Monthly Archives: July 2014

Bunny rabbits instead of yellow birds

I think you all know my obsession with yellow birds. When I see them, I smile. They’re so beautiful, and they always remind me that all is right with the world. I don’t know exactly why, but they do.

The challenge is, I hadn’t seen any in a while. There used to be a nest of them across the street, so every now and then I’d see at least one fly past. Last year I think the nest was gone, but still they would find a way to cross my path. Each time I felt my entire being relax and feel more sure – that I was on target, that life was good, that everything was as it should be. I put a lot of meaning into my yellow birds.

This year the nest seemed to be gone again, and on top of that they stopped showing up randomly. I began to twist the good feeling I got from yellow birds into a silly dread. “If seeing them means that things are good, does not seeing them have a negative connotation?” Even I knew how outrageous that question was, and yet at times it would pop into my thoughts.

Each time it appeared I would give it about thirty seconds of consideration, then ten seconds of realizing the absurdity. After that I would actively make myself focus on knowing that things were fine, with or without my yellow birds. But I missed them. They are so beautiful, and they do make me smile.

I even told my daughter how I missed my yellow birds. “You have to let them go,” she said. “Stop looking for, and needing to see, yellow birds.”

I took her words to heart. The other morning I sat outside for my quiet time, which is when I used to see yellow birds (and can be when I, intentionally or not, still look for them). I saw a baby bunny rabbit loping across our lawn. I decided that I could look for and enjoy bunny rabbits instead, since there seemed to be more of them. Sure, yellow birds would always be my favorite, but bunny rabbits can be a cause to smile as well.

Later that morning I took a yoga class. As I left the studio, I heard a noise in a large bush in the parking lot, so I turned to look. The bush was beautifully awash with purple flowers. It also had a yellow bird in it. A yellow bird that seemed to pause for a moment and then flew across my path. Needless to say, I smiled. Then a second yellow bird flew from the bush across my path. I smiled again. Finally I noticed a third yellow bird sitting in the bush. This one seemed to (in my imagination at least) sit on the branch for just a bit longer than necessary, so that I couldn’t miss it. Then it flew across my path.

Is there meaning in this? I could easily make up tons of meaning, tons of messages the universe was trying to send me. They all may or may not be true. What I know is this. I still love seeing my yellow birds, and I will most likely always take them as a message – a reminder to relax, smile, and enjoy the world. Especially when I see three at one time, and they’re flying slowly so that I can enjoy them. I will keep looking for my yellow birds, rejoicing when I see them, knowing it’s okay if I don’t see them, and remembering it’s not a sign of disconnect when they’re not around. I will also enjoy my bunny rabbits…and for that matter anything I can find to bring a smile to my face. Life is too short and too special not to notice these things.

But I do love my yellow birds. And I did love seeing three in one go.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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Self-flagellation was my go-to response

I was walking with a friend the other day and talking through an “opportunity” I was facing. Something that was beating me down, at least a little bit. And the fact that it was beating me down was beating me down even further.

I must have shared my old standards of “I should have known better,” “if only I had handled it differently,” and “I feel like I should be over this by now.” In the midst of one of these, or perhaps all of them, my friend stopped me. Blatantly interrupted me, in fact.

“Do you realize how hard on yourself you’re being?” she asked. “Where’s that self-compassion you talk – and write – about?”

Where was it indeed? As soon as my friend said this, I heard the words I’d been saying. I heard them as if someone else were saying them, and I heard the self-damnation and condemnation. I may have felt beaten down by what I was facing, but I was, once again, not just a victim of the beating, but also a major cause of the beating.

I don’t know where we learn that self-flagellation (at least the verbal or thought-based kind) is a good thing. I don’t know where I learned it. But boy did I, because as much as I claim I’m not going to do it anymore, and as much as I preach about stepping away from self-judging, I was bashing myself and bashing myself hard. I was my harshest critic, and I was imagining that everyone else was – at least in their thoughts – criticizing me as well. Which is, most likely, not at all true. While I felt I should be doing everything differently, chances are that the people who care about me just thought I should stop being so hard on myself. Again.

Self-flagellation has been my go-to response. Somehow I think I believed that if I beat myself hard enough and rode myself tightly enough I’d keep the bad things away and the world safe. Or at least safer. But I suppose that’s not really true either.

I learned the “Three C’s” many years ago in Al-Anon – that there were many things in life that I didn’t cause, couldn’t control, and couldn’t cure. My self-flagellation gave me the false impression that I did cause the “opportunity” I was facing, and therefore could control and cure it, but that wasn’t true as well.

Instead of self-flagellation, I’ve decided to offer myself more self-compassion. To put my hand on my heart, as the Buddhists do, and offer myself these words of love – “Darling, I care about your suffering.” I intend to remember the three C’s and to let myself off the hook for not doing it better or differently. I intend to allow myself to go through this with as much grace as I can, and to catch (and stop) myself in my self-flagellation before my friend has to catch and stop me. I intend these things, and I’ve already started them.

Oh, and I’ll be patient with myself when I forget and slip into old behavior again.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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What is life without old friends?

In the past two weeks I’ve been blessed with reuniting with some of my dearest friends from my college years. One stopped by with his wife on the way home from the Jersey Shore. I hadn’t seen him for at least two to three years. One came over from England with his son to tour the States, using my house as their home base. I hadn’t seen him for perhaps four or five years. One flew into Philly for a family reunion, and drove out to visit me and take me to lunch. I hadn’t seen him in maybe sixteen years. And one drove up from North Carolina to pick up her son from his summer gig in New Jersey. Her visit prompted an impromptu gathering of many of my college roommates and their significant others (and a few children), which we hadn’t done since last year.

What a gift.

It’s been a, “no matter what is going on, life is good,” time, because seeing old friends is such a blessing. A chance to remember and reminisce and laugh and sometimes cry. A chance for me to look back with new eyes – because at least two of these friends were there for me when I left the Church, and fundamental in supporting me as I started on my new life. One even gave me my out, my rationalization and way to leave. For that I will be eternally grateful.

Years ago my husband told me that, in his opinion, I held on to relationships for too long. I think we’d been talking about a friend with whom I’d had a falling out, and who was treating me poorly. He thought I should walk away sooner, and cut my losses when necessary.

While he may have been right in that instance, I love hanging on to the people I’ve known and loved over the years. As I’ve shared before, I think the heart has a huge capacity to love, and I think friends – from all walks of life and experiences – are a prime example of that. Each friend that stopped by I realized I adored. Each one I wondered why I hadn’t kept in better contact with them, and how I could see – or at least talk with, or at least interact online with – more often. Because it’s too easy to loose track of people who were once important to us, and too important to hold onto them instead.

I watched my college friends traipse through my home and my life, and I look at my daughter who is still in the beginning of her college days. I wonder if she’ll be as lucky and make as many dear friends as I’ve been blessed to make. I wonder if she’ll reunite with some of them when she’s nearly thirty years out of college. I wonder if she’ll be better at keeping in touch with her friends, and how it will be different and perhaps easier to do so then.

I wonder all these things, and then I simply stop and smile and rejoice that I’ve had the friends I’ve had and adored the friends I’ve adored. I rejoice that each and every one of them graced my home with their presence. I rejoice that I have a breather now from house guests…and wonder who will be next that I’ll get to see, and how I’ll make it happen sooner rather than later.

Life without friends, and particularly old friends, is sad. Life with friends, and particularly old friends, is a gift.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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