On Letting Go of What No Longer Serves Us…

I woke up to a reminder from Facebook. Today, last year, I had posted: “Let go of what no longer serves you.”

I laughed at this because, while I’ve let go of a lot of the white noise in my life since then, I still haven’t let go of the specific person I was thinking about when I shared those words. Isn’t life funny like that?

I was always a fond advocate of second chances. Third chances. Fourth. Thirtieth. I suppose it’s because I tend to see potential in people and have a very hard time accepting that I’m wrong. A year later, I am still hurt and heartbroken by this old friend, yet I am still granting her space in my life.

All of you have probably been here.

It takes years, maybe even the better half of a decade, for me to really put the friends I deeply care about behind me. Eventually, I become so depleted that there is no longer any shred of hope for resurrecting the relationship. Once it reaches that point, there’s no going back.

So where do we go from here?

In the last year, I’ve learned something crucial about myself. For me, the breaking point doesn’t happen during a fight or argument. It doesn’t happen after one or two or three instances of disappointment. It doesn’t even happen when hard words are flung across the room. It doesn’t happen when my mother and husband say “you are being used” to me over and over… and over.

It happens when the silence comes.

It happens when I start feeling dis-serviced, disrespected, neglected and taken advantage of… and I don’t have the energy to say anything about it. It happens when I find myself spending time with someone who pretends everything is OK, who continues to act in a selfish way, and who doesn’t bother to say “I’m sorry” and mean it.

I notice it when my mind starts blanking. I’m staring at you as you tell your funny story and I am not paying any attention, because I’m overwhelmed with the feeling of regret. Regret that I let you hurt me, and regret that I can’t get past it. Regret that I wasted my time and effort on someone who would come to my home, and then tell me she has done me a favour by showing up. Regret for loving a person who would decide, last minute, to cancel attending my wedding, and then not bother to even give me a nicely worded congratulatory card. I regret the small behaviours that show me how different our value systems are… they add up slowly, until they become unbearable.

I strongly believe that a blessing shared is doubled… except in very rare circumstances, when sharing the blessing actually splits it in half. The difference is entirely dependent on the value systems of the people who have access to the pot: are they adding to the blessing as they take from it, or are they only taking from it?

Silence is the trademark of all the small occurrences that add up to insurmountable pain. It is the trademark of relationships and friendships that are so burdened, so heavy, that they split without so much as a rattle.

And yet, one year later, I have plastered a smile on my face and celebrated birthdays, shared food, laughed at old memories, exchanged hugs and listened… and listened. And now, I’m no longer angry. I am laughing at myself, at my childlike hope, at my steadfast commitment, at my reluctance to say “I’m hurt” for fear of hurting the other person. I’m laughing at the fact that, if she read this, she probably wouldn’t even realize that it’s about her because I continued to open my heart and home to her without saying a word about it. Or, perhaps, she would say the same words to me that she has said before: “You have inconvenienced me by inviting me to your home and events. You should have less of them. People don’t have time to be with you whenever you feel like celebrating something. It takes a lot of effort to attend a bunch of events.” I’ve seen people accept and deny invitations in many ways, but this was new. Funny, how the small words bite.

You have all probably been here. Maybe you are here with me right now.

So where do we go from here?

And remember… we design our own luck!

M.

On Good & Evil…

Image property of Hack: Dream Life [Marian D.] ©2018. All rights reserved.

Current Fundraiser: to help Angelina: https://www.gofundme.com/angiefightslyme

During my university years, I faced the greatest warriors against my faith. I met people who fervently challenged everything I believed in. Their appearances in my life became so frequent that they could not be ignored. I found myself studying my religion, and every other religion I could think of, more than ever before, but this was not how I found the answers to every question I was being asked. I found the answer simply by asking to “find the words I need, when I need them.” Yes. It really is that simple.

And so it has been that way ever since, and I have never been left searching for words.

One day, an acquaintance of mine asked me an interesting question. “How can I walk into a Church if I feel unworthy of it?” I asked her what she meant. “I’m not that good of a person,” she said, “I don’t belong in Church. I wouldn’t be surprised if, the moment I stepped inside, I was engulfed in flames. I’m really not a good person. I mean I’m good-ish. But not really.”

The answer to her conundrum was so simple.

“It is because you believe you are unworthy that you are most welcome. After all, you have mastered a key lesson without even opening the Book: “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).”

I remembered this brief moment last night. My husband and I were watching the second season of The Good Place. I won’t risk any spoilers here, but the basic premise is the question of how human beings define “good” and “bad.” Who is worthy? Who shall pass to The Good Place and who is destined for The Bad Place? Great comedies make us laugh even when discussing the most heart-wrenching and painful human questions of all. What is the answer?

There is very little that I can say on the matter. I am not a “spiritual teacher”… nobody is. We are all learners in this world. But I do know one thing. We are all loved by our creator, and this creator is rooting for us. We have to do our best, and do it with humility.

But if we cannot be sure of what’s to come, why should we try to be good at all?

The answer is simple, yet again. We may not know what this life is all about. We may not know where we come from or where we’re going. We may not know if God is waiting on the other side. But we all know one truth without a doubt: this life is hard.

George Eliot therefore answered the question for us: “What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other?”

While we are here on this Earth, we have one of two choices to make: to act with kindness and grace, knowing that it may sometimes hurt us, or to act with greed and cruelty, knowing that it will absolutely hurt us all.

The real question is: “What do we owe to each other?”

And remember… we design our own luck!

M.

On Abundance…

To help Angelina: https://www.gofundme.com/angiefightslyme

We are all so afraid to miss out on our own time and our own money. “I’m too busy,” and “I don’t have anything to give” are two of the prime excuses for not putting ourselves on the line for other people.

93 people read my blog post yesterday. 13 read it this morning. None contributed to helping young Angelina get treatment for Lyme disease.

There are two reasons for this:

  • Either we believe we do not have enough of a secure financial blanket to share… (ex. “I already made my annual donation!” Or “I can’t afford to help other people, I can hardly help myself!”)
  • Or we are indulging in the bystander effect: the idea that we don’t need to help because someone else out there will… (ex. “Someone will surely contribute!” Or “she’s so close to her goal, I’m sure she’ll meet it without my help!”)

Both of these reasons come from a mentality of lack: the fear that what we give away cannot be replaced, and the belief that life is a zero sum game: if one of us has something, the rest cannot have it. This is false.

What if I told you that these ideas have been engrained in all of us by a society that wants to keep us all poor and broken? By conditioning every man to fight for himself, we have all become divided and individualistic, and this makes us weaker and hungrier than ever.

The truth is that this world is designed for abundance. Whatsoever you may give, out of the kindness of your heart, you will receive back two-fold. Don’t believe me? Test the theory for yourself.

Now, when you give a dollar, don’t wait around to get two dollars back (although this often happens, miraculously, like you wouldn’t even believe). Look instead for the moment of heartache or pain where you find unexpected relief… and so you will know you have experienced the universe’s abundance. Look for a spike in good luck and good health, and you will see how quickly the universe has responded.

I’ve written about this so many times before. So many of you reached out, agreeing with me. I am calling on all of you, my friends, to help me generate some abundance today. Help me prove my theory right… Today. Now.

I sign every post with the same words: remember… we design our own luck! The meaning of this statement is sprinkled throughout my last 65 posts. We design our own luck. Meaning: good luck is not random. It is earned. In order to find some, you must generate some for someone else. When we live in fear and lack, all we will find is exactly what we expect to find: more fear, and more lack. When we live in generosity and abundance, we will find exactly what we expect to find: more generosity, and more abundance.

This is the greatest truth of all: no person was ever lucky who did not act in the name of LOVE.

Feeling unlucky? Give a dollar and a kind message. See how your luck turns. (P.S. The GoFundMe tip is optional). https://www.gofundme.com/angiefightslyme

And remember… we design our own luck!

M.

On Hosting…

To help Angelina (see details at end of post): https://www.gofundme.com/angiefightslyme

October is nearly upon us… I don’t know about you, but for me, October tends to be the second busiest month of the year (after December), and it is quite possibly my favourite month of the year. Between apple picking, pumpkin picking, Thanksgiving, and Halloween, the weeks fly by so quickly, we can’t believe summer morphed into frost while we were busy dancing.

October signifies parties to me. Lots and lots of parties. And so this brings up the question of hosting and gathering people together under one roof, typically my roof, to share a good time.

People often ask me: “how do you have the time?” or “how can you make the annual commitment?”

They ask: “why do you invite so and so? We never see them except here!”

My perspective on hosting has been fairly consistent over the years. My philosophy is simple: the door is open and all are welcome.

However, this year, something is a little different. For the first time, I have noticed things that I turned a blind eye to before. The people who I shared the last 5 Thanksgivings with consist of two groups: one that I see regularly, because they call, and another that I only see at Thanksgiving. It never mattered to me before. All were welcome anyway.

What’s different this year?

Whenever people asked me why I insist on inviting strangers and distant acquaintances who never invite me back, I quoted Jesus. After all, He had the right answer: “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, or relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.”

My argument was that what I was doing was not nearly enough. I am not inviting the poor, the crippled, the lame, or the blind… I am inviting acquaintances who never repay me. I do not expect anything in return. Maybe that can bridge the gap between what I do and what God expects of me.

That usually sufficiently answered the question, at least for me.

Until this year. This year, I am being extremely picky with my guest list. What happened?

After some soul searching, I’ve finally come to the answer: I am hurt. How many years have I spent making room in my heart, in my home, and in my life for people who never returned the favour? How many years have I been deeply hurt and shoved the frustration under a rug in an effort to follow in the footsteps of the Greatest Love of all? What has come of it? Of course, this is a very human question. It’s a situation that Jesus would never be confronted with because He wouldn’t be hurt at all. You cannot hurt if you have no expectations. But I am only human.

I have been married nearly a year. Half of the people I celebrated Thanksgiving with for the past 5, some even 10 years, didn’t come by once to visit me to check if I was doing alright, if I needed any help, or to congratulate me. It was a difficult year. None of them picked up the phone. I was lucky if I got a text message. And so, I am hurt.

“What would Jesus do?”

Well… my first instinct is that He would invite everyone anyway. He would forgive and keep the door open. But, something is wrong with that picture. Jesus said: “Do not invite your friends” and urged us to, instead, “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.”

Jesus would wrap up the party and open an evening soup kitchen. He would serve the most delicious turkey and wine. He would ask His friends to show up to help, and to partake in the feast. He would tell me to stop wasting my efforts on the absent and unavailable, and use the love in my heart to help somebody instead.

What can I do to get a little closer to that goal?

This year, my house will be a little quieter than usual. If I haven’t seen someone in a year, they will not be invited. This is not to be spiteful, nor is it because I’m angry, but rather because I would prefer to make a donation. God teaches us to be kind and loving, but He also reminds us every day that we are also worthy of love. This is not the equivalent of opening my doors to the homeless, I know… but one step at a time.

This year, I will ask my guests to help me raise some money for Angelina, a beautiful young girl who is fighting Lyme disease (with her father). She needs our help. My guests will be asked to place donations instead of bringing a dish to the party. At the time of this writing, Angelina is $4000 CAD short of her goal. If you would like to help me help her, you can find her campaign here: https://www.gofundme.com/angiefightslyme

A happy October awaits, full of light and love for you all.

And remember… we design our own luck!

M.

On Love…

“We accept the love we think we deserve.” – Stephen Chbosky.

What is love and where does it come from? Like luck, love is often perceived as a manifestation of random fate. Anyone who grew up with Hollywood (or Bollywood) movies playing in their living room recognizes the socially held notion that love just happens. It is out of our control, and is left completely to the whimsies of Cupid and his arrow.

I won’t deny that there is an element to love that is entirely coincidental. That being said, I don’t believe that coincidences are accidents. They are manifestations of the thoughts and desires that we project to the universe.

“How is that fair?!” my friend argues with me. “Do you want to give me the responsibility for never meeting a half decent guy?”

Yes. I do. We are all at least partially responsible for everything that happens to us. Bear with me.

Nothing is an accident, not even a car accident… our fearful thoughts can manifest in very real ways. Feeling undervalued? When was the last time you gave yourself a pat on the back and thanked yourself? Feeling unwanted? What words did you use this morning when you greeted yourself in the mirror? Are you in an abusive situation? How many times have you been in that situation with the same person, or with different people?

Our lives can be mapped onto very clear and repetitive patterns. If we pay attention, and track our thoughts through writing or recording, we may look back in ten years and realize that the cycle of thought is repeating itself. It is only when we recognize this, and take ownership of it, that we can forge a new path out of the cycle.

I always had a knack for inviting people into my life who had their own severe insecurities, because I felt called to “help them”. These insecurities would very quickly be projected onto me because I was like a sponge, ready to absorb everybody’s pain. Every guy I met seemed to be dealing with some great heartache, and every one was quick to deflect that heartache towards me.

“Why can’t you be more carefree like those other girls?” asked the one who would walk into a room a completely changed man depending on who he expected to meet inside. He couldn’t bear to be unlike others because he couldn’t bear to be unliked.

“Why don’t you lose some weight?” said another who didn’t want to go anywhere or see anyone because he was unhappy with the way he looked.

“You’re such a nerd. No wonder your friends are all nerds!” whined the fully grown man-child who was too embarrassed to be seen with thinkers because it only highlighted and confirmed his insecurities about his own intelligence.

“Why are you so conservative?”

“Why don’t you drink more?”

“Why do you need to travel so much?”

“Why do you dress like this?”

“If I were you, I wouldn’t tell them about your belief in God. People will think you can’t think for yourself!”

… because following the status quo of secularism equals thinking for yourself, eh champ?

It took me a very long time to recognize my pattern. All of that time, I thought these people were highlighting flaws in me and wondering what I had done to deserve it… was I made weird, or something? Did I like being a punching bag?

Over time, I began realizing that all of these statements came from men who felt very small. Why they felt small, and whether or not their smallness was warranted, is besides the point. They all used the same strategy to feel better about themselves, and that was through keeping women in check by repetitively verbally crushing them. They believed they were unworthy, and expected to be left behind, so they attempted to cripple people from walking away by instilling the fear in them that they, too, are unlovable.

This type of relationship is a good example of cyclical and repetitive thought manifestation. On the one hand, one party feels unworthy and he keeps attracting partners with strong personalities that cannot easily be “tamed”. On the other hand, the other party feels called to help and heal others, and this extends into her personal life by attracting people who feel “broken” to her. As a result, both people come to painful realizations: 1) You cannot force someone to love you, and inspiring love from others is especially difficult when you do not love yourself; 2) Mending someone else’s heart could require breaking your own.

Around the time I started seeing clearly, I came across a fragment of Rumi’s wisdom. He wrote: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

I decided to drop the pattern. I know I make it sound easy… because it is easy. The hard part was recognizing that something was wrong. Breaking the cycle is easy when you see it clearly. It was only when I decided that I did not need to “fix” anybody in order to love them, that I met someone who is pretty whole all by himself. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t need me. It just means he doesn’t need me to fill an endless void. As for him, being unafraid of being left behind means that he doesn’t need to break my spirit to keep me around. He’s fairly confident that I’m not going anywhere.

It is 100% true that “we accept the love we think we deserve.” 

Love is a choice. It is a series of actions and decisions. You are at a crossroads every day, and you have to decide what’s next. But, until you know the answer, until you know what you really want, it will feel nearly impossible to find it. Can you find a lost object if you don’t know what it is? No. You wouldn’t know what to look for.

And for those of you who prefer to believe in a little bit of coincidental magic… an Arabic proverb (derived from the Qur’an) affirms the role that fate plays beautifully: “What is meant for you will reach you, even if it is beneath two mountains. What is not meant for you will not reach you, even if it is between your two lips.”

Knowing what we want, and identifying the constraints that prevent us from reaching where we ought to go, removes the obstacles from the path of fate and allows it to do its good work.

Food for thought.

And remember… we design our own luck! 

M.

On Flying Solo…

Photo republished courtesy of Dean Petersen ©2018 all rights reserved. Check out his work at: @deanventures

Picture this:

You have a brilliant idea! You’re inspired to do something tangible to bring it to life. You excitedly call someone to bounce the idea, hoping for some cheerleading. They offer you a few “mhm” and “yeah” as you explain what you are setting out to do. You finish speaking and eagerly wait for the response. When it comes, it sounds something like:

“I mean, sure, everyone could do that if they could afford risking the money.”

“Are you sure this is such a good idea?”

“Why do you want to do that? You have it better than all of us! Just be grateful.”

“Well. Sounds interesting. Hopefully you’ll actually stick to it.”

“You don’t need more work!”

“That’s a great idea! I’m going to do it too. No harm in a little competition between friends, right?” Smirk.

“How are you always in dream land? I’m too busy keeping my feet on the ground.”

“Yeah, yeah. You and your big ideas. You’re always lucky, so I don’t need to wish you good luck.”

Sound familiar?

Each of us bears his/her own collection of dismissive, negative, and discouraging statements from friends and family. Over time, we carry more and more of them, and they become grey clouds hanging over our future adventures. Everything from taking a new job to changing up our nutritional menu is contested by people around us. Now, don’t go trying something really crazy, like moving across the world or going back to school to become a doctor.

Eventually, we start to doubt what it is we really want, and what we can really achieve. Whose voice is in your head telling you that “it can’t be done”? 9 times out of 10, it’s somebody else’s.

Keeping this in mind, I’ve learned something extremely valuable which I only put into effect recently. When trying to achieve a goal, there is nothing more powerful than keeping it secret. Being very selective about who we divulge personal information to is fundamental to our success, because we are easily manipulated creatures. No matter your confidence or faith in your idea, it requires protecting while it’s still a budding thought so that you can focus all your efforts on bringing it to life, without risking being swayed by others.

People can be risk averse self-doubters. Often, when standing in front of Burj Khalifa in Dubai, I’ve overheard tourists say things like “it’s impossible!” Even while cranking their necks back 90 degrees to look at the peak of the tallest building in the world, they express disbelief. If people have this reaction to what is already there and has already been achieved, why entrust your dreams to them?

People will tell you to fight for your dreams and be deterred by no-one. They will throw cliche quotes at you like a hail storm. That is, until you have an idea. It is only after the idea is born that the same people who once wrote you soliloquies about reaching for the moon suddenly become doubters.

When you set your mind to something, wisely and carefully select who you let in. If you cannot think of someone who has already proven unfailing confidence and support, someone whose criticism only serves the purpose of elevating, rather than destroying, your ideas – fly solo.

There will come a time when the idea has manifested powerfully enough that you can share it without leaving it vulnerable in destructive hands. Even then, be on guard. Remember that Burj Khalifa has an elevator that swiftly and smoothly moves up 148 floors in 60 seconds without a single hiccup, and that people make it all the way to the top and still don’t have the capacity to believe that it can be real.

And remember… we design our own luck!

M.

On Mementos…

Image property of Hack: Dream life [Marian D.] ©2018. All rights reserved.

Human beings are collectors by design. Since the beginning of time, we have collected objects in the effort to tell, and to retain, our stories. We’ve also built, painted, sculpted, made music, and wrote in an effort to create souvenirs for our children’s children, so that they may have the chance to experience their history long after the primary actors are gone. After all, it is only in this way that they can continue the mission forward.

We are storytellers, and we are quite good at weaving the webs of memory into powerful tales that sustain us despite the grip of death.

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