blessed I really am!”

The next step is to train your brain to live in the present; not in the past. Your newer and more positive thought patterns will help to pave the way for healthier, productive emotions and attitudes. Whenever an old self-defeating thought or negative self-talk tries to make a comeback, immediately make a list of things for which you are grateful. An attitude of gratitude will get you farther than getting stuck in the mental mud.

Remember than negative thoughts have no power other than that which you give them. You can nurture them or take away their strength by simply capturing them the moment they come into your head and mentally eliminating them. I picture my negative thoughts as balloons and visualize myself popping them. That’s my positive replacement thought and it’s kind of fun.

Finally, understand that being positive is not ducking reality or thinking like a Pollyanna. It simply means that you realize that there are alternatives to sinking into a pit of despair!

Resolutions, Revolutions and Revelations

January 3, 2014

Well, here it is again….another new year! Another 525,600 minutes to spend making wonderful memories, trying new things, experiencing a variety of emotions, building and maintaining relationships and eating chocolate. Even though it is just a date on the calendar, January 1 represents a clean slate.

People tend to want to make fresh starts in the New Year, so we make resolutions. I like to think of it as cleaning out a junk drawer and keeping only the things that I need and will serve me well. My problem is that after I have done that, it looks good for about a month and then it once again appears as if packrats were having a party in there. That is because I haven’t really made a commitment to keeping things neat and orderly. So it is with our resolutions….we can resolve until the cows come home, but without action, resolutions don’t mean much. They just end up like my junk drawer.

If we want to improve an aspect of life, we must break the negative pattern that is keeping us out of balance. Thoughts and behavior patterns can become deeply ingrained in us and sometimes, that isn’t a good thing. If you want to change your life, you need to get out of your self-constructed box and then stand up on the box to get a view of all of life’s possibilities. Think of it as a personal revolution…you are revolting against any limiting beliefs and actions that are holding you back.

In this New Year, you will probably experience a revelation or two. It may involve making a decision to try something for the first time, or perhaps adopting a new attitude of altitude. It is possible that you may decide to choose joy over bitterness and laughter over whining. Maybe this will be the year that you put yourself somewhere on your “To Do” list and move away from things that cause you unnecessary stress. The revelation will come when you finally realize that you are sick and tired of trying to fix a problem or change a situation by doing the same things and getting the same results.

I think I will start a new tradition for myself. I am going to adopt the idea of a Joy Jar. I know people who have done this, and I think it is a great way to reprogram my brain and focus on the possibilities. Every day, you write something positive that you have experienced or a joy you have felt and put it into a big jar. After a while, you should have quite a collection. You can either wait until December 31, or dip into that Joy Jar when you need a jump-start. Reading and remembering the good things that have happened to you may help to lose the “Stinkin’ Thinkin’” and have the best year ever!

Metal Chains Aren’t as Restrictive as Mental Chains!

August 18, 2013

Most people probably wouldn’t find the idea of being locked up in a prison very desirable. Given the choice, we would rather be free to roam and romp and do whatever we like to do. It is ironic, then, that we often lock chains on ourselves which make us feel trapped and powerless.

Of course, these aren’t physical chains. They are chains made of thoughts and habits which can restrict you as much as any metal restraint. Each link is made of a counterproductive belief about yourself. It can take the form of negative self-talk, self-sabotage, feelings of unworthiness, false ideas about your abilities and talents….and the list goes on.

Every time you allow your mind to spend time on these thoughts, you are tightening the grip of your shackles, and you’re putting one more lock on the door of your self-made jail cell. You will eventually find it more difficult to even ponder finding joy, success or freedom to live the life you desire.

Each one of us has a choice. The only guard at the prison door is yourself and you carry the key! You can sit on your pile of chains and mournfully sing “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” or simply claim your “pardon” and step out into freedom. The key is in your pocket. It is your ability to love and accept who you are, as you are. It is your willingness to turn your back on old fears, worries, doubts and resentments and speak to yourself kindly, with affirmations of your value.

The path may not always be easy, but it sure beats sitting chained up in a prison!

You Can’t Keep Looking to the Back of the Book for the Answers!

December 4, 2012

The Broadway musical, “Thirteen” is a show about young people coming of age and the rites of passage associated with becoming a teenager.

 

In one of the numbers, a boy sings a metaphorical song about how he’s been looking in the back of the book for the answers about life, but he is learning that he will have to hang in there until the whole story ends; because he has a little more homework to do. Of course, this is how a thirteen-year-old would think, because when we are that age; going to school, completing assignments and taking tests is a large part of our existence!

 

I like that.  I know that sometimes I am in such a rush to find out how things are going to work out, or I am in a hurry to “fix” a situation, and I become frustrated when things don’t go according to my time table. After all….doesn’t the world know who I am and what results I need and deserve???

 

I think we all continue to go through rites of passage throughout our lives…it doesn’t end when we become adults. Hopefully, we continue to grow and mature in the way we think and the way we deal with life situations.  Sometimes, it is necessary to go through some tough times in order to get to a stronger and healthier place emotionally.

 

I guess I like the song from “Thirteen” because I can relate to it. I remember being exactly that age and totally non-interested; and therefore, inept in algebra. As a result, I didn’t even try to understand it. I truly did just look in the back of the book for the answers without even attempting to work the problems on my own. I fought against doing my homework, thinking that I could skip the hard stuff and come out okay. Ding Dong, I was wrong.  Turns out that when they give you the test, they expect you to know how to figure things out and they don’t let you use the book!  Oops…..I ended up having to take the entire class over again and it wasn’t any more fun the second time! If I had tried a little patience and not skipped to the back of the book, I probably would have saved myself a lot of frustration.

 

Even now, I often want to take shortcuts. I am not willing to do what needs to be done in order to get to where I need to be. I want the answers NOW! In other words, I want to go from A to Z and be done with it. I don’t want to go through any tough times. I do not want to do my homework. Getting past the pain, avoiding the emotional roller coaster or achieving the results I want seem to hold more importance than the process of getting there. I rebel at the concept of my spiritual ore being tempered and purified into real gold. I want to shine IMMEDIATELY!

 

We all think it would be lovely to just sail through life and bypass any trials, challenges or struggles. But lessons are not learned only through successes; sometimes the greater knowledge comes from the journey. If someone is always there to give us the answers, we never find our inner strength which comes from working through the problems ourselves and coming out the other side.

 

 

One Piece of the Puzzle

October 25, 2012

I am really terrible at working on jigsaw puzzles. Apparently, I lack the eye-hand coordination, spatial awareness and patience to be successful at fitting a bunch of little jaggedy-shaped pieces together to make a picture.

I have been known to become so frustrated, that I have resorted to cutting, bending or biting a piece into the shape that is needed to fit a space. Yes, I am aware of the fact that makes me sound really odd, but that is the way it is. When it comes to puzzles, I am puzzled!

It would be my guess that most people would have more difficulty if there wasn’t a picture on the box lid, to show what the puzzle is supposed to look like when it is completed. And without a picture; no matter how proficient a puzzle “putter-togetherer” might be, it would be virtually impossible to look at one lone piece and figure out what the whole thing should look like.

Life is like a jigsaw puzzle.  No…Forrest Gump did not say that…I did! What I mean is that it is made up of a lot of pieces, we only get one piece at a time, and we don’t get a box lid with a picture! We really can’t see what lies ahead of us and sometimes, we can’t figure out why certain things happened to us in the past.  Of course, this is because we don’t have all of the pieces of the puzzle and we’re not supposed to have them yet. We may have formulated a picture in our mind of what our life is supposed to look like, but that picture might be totally different than the way it’s going to end up.

Every minute, every hour, every day and every experience we have is a piece of the puzzle. Sometimes they fit together and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes we have to wait for a while to get a piece that connects with one that we already have; because if we try to cut, bend or chew in order to wedge in a piece that doesn’t really belong there…well, you know that never works!

But if we are patient, we will begin to see a beautiful picture unfold which won’t be complete until we leave this earth. If we enjoy the process, we will see the pieces slowly move and shift, like a kaleidoscope; offering an ever changing variety of colorful pictures that will be more amazing than anything we ever could have imagined if we planned it!