Anything but love is a waste of time.
A Walk on the Beach
By: Pam Dearth, Guest Contributor
As I walk on the beach, I am often drawn to pick up shells that are interesting to me. Not the shells that most people choose, not the “perfect shells.” Many of these shells are broken, some have sharp edges and other times the broken edges have been worn smooth by the effect of the water through the ages. Sometimes they appear to have crevices or holes in them, interesting little areas too hidden to see into. Sometimes these shells have signs of other sea life growing in and on them, they themselves providing a home or shelter to another. Some shells have a drab, plain look but when I turn them over the colors are surprising and delightful to my eyes.
When I am in the spirit of gathering these interesting shells, I think about characteristics of each of them as I pick them up and look intently at them. I can relate what I am seeing in these shells to our “humanness.” Here they are, in all of their glory, perfectly imperfect! Some are worn with wisdom of the ages, some are sharp and pointed, some are mysteriously full of nooks and crevices, others are beautiful when you turn them to the other side, others are a shelter and refuge, some appear small and insignificant, many are shiny and bright, and some show the signs of a life that is full of difficulty and obstacles… They are just like me. Just like us.
Take An Emotional Cleanse
By: Cait Stuff, Guest Contributor
When do you take a shower? Is it in a rush before work, a quick scrub after a long day, or a long soak, perhaps with some soothing music and a glass of wine?
Regardless of how or when you do it, we all recognize that bathing is an important part of our life. It is necessary for keeping the dirt and germs off our body. It makes us pleasant to be around.
Like physical dirt, emotional dirt tends to build up and make life unpleasant. A rude comment, having your skills undervalued, an untimely bill, a plan that does not turn out as hoped—all of these things create the emotional dirt that can coat your soul and make it hard for your true self to shine brightly.
When we take a shower to clean our physical body, we tend to use a variety of cleaning tools like soap, conditioner, and washcloths. Here then are three cleaning tools we can use for emotional dirt:
Prayer is a good emotional cleanser for the dirt of our daily life. When we pray, we shake off some of the emotional dust that we have been collecting. In spending quiet time with God, we have a chance to reflect on our soul in a way we seldom get in our busy daily lives. Doing so, we change focus from the worries of the world and allow them to fall away. In this sense, prayer is as simple as setting down the dirty shovel and picking up the bar of soap instead.
Soap works by trapping the oil and dirt particles into the hydrophobic center of the soap cluster. Similarly, prayer wraps up our hopes and fears, removes them away from our soul, and into the hands of God.
While prayer cleanses us and removes the weight of the world, gratitudes revitalize us in our engagement with it. Like conditioner, moisturizer, and fragrance, gratitudes help keep us clean by amplifying the positives, making it harder for unpleasant emotional dirt to grab hold.
Expressing gratitude for our life and what we have polishes our soul and makes it shine brightly. Like sunscreen, it provides a protective layer between us and the harmful elements in our daily life.
Perhaps more important, however, are gratitudes expressed to others. When we take time to thank another person for their help—or even just their presence in our life—we bring our feelings of joy and share them with the world. Gratitude is the perfect perfume, the one that nobody finds too floral, or too musky. Taking time to be grateful to others makes us pleasant to be around.
The most stubborn emotional dirt tends to stick into places that fundamentally who we are as people. It is the emotional dirt that says we’re not good enough, or that things will never work out right for us. When we don’t scrub away this dirt, we can even start to mistake it for part of ourself. We do the work—the prayer, the gratitudes—to clean away the day to day emotional dust that comes our way while at the same preserving this deep-set emotional dirt as if it was part of our own skin.
Insecurity can be like plaque on your teeth. The longer it is left to linger uncleaned, the harder it gets to remove. Meanwhile, like plaque, in contains hundreds of soul-destroying bacteria, eating away at the underlying layer—your true soul—sitting underneath.
Affirmations are the scrub brush that removes deep set insecurities. When we say “I can do this”, the dust of “I’m not good enough” falls away. When we affirm “I am lucky”, we take a powerwash to the belief that things never work out right for us.
Like brushing our teeth, affirmations are best done at least twice a day. Sometimes our soul can be sensitive to at first—a powerwash can be an intensive form of cleaning. Our soul may worry it will get damaged in the process, or that there will be nothing left of it once all our negative thoughts and beliefs are stripped away. But the reality is that those negative thoughts and beliefs were never really “part” of our soul to begin with. It’s just dirt, hardened over time, clinging to our pure form underneath.
Like physical dirt, emotional dirt will always come back. Setbacks happen, people do or say things we wish they wouldn’t, plans go awry. Dirt clings to us whether we like it or not. Occasionally we even expose ourselves to extra dirt on purpose—sometimes taking an emotional risk can be a lot like running an obstacle course through a rain soaked fallow field. Even if we win bin big, we’re still guaranteed to come home covered in mud.
However, as long as we remember to clean ourselves off after every risk, and take time to scrub away those deep-set insecurities, our soul will continue to shine bright.
We live our lives in constant transition. We’re always going from one stage or phase to another, usually trying to get to somewhere we’ve never been before. It is virtually impossible to stay in one spot, unless we’re content with the hardships that result from arrested development. The wear and tear of daily living are only worth putting up with if you’re trying to get somewhere—if you’re trying to reach something. However, in light of your desire to want to change, your external environment might not always prove to be accommodating.
This external environment can refer to the places that you frequent, your situation at home, friends, even your work environment. For example, if you’re thinking of starting your own business, your family might question your actions, your current responsibilities at your job might become unsustainable in the long run, or your friends might wonder why you haven’t spent time with them. If you change, your environment’s relationship with you will have to change as well.
Any lifestyle changes you decide upon will provoke a reaction from your current environment, but you need to be resilient and stay strong. German politician Konrad Adenaur said, “A thick skin is a gift from God.” Many times there is no avoiding the inevitable conflict that results when we are going through a transition in life. Life transitions are meant to be disruptive, since they’re all about fundamentally change. Sometimes they are not very difficult and over with rather quickly. But usually, going from one state to another is impossible without some sort of effort.
When we feel that our friends are going in different a direction than we are, it is pretty easy to start losing touch with them. You’ll want to talk about one thing, while other people may want to talk about something else. For example, shortly after graduation, you and several of your high school classmates might have frequently spent time with each other and shared similar experiences. Fast forward a few years, and you all might be living in different places, around different people, going after different things. Initially, because of similar lifestyles, you all might have experienced greater solidarity with one another. But once you all grew up and chose/pursued your own path, relating to one another might not have been as easy anymore.
You can be criticized and ridiculed for doing just about anything, so you might as well pursue what you want. Brace yourself for reactions from your friends/family/coworkers, but make sure to hold steady. You’ll find that over time, you will move on from your current situation into one that is more congruent with you. But you have to be able to withstand initial judgment and hold your ground.
Roger Von Oech, a creativity consultant, says that much of what we consider intelligence is our ability to recognize a universal order in the form of patterns. Patterns help us in identify recurring themes and similar events throughout our lives. It pays to remember things—being able to accurately predict events help in planning for the future. Most people pick up on these patterns as they go through the ups and downs of life (e.g. reading the news, remembering the past, and learning from others). Every advance/invention which comes about is really a combination of similar and previously discovered ideas. This blog exists because of a combination of the internet and newspaper, the latter of which came as a result of the printing press, which itself was invented by inserting movable typesetting into a wine press.
Along this line of thinking, if you look hard enough, you can find patterns and similarities between any two things. You can find patterns between the cylindrical shape of a soft drink and a nuclear silo. You can find patterns between your friend at work who is constantly complaining and your next door neighbor who is also complaining about the same thing. You can find similarities between your stress with a current goal and how you navigated a life transition a year ago. Similarities can exist in terms of your mindset, where you were living, or even the people you were around. If you are willing to invest the time required, you can figure out the unique patterns and similarities that recur throughout your life.
Taking inventory of yourself is essential in order to identify your unique traits. For example, how do you like to relax—reading books, traveling around the world, eating a vegan diet? Do you prefer working with your hands/body, with people, or with information/data? Are you a sociable person, or would rather spend time by yourself? You have your own quirks and behaviors that no one else has. Learn and embrace them! In the long run, accepting them helps you in figuring out the future you truly want, not the one you might think you want. For example, not everyone wants to be the “life of the party”, to live in a large city, or go to college. Not all of us want to date the same person, or want the same things in our partners. When you adhere to conventional norms without questioning them, it becomes a slippery slope where you are willing to neglect your own wants for the sake of conforming to others’ ideas.
So you might ask, “Ok, so what is the best way to take inventory of my own personal traits and figure out what it is that I truly want out of life?”
Unfortunately, the truth is that there is no “best way” for everyone. Many people spend years trying to figure out the answers to these personal questions. Some people might temporarily withdraw from social relationships; others might become more proactive in connecting with others. Still others drop everything and book flights to new countries, change careers, or check out new sections in the book aisle. But it is not about replacing introspection with action; usually there is a lot of thinking and writing and soul searching involved.
Once you are armed with greater insight into yourself, use it as a tool to put yourself in environments that are congruent with your unique needs. Also, keep in mind that the same conditions that help you thrive and succeed are not necessarily going to be the same for another person. For example, if you want to be an online worker, but hate working at home, you might have to look for co-working office space. If you are another type of person, you might have to begin prepping your application for the Peace Corps a few months in advance. Hunter S. Thompson once advised a friend in a letter, “What is truth to one may be disaster to another.” It is good to make the conscious decision to make positive lifestyle changes, but do not feel that you always have to make drastic ones. Giving up essential things in your life will only lead to dissatisfaction and hinder you in the long run. We all need to make sacrifices from time to time, but productive sacrifice is more about giving up something of a lower nature in order to receive something of a higher nature. When you are designing your future, it is essential to be able to determine what you are and are not willing to give up.
Don’t forget to be awesome today.