Making Joy A Priority

Making happiness and laughter a priority is important, no matter who you are. Often we get so caught up in other things that we put joy on the back burner. Some people have been taught that taking time for play and recreation is a waste of time or irresponsible. The truth is that without the presence of enjoyment, for the sake of it, we do not experience the entirety of life. It is easy to neglect this aspect of life. Trust me, I know.

Parents get caught up in the responsibility and trials of parenthood, people get stuck in career advancement mode, relationship issues get in the way. It’s easy to see why making joy is important in those situations. Having a joyful parent is healthier for kids, taking recreation time makes focus and creativity come easier which is conducive to professional advancement, and it goes without saying that joy is like oxygen for relationships. Yes, everyone needs joy in there lives in order to thrive. With that being said, there are a few specific areas which I would like to address when it comes to the importance of joy.

First, I’d like to address the tendency to be overly serious in people who lead highly spiritual lives. Yes, seriousness has its place…no matter whose life we’re talking about…and definitely in spiritual matters. Some spiritual people become so involved in their pursuits of spiritual knowledge and practice that their sense of humor almost disappears. When this becomes a way of life, it is a sad thing to see, at least in my opinion. I do not think that many would disagree that a large component of spirituality is love. I mention this because when we think of a person who is feeling love within their being, what visual comes to mind? At least a small smile, right?

While we do live in challenging times, and it is good to study and be aware…it is just as important to cultivate joy. First, the world that we live in is in need of more love and happiness. Second, a heart which is filled with joy is better equipped to be of assistance to others, which is the ultimate goal of many who are highly spiritual. While I enjoy a deep, meaningful conversation as much (probably more) than the next person…my soul needs and craves interactions which are light and uplifting. Everyone’s soul has that need…even if they don’t know it. When spirituality starts to turn into constant anxiety and/or austerity, that’s an indication that something has become imbalanced.  I’ve found myself turning a little too serious a time or two, so believe me…I really do understand. Not to mention that I grew up in a religion which was well known in the past for making predictions as to when the “current ways of the world” would come to an end. Guess what? It didn’t happen on any of the occasions that they said it would. What did happen was that all of the people who were exposed to these predictions all the time existed in fear and misery. This is why, while I know that major changes are happening…I will not buy into any predictions. Predictions take away our ability to live in the moment…which is where true joy is found anyway!

The second situation in which it is all too easy for joy to become forgotten is in chronic illness. When a person is in consistent levels of pain, fatigue, and other symptoms joy can be a little more difficult to find. This is another situation which I have a great deal of understanding of. Over the years, I’ve learned that even during times that there is not much that I can do other than rest, finding little things which bring me pleasure matters. Watching a silly TV show, reading a light magazine or book, listening to upbeat music, enjoying some fresh air through an open window…anything which takes the focus off of the physical feelings….can be so helpful.

What I’ve found is that what we focus on perpetuates more of the same. It isn’t that I’m saying that feeling bad is anyone’s fault, and that anyone can be healthy if they just imagine properly. That is malarkey! When I hear talk which implies that everything negative in a person’s life is essentially because they aren’t thinking correctly, it makes me crazy. I do know that emotions and thoughts are very closely related to physical well being. At the same time, I know that sometimes good and positive people have chronic illnesses and that they have utilized everything to change their situation, including positive thought. I’m all for doing everything we can and especially thinking positively. Where my issue lies, is when people are made to feel guilty for not being able to think themselves better. Talk about a vicious cycle.

Yes, remain optimistic and believe in miracles…they are real! We cannot try to put miracles and healing on a schedule though…if they’re going to occur, they happen when they happen, so don’t give up. Just don’t blame yourself for not feeling better right now. Instead, find those little things which bring you joy right where you are…as often as you can. Find things that you can do, no matter where you are…even if you’re in bed or on the couch for a few days or so. Many chronic illnesses have times of flare ups and remissions. Learning how to ride those waves can take time. Be gentle with yourself as you find the ways that work for you.

Find those little moments anywhere you can…they really matter…they really make a difference.



What I Want You To Know…Never Give Up

While the flu is what I am recovering from at the moment, I have a few chronic illnesses and conditions which I’ve talked about from time to time here. Being sick has, of course, exacerbated some of the symptoms of my other conditions. My fatigue and pain levels have been higher than usual while I’ve been ill. For the past two weeks, all I could do each day was remind myself that it would get better and not much more. Thank goodness, my brother in law was kind enough to go to the pharmacy and pick up meds and juice for me…and my sister…yes, she had it too…which sucks. I don’t know what I would have done without him. If you read this post brother…thank you! I’ve still got some recovering to do, but at least I’m seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.

For the first time in my life, I have zero guilt over all of the stuff sitting there waiting to be done. This is big for me. Before the fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, immune issues, and degenerative disc disease got to the point that they constantly interfered with my life, I was a total type A personality. Now I’ve reached a certain level of comfort with being where I am at any given moment, instead of agonizing over where I used to be or where I wish to go.

What I want to help you to understand is that we can thrive from right where we are…it just might be different than it used to be or how we envisioned it in the past. For example, I used to work at a corporate job and was constantly on the go. As the years went by, I had to take more time off from work…and then a car accident totally tipped things over the top and the corporate world had to go. While my creative, metaphysical , oddball (happily so) self was never a good match for the corporate world…it paid the bills. Looking back, I wonder how in the world I managed to survive in that environment.

Speaking of environment…when I was younger I used to be very involved in environmental activism…putting together campaigns, doing public speaking, and traveling to conferences. When things really hit the fan with my health, I felt like I was without an identity. Even worse, I felt utterly useless. The reason that I am so candid about this is that I know that there are a lot of people out there who feel similar, for various reasons. I’m here to tell you that it gets better in time, and that there is still so much that you have to offer to the world. Do not let anyone make you feel any differently, including yourself.

In the years since I had to leave my traditional workplace, I have dived into my spirituality and creativity…worked on rebuilding my life. I’m not going to tell you that it has been easy, but I will tell you that has been worth every last bit of the time and effort. What I have found is that I am more truly in line with myself now than I have ever been.Trust me, there is a big learning curve. There will be times when it feels too daunting, and these are the times which teach us more than we could imagine. So what can you do when you can’t do what you used to do? Your answers will be different, but here’s what I’m up to.

I’ve just finished writing a novel which is in the editing process now, have had several articles published in an online magazine, the bare bones of a non-fiction book I started in November is sitting there waiting for me, I am perfecting a few forms of art which I have found an affinity for, and I also do spiritual work in the form of readings, energy clearing, and mentoring.  The financial part will come, I just know it. The most important part is to keep moving forward. I’ve gotten frustrated more than once…and have almost thrown in the towel. Each time though, I come back stronger, and with more knowledge of how things work best for me. Most recently, I discovered that I needed to put better boundaries in place, and I’m so glad that I saw the real problem. I almost walked away from everything I’ve worked so hard on in the past few years with my spiritual practice. Not gonna happen.

As for the environmental activism I have found some great online sites which circulate petitions (which make a real difference). I’ve also written letters to or called elected officials about key environmental issues. Last year, I was fortunate enough to be having a good enough day that I was able to get out and walk in the March against Monsanto. That felt great!

Granted there are times in which I am too sick to get much of anything accomplished for weeks, times in which I can only do one small task before needing to take a break…and I’m telling you this because it is important to understand that it isn’t always easy. The point is that each of us has things inside of us which we can still contribute…no matter how small it might seem…and it all matters. We all have our own set of passions, abilities, and gifts…and it is up to each of us to find what those are and find ways to put them to use. It might take longer…you might have to be more creative…there will be down times…but the rewards are great.

In the future, I’ll be putting together more articles about thriving from where you are. They won’t all be quite this wordy (but some of them will…I can get chatty). I used to write more about topics like this in the past and wish to bring some of that back. Why? Because helping others to regain a sense of purpose and dignity means a lot to me. I’ve got years of experience in doing this for myself and I want to share what I’ve learned. Most importantly, I wish to share with you my sense of hope. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Have a great weekend. See you next time.

Importance of Taking Time Out

Taking time out for ourselves is something which many of us struggle with. Between professional and personal demands on our time and energy, it is all too easy to get lost in the shuffle. Even when a person has a logical understanding that carving out time just for ourselves is very important, many people still feel…or are made to feel…as though they are being selfish.

Not only is making time for self care important, it is crucial to our health and well being. After all, it’s impossible to get a drink from a dry well. Remember that…it’s not possible to get a drink from a dry well. This is why it’s vital to not just try to make time, but to make it a priority. Having your energy stores depleted is a very unpleasant position to be in.

What happens when we don’t take time for ourselves? We run ourselves down to the point of exhaustion, compromise our immunity, allow others to manipulate us or control our time, our priorities fall to the wayside, and needs do not get met…just to name a few. These consequences impact not just our own personal well being, but our ability to truly be of assistance or service to others.

Each of us has an inner voice which lets us know when we need to slow down. This inner voice tells us lots of other things too…important things. Listening to this inner voice is often discouraged or dismissed. We are told the we are being silly, selfish, judging a book by its cover, and countless other things. This inner voice should not be ignored or dismissed, because it is the voice of our higher selves…guiding us toward what we need or away from what isn’t in our best interests. Do not permit anyone to make you feel guilty for taking care of yourself.

While this is true for everyone, I wish to add a little more for those who are empaths, introverts, and sensitives. Not taking time to rest and recharge is especially dangerous for you. As much as you desire to be there for others, as much as you feel as though you aren’t being nice when you need to say no…you cannot nor should you expected to be there for everyone at the expense of your own well being…nor should you feel as though you should say yes to everything. You have a lot to offer to the world, and you have your own unique set of talents and requirements. Respect yourself, and expect respect from others in regards to your own value and needs.

No matter what your personality type or set of attributes are, the key is to ask yourself regularly if you are taking good care of yourself. Those who would discourage you from doing so are trying to fill a hole within themselves. This is not a judgement. It is actually something to be compassionate about…without falling prey to it. Being a good partner, friend, service provider, boss, teacher, or whatever else you might fill in the blank with is not to be equated with turning yourself into a sacrificial lamb. Listen carefully to that little voice of yours…it’s a lot wiser than many people would like you to believe.

Special thanks to the person who inspired me to write about this topic. I’m so grateful. You know who you are.

Internet Free Weekends For Me

This past weekend, I woke up on Saturday morning and decided…well more like listened to a gut instinct…to try going for the entire weekend without accessing the internet…no email, Facebook, Twitter, or blog…nothing. I went from Saturday late in the morning until just this morning. I decided to stay away from it on Monday as well because of the new moon and Mercury going retrograde…for me that just isn’t a productive combination. The longer I stayed away from the electronic world, the better I felt in so many ways. My muscles relaxed, my eyes didn’t hurt, my mind stopped its incessant chattering…I felt so much more connected to myself, the world around me…and even more clear and focused when working on my spiritual development and healing exercises. As a person who needs down time, away from a lot of external stimulus more than many, it stands to reason that being away from the internet a few days a week is a good move.

The non-stop onslaught of emails, newsletters, timelines, feeds, stories, videos, articles, and other miscellany is enough to make my head explode. When did living in the here and now without constant connection become not good enough? There’s a lot of great stuff on the internet for sure and I love being able to stay in touch with the people who matter to me no matter where they are. The question though is how much connection is healthy? I believe that the answer is different for everyone. However, I will make a blanket statement. I do not feel that the endless stream of stimulus and information is good for anyone. That’s right…I truly believe that we all need a break.

Are we really better off now that we know what everyone is doing every minute of every day? I think not. One has to wonder what we are doing to our minds and neural pathways by hardly ever letting them rest. Over the weekend I watched movies, read books, worked on some stuff that I never seem to have time for, and it was great. I didn’t work on any classes, I didn’t write, hell…I didn’t even paint. I just was, and I have to tell you that I’m already looking forward to doing it again next weekend.

Today I waded through my crammed inbox, got caught up on the materials for my painting class, and got somewhat caught up on social media. Before I did that though, I did something that I haven’t done in a good while. I got out for a few hours and walked the streets of downtown Asheville and I’m so glad that I did. Tomorrow I need to actually get some work done. The funny thing is that I feel more equipped than ever to be productive with my mind and body cleared. Do you have an opinion about the amount of information we expose ourselves to on a daily basis?

The Subjectivity of Definitions

The past few months have been pretty eventful both for me personally and in my close family. There is plenty of stuff that I could tell you to demonstrate that, but I do not want this to turn into one of those posts which will bring forth sympathy. Instead, I wish to bring the focus to what all of this has been teaching me…or perhaps I should say further instilling in me.

While the title of this might be vague, the post will not be. I’m not much into vagueness. Ask anyone who knows me. There is a time and place for making people guess, but I like to reserve that more for certain types of fiction and sometimes in my art. Not when making a point or when trying to convey something of importance. Why make people wonder what you are talking about?

So, I’ll explain. The main thing that I am talking about here is living life to the fullest. None of us know how many days or even hours we have left, so I am in full agreement that we make the most of however much time it is. This is where the subjectivity part comes in. Who gets to define what the fullest is? What should it look like? What do we have to do to be really living?

Well, I’m not sure about you, but I think that this means whatever the person living that life thinks that it means. Otherwise, you have people who are doing the most and the best that they can do walking around feeling like failures because someone else is out there skydiving, exploring the rain forest, travelling the world, or whatever. Now don’t get me wrong, those are perfectly cool things. The point however, is that people are working with different abilities, capabilities, comfort levels, financial situations, etc.

What it boils down to is that each of us is doing things that truly make us happy or give us a sense of comfort. Whether you are a social butterfly or loner, healthy or sick, poor or rich, coupled or single, or whatever else you can think of…there is always something you can do which constitutes living life to the fullest. If what you really want to do today is to curl up in a comfy spot and read a book, so be it. If you have the means and feel like taking off to Italy for dinner tonight, so be it. If all you are capable of today is watching a good movie because you aren’t well, so be it. These are all things which make up a life.

I guess I just wanted to demonstrate how subjective it really is. For each person, what it means to live life to the fullest is different and only that person knows whether they really are doing so or not. I have felt guilty in the past for not having done things differently or because I felt like I should have done more. I am learning that it is more about state of mind than what we actually do. Really it is. Things can’t always be perfect…some days are just not good days, and that’s okay too. However, on most days there is at least something which we can do to feel alive…no matter how big or small it might seem to someone else. There are days that I stay in my pajamas on the couch all day and sketch or work in a little art journal. Today, it is noon and I am still sitting in bed writing…and there’s nowhere else I wanted to be and nothing else I wanted to do.

The Universe Has Been Kind Enough To Bite Me

The word which I’ve chosen for this year is union. When I had been thinking of my word for the year, I wanted to define my desire to integrate the things which are important to me into my everyday life. I do not want to compartmentalize myself. Yes I am creative, spiritual, happy, deep, sometimes sad, often perplexed, and always looking for ways to feel more whole. Just a few days ago, a book that I’ve been reading mentioned that we can spend so much of our time looking off into the ether for the mystical a-ha moment that we miss out on many opportunities to experience the richness of life…that the key to wholeness is bringing the magic into everyday life. This made sense to me, and fit so well with my word that it affirmed my choice.

The issue was that I was running a little short on inspiration and a lot short on energy, both physical and mental. This is where the biting thing comes in. I’ve been searching for a little while for a treasure trove of prompts that I could use to get my writing juices flowing. I finally came across a great site this morning which has tons of great material to get me started. I’m excited about this, because I needed the jump-start. Here is a link to the site that clicked for me…because referencing is the right thing to do, and in case it might prove useful to some of you. As I work my way through these prompts, I’ll be sharing some of the shorter work here.

Not only has the writing bug finally came through, but I also have a vision for a new painting forming. This renewal of creative inspiration is making me very happy. Yesterday I had my phones off all day, as well as barely touching the computer because I needed to just be…without ringing phones and incoming texts and emails. I laid on the couch just puttering…reading, watching TV, knitting a new scarf with a pattern I’ve had for a few years and hadn’t gotten around to trying, and I spent time just sitting in the sun by the window looking out at the mountains. It was just what I needed, and I enjoyed it so much that I may keep it going for the remainder of the weekend.

My batteries are still feeling really drained and I’ve been in need of lots of sleep and rest lately. My doctor hasn’t been able to pinpoint what is going on yet. There are more tests coming up. In the meantime, I’ve been respecting my body’s need for rest and my mind’s need for less stimulation. It could just be, and is likely, that I am going through a major flare up of CFS/ME and that I’ll just have to ride it out, but the doctor wants to eliminate a few other possibilities to err on the side of caution. I’ll be around and creating as much as I can, but since it seems that this health episode isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, I figured it was time to mention it so that those of you who follow me regularly know why I am much less present these days.

I am wishing all of you well, and I truly hope that you are listening to and respecting the needs of your bodies and souls both during times of difficulty and every day.

I’ve Been Taking A Time Out

I’m sure that most of you have already sort of guessed that I haven’t been around lately. There has been a lot of upheaval in my personal life for a good while now, but the fog is starting to lift. Health issues have once again been at the forefront. Sleep disorders, sinus infections, viruses…you name it. I’m on the mend with all of that thankfully. There has also been a lot of purging going on with things and relationships which were no longer serving my highest good.

Honestly, I think that my recent bout of illnesses have had a lot to do with stress…with feeling undervalued and overwhelmed. I have been working on a few paintings and sketches as well as doing some knitting. To be honest though, the last five days have been predominantly drowsy. I’ve needed to rest…to be…to release…to heal. Not to mention that the antibiotics and medication for restless legs syndrome have been knocking me out. I’ve been having some fun too though. Getting together with friends and family, reading a lot more than I have in years because now I am freed up to do so, writing a little which has also been on the shelf for a while, and other things.

The funny thing about being so sick lately is that I don’t mind. I know that right now my body, mind, and psyche needed healing time and no better time than right before Spring hits. I’m gearing up to be outdoors more and getting back into the swing of things with some physical activity. I’ll be back here regularly soon, but I felt the need to come here now and check in with all of you. I am hoping that all of you are well and that if you have needed to do some purging of your own that you have. I’ll try to be back here before April 1, but if not I’ll be back for National Poetry Month. I’m not doing the A to Z Challenge this year but will once more be doing a poem a day for the entire month of April.

There will be new art work coming soon too…so stay tuned.