In the Mirror

 

 

One piece of advice I’ve heard a lot, and for that matter give quite a bit, is “Look in the mirror and say you love yourself.” It’s easy to do. You look in the mirror and speak the words. But saying it isn’t the same as *meaning* it, and meaning it is the hard part.

I do this every morning, and have for several years. But until recently, I didn’t mean it. I said the words because someone had told me saying them was a way to make them real. It wasn’t real for me, though. It wasn’t any different from saying “Unicorns exist” or “I know how to fly.” People can *say* just about anything, but that doesn’t mean they believe the words they say.

Loving myself has been a decades-long battle. I learned pretty early on that I didn’t deserve love, and since other people didn’t seem to think I deserved it, how could I give it to myself? Because of bullying and verbal abuse, I developed a sense of myself as an unlovable, unwanted human being who probably had a reason for existing but couldn’t figure out what the reason was.

Over a decade ago, when I met the man who became my mentor in energy healing, affirmations, and other things, he was the first to tell me to look in the mirror and say, “I love myself.” So I began doing so, not because I did love myself but because he told me to. He insisted that if I said it often enough, I would begin to believe it.

Several months ago, I realized I was still just mouthing those words, even after over ten years. I had never started believing them. I was still just saying them because someone who wasn’t even in my life anymore had told me to. And that was the problem. Doing something solely because we’re told to often doesn’t have the effect we want, if it has any effect at all.

I started being more mindful when I said the words. Instead of just mouthing them, I tried to *feel* them as they came out of my mouth. I started really looking at myself in the mirror, instead of just standing in front of it. On my partner’s suggestion, I began using the “power stance” (feet slightly wider apart than shoulder-width, hands on hips) as I spoke, and I did feel more powerful.

Power gives power. The words I spoke in that stance, when I said them mindfully and with intention, began to work. I started liking what I saw in the mirror. I started loving that woman.

I haven’t mastered it yet. It’s probable that I never will. I still have times when I fall back into the pit of hating myself, or believing I’m a bad person or fat or ugly, or any of the other drivel I was force fed as a child. But more often than not, I do love myself, and I do believe and truly feel the words that I say when I look at myself in the mirror.

Emotions

Emotions can be tricky things. Sometimes they seem to just sneak up on us, suddenly and without warning, and we go from zero to sixty in a second flat. That happens to me sometimes, especially with emotions like fear and anger. I don’t know they’re on the way, but suddenly they’re there, complete with racing thoughts and a running mouth I can’t seem to stop.

But the thing is, I *can* stop the thoughts and the words. I can stop any actions I might be on the verge of.

What I can’t stop are the emotions themselves. Believe me, I’ve tried. And the harder I try to make that anger or fear go away, the more stubborn they become. It’s like the concept of not thinking about the pink elephant. Now that I’ve brought that up, just try to stop thinking about pink elephants. At all. No thoughts of them. None.

See how difficult that can be?

One of the more useful things I’ve learned about emotions is to stop identifying myself *as* the emotion, and instead identify the emotion as something I have. For example, instead of “I’m angry,” saying “I feel angry” helps to separate me from that emotion, which can help the emotion fade sooner. It also prevents me from condemning myself for feeling it at all, which brings me to the second point.

Many of us are taught that feeling certain emotions is just plain not acceptable. You can’t feel anger. You shouldn’t feel afraid. And so on. So we learn to fight those emotions, or suppress them, or pretend they don’t exist at all.

Instead, I believe we need to learn to accept them, and more importantly, accept ourselves for feeling them. I’m not a bad person because I sometimes feel angry, or jealous, or afraid. I’m a human being, and most human beings experience a huge range of emotions in their lives. And that’s perfectly okay.

Anything you feel is okay. It’s what you do in response to feeling that way that matters. So be kind to yourself when you feel a negative emotion. Accept it. Even thank the emotion for what it’s bringing you, or for trying to protect you. And then move on.

Upheaval part 2

This is a short blog post to say I probably won’t have a longer blog post this week. It’s moving week, which means a lot of last-minute packing, unpacking, arranging, and settling. Also lack of time to do other things, and no internet for a day or so. I’ll be back next week with a longer post, probably about our new place. Meanwhile, thanks for checking in.

Upheaval

As I write this, I’m preparing for a move to a new apartment. At the exact moment I’m writing this, I don’t know where that apartment will be.

It’s been a summer of changes and upheaval for me and my husband. I can’t speak for him, but for me, it’s been difficult and, at times, rather scary. We determined at the beginning of summer that we would have to move, and gave our landlord two months’ notice. But finding an apartment has proven more difficult than we’d expected. Staying here isn’t an option, because the landlord found a new tenant almost immediately, so we have to go somewhere. Right at this moment, though, we don’t know where.

This is a situation that in the not-so-distant past would have had me in full-blown panic mode. And, to be honest, I have had times of fear and panic. I am human, and no matter how much work I’ve done on myself or how much I trust the Universe to help me find the right place, I still feel scared sometimes.

Part of the story I tell myself is that I need to know what’s going to happen. Where I’m going to be. Who else is involved. All of those things. Although I can be flexible to some extent, I haven’t been particularly good at going with the flow, or at taking a leap of faith and seeing where it leads. That isn’t necessarily a good thing. Sometimes you need to take those leaps.

I’m reasonably sure that I’ve missed out on quite a bit in my life because of not being willing to take chances unless I have a pretty good idea of what will happen. That includes missing out on building River Flow Healing and A Story You Tell Yourself into amazing things that reach a lot of people. Reaching out and connecting with potential clients or with other practitioners requires a huge leap of faith, and it’s one I haven’t really taken.

If my husband had talked to me before giving notice to the landlord, we wouldn’t have given notice. I would have told him that we couldn’t do that without having another apartment lined up, and we would have ended up staying here. Not that this is a bad apartment, but there have been some unhappy times here as well as happy ones, and we don’t always get along well with our landlord and her family, who lives upstairs. It really is time for us to find someplace fresh, where we can start the next part of our lives.

I’ll admit I’ve felt pretty angry with my husband for giving notice on this apartment without talking to me. I still think he was wrong for not discussing it with me first, but what it’s shown me is that sometimes you really do have to take a leap and just trust that you’ll land in the best place for you.

Drawing a Blank

I sat here getting ready to write this blog post and realized I had no idea what to say.

And that’s okay.

I spend a lot of time feeling like I have to know everything that’s going to happen. I have to plan out what I’m going to post on my blog or write in the novel I’m working on. I have to know what my commute will be like, and the weather, and what I’ll be doing that day at work.

Except I don’t really need to know any of that. Except maybe the weather, because if it’s going to rain, it would be good to have an umbrella. And if it’s going to snow, I might have to freak out a little bit, because it’s July. Even in New England, it doesn’t usually snow in July.

So this time, instead of getting anxious and worried because I didn’t know what to type for this blog post, I just started typing about not knowing what I was going to type. Because even if it seems silly, or I feel like I’m just blathering, there is a point to this. And the point is that I don’t actually need to know. Some of my best writing–and, admittedly, worst–has occurred when I just put my fingers on the keyboard and see what comes out.

There are some things in life that it’s probably a good idea to plan in advance. At least have a guideline for. But you don’t have to do that with everything. Some things work out just fine even if you start without knowing where you’re going to end.

Like blog posts.

The Best-Laid Plans…

Sometimes no matter how carefully you plan something, it doesn’t work out that way. I’ve had a few examples of that in the past week.

On Saturday, I was planning to go to an event I’d been looking forward to. That morning, I decided it was time to rearrange a few things, partly so I could put a couple of pieces of furniture up for sale. The rearranging led to more rearranging, and then to cleaning, and then to packing up some books…and the next thing I knew, four hours had passed, the event had already started (and was an hour away, so I had no chance of getting there even to show up late), and I’d missed the opportunity.

One of the reasons for rearranging was that my husband and I had planned to move out of our current apartment but had then realized we would probably be better off staying put. Saturday morning, my husband contacted the landlord to let them know this. A few hours later, he heard back that they had already found a new tenant. We have no choice but to move.

Not so long ago, either of those would have sent me into anxiety mode. The two of them combined would probably have led to me having a full-blown panic attack. But I’ve learned a few things since then.

Sometimes the plans we have in mind aren’t the plans that are meant for us. They aren’t what our heart wants, or what the universe wants us to have. We might *think* they are, but that’s because we’re used to trying to control everything that happens in our lives, and we want to be the ones making the decisions.

We aren’t always right, though. In my case, rearranging and cleaning led to me being able to list one of the pieces of furniture I wanted to sell, and to me finding a couple of books and some papers I’d thought were gone. It also led to a lot less dust and a far less cluttered living room. It’s going to get cluttered again, this time with boxes, but at least right now there isn’t much clutter. And there’s a bit less to pack.

Moving… Until last fall, I wanted to move. We’d talked about it, and had planned to move out of here once my younger child left for college. The upstairs neighbors are often loud, the street outside is busy, and the acoustics here are weird so that sometimes it sounds like someone else is in the apartment when no one is. We had ended up staying because apartment hunting isn’t fun, and because we were still paying the same rent as when we moved here several years ago. And I had moved things around a bit so I wasn’t sitting where I can hear the neighbors most of the time, and wasn’t seeing cars and people going past the window.

But we’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere else in my adult life, and part of me feels restless. This place has been a good home for us, and we’ve had happy times here as a family. But we’ve also had conflict and negative times, and maybe it’s time to leave that energy behind. We can make happy times in a new place, in the new chapter of our lives where the younger child isn’t with us most of the time because of school and seeing other family members, and the older child has moved out entirely and is now a stepparent. Maybe the rent being raised, which is what led to us initially deciding to move this time, and finding out the landlord has someone lined up to take the place, is the universe’s way of telling us it’s time to stir things up.

So I don’t mind having missed Saturday’s event. There will be others. And I don’t mind having to move. The packing and apartment hunting will be a bloody nuisance, especially since we only have a month, but in the long run it’s going to be an adventure that will put us someplace we haven’t been before. And maybe that will lead to even better things.

Sometimes the best plan you can have is to not have a plan, and just trust that you’re going to get where you need to be.

“What Do You Want?”

Recently I was talking with my close friend, who often acts as a mentor to me, and the conversation turned to my social life. My social life is an ongoing source of frustration for me, because I’m still building a social circle, and sometimes going to events or getting together with friends is difficult because of transportation issues or scheduling.

I told him I wished I had the social abilities he seems to have. Some days, he’s in contact with probably dozens of people, between face to face interactions, texting, phone calls, and various venues of online messaging. Setting aside the contacts that are related to his business, not his personal life, there are still well over a dozen social interactions in any of his days. I said I’m sometimes hard on myself because I don’t reach out to people, and I don’t take the time to message people online very often.

He said, “Before you worry about messaging, and instead of being hard on yourself, first you need to figure out if that’s really what you want. What do you want?”

Good question. As a holistic mentor, one of my roles in my clients’ lives is to help them figure out what they want, but sometimes I struggle to answer that question for myself. My brain tells me I “should” want to have friends, to keep in touch with people, to act a certain way online and in social situations… but are those things I really want? Or are they just the “shoulds” that people have fed to me in my life?

When you’re sure you want something in your life, but you hold back from going after it or procrastinate, or make excuses about why you aren’t doing it, ask yourself what you want. Because what you *think* you want might not actually be it.

Listen to Yourself

In January 2016, in the wake of David Bowie’s death, I posted the following on Facebook (there was more to it, but this was the most important bit):

“We all need to be unafraid to live our dreams. All of us can at least try. You might not reach your goal, but if you never even try, you’ll never have the chance. Let go of the “can’t” and “shouldn’t” and fear. Start now. Dare to shake the world.”

I hand-copied that in calligraphy and taped it to the wall above my desk. It’s been there ever since.

And yet I haven’t really paid attention to it. I have dreams. River Flow Healing is one of them, though at the time I posted that, River Flow wasn’t even a glimmer of a thought. Singing is another. Continuing to write fiction and having a bigger audience.

I have a lot of dreams, and some of them, if I fulfill them, will shake the world in the sense of making a difference. Having an impact. That’s the main reason behind a lot of the things I do. I want to be out there to help others.

I’m really not helping anyone if I don’t listen to my own advice. Fear and “can’t” and “shouldn’t” have been constant companions for me. And that’s entirely on me. I’ve allowed those things to become my roadblocks, and it really needs to stop.

I might not get as far as I’d like with any of my dreams, but that doesn’t mean being so afraid of failing that I don’t even make the effort.

That post, when I put it on Facebook, started with me quoting the poem “Ode,” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy. If you’ve ever seen the 1970s version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, you’re familiar with one line of that poem, quoted by Willy Wonka: “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” The first part of the poem ends with “We are the movers and shakers of the world forever, it seems.” (As best I can determine, the poem is not copyrighted. If anyone knows differently, please leave a comment.)

Whoever creates is a “mover and shaker of the world” if they aren’t afraid to be so. That’s where I’m falling flat: I’m afraid. It’s time to listen to myself….

Recalculating…

I’ve been in a state of recalculation lately. You know how sometimes when you’re using your GPS and take a wrong turn, it says it’s recalculating? That’s where I’m at.

In my life, I’ve done a lot of things because other people told me I should, or I had to. Even if those things felt counterintuitive to me, I ignored the intuition and listened to the other people. This has often led to things not quite working out for me. I’ve spent inordinate amounts of time doing social media promotions that didn’t work because I half-assed them. Writing books that aren’t fun to read because my heart wasn’t in them. Taking classes out of which I got virtually nothing because they weren’t on subjects I really wanted to learn.

I’ve taken a lot of wrong turns.

But the cool thing about life is that when you take a wrong turn, you aren’t locked into continuing in that direction. You can recalculate and find a different route. If there’s too much construction on a road you’re driving down, you find an alternate way to get where you’re going. The same is true of life. If a route you’re taking to get to a goal doesn’t work for you, you find a way that *does* work.

I’m working on figuring out what works. I’ve already made some changes to this website to reflect some of the new direction. I’m no longer offering guided readings, other than at special events like psychic fairs (and then only if asked), because my heart wasn’t in them and I don’t feel that’s where my best skills lie. I’m good at them, and the readings I’ve done have helped people, but that isn’t part of the route I want to take for River Flow.

I’ve decided against some of the things I was planning to write, both nonfiction and fiction. I’ve reversed my decision about taking one of my pen names out of existence, and am focusing on promoting the few books still available under that name, as well as promoting the books available under my other name.

I’m trying really, really hard to get a grip on time management, which unfortunately is something about which I have a mental block. I want to push that block out of the way so I can stop rushing through things to make sure I get everything on my list completed, and stop spending time doing nonproductive things when I want to be productive.

It’s a work in progress. Life often is. But I’m thankful for the chance to step back from the wrong route and recalculate to find a better one.

Rites of Spring

I’m late with this post because it took me a bit longer than anticipated to get back into the swing of things after returning from the Rites of Spring retreat in western Massachusetts. I was originally planning to post this on Wednesday, but time really got away from me.

The event was awesome, though. Last year when I attended, I felt left out and disconnected right up until the closing ceremony, when all of a sudden–and too late–everything started to click into place. I had a hard time with that, because I wanted to enjoy it and make new friends, and I felt like I hadn’t.

I had, of course. Maybe not the way I’d wanted, but I did make friends from it, and those friends were there to welcome me when I arrived this year. The moment I walked through the gate, I felt like I was home. When I arrived at the dining hall for my shift checking meal bracelets, a job I had last year as well (everyone is given a color-coded bracelet indicating what meals, if any, they’re supposed to have in the dining hall), I felt as if I’d never left.

It was rainy and cold a lot of the time I was there. That made it considerably less pleasant, and it had a negative effect on my mood some of the time. Especially since the retreat is held at a summer camp, so most of the cabins don’t have heat, and neither do some of the shower houses and bathroom outbuildings. But for two days the sun was out and the temperature was up, and that was nice.

I did a Chios Level 1 workshop which had more attendees than I’d anticipated, and most of them seemed to get a lot out of the workshop. I’m looking forward to hearing more from them, and to doing another Level 1 workshop next year.

I came home tired, but happy and rested. I felt refreshed and recharged, and I’m definitely glad I went.