Inspiration All Around Us

So, I have a friend who gets up super early, like 0300 early, and goes for epic hikes to amazing places in the local National Parks every week on his two days off.  And the great thing is that he posts lots of pictures and videos of their treks on Instagram, so I get to live vicariously through him on the days he gets outside and I am working in the hospital.  He’ll post stories that show the time and the view out of the windshield of the car he’s riding in as they’re driving in the still darkness of the early morning to their next picturesque destination.  And friends, as I’m rolling out of bed for work at 0440 and see that he’s already up getting ready to hike, it inspires the shit out of me!  I’ve told him this several times now.  He said that one reason why he does it is because he wants to inspire people to get outside.  It’s working for me, and I am sure that many others have also been inspired by the life that he leads.  I absolutely LOVE being outdoors, and try to be outside every day on my days off, but seeing someone else getting out there like he does pushes me to do, see, and explore even MORE!  I get inspired to fill my life even more with all of the things that bring me the most joy!   I was just thinking about this tonight and it got me thinking about how we all offer inspiration to each other on the daily, even amidst the chaos of the world and our own lives.  With my life experience, I have learned to speak up and tell people when they’ve affected me positively, though I admit that a lot has still gone unspoken.  How often do we move through life and keep these things to ourselves?  How often are you inspired by people on your Instagram or Facebook feeds and reach out to tell them so? What would the world be like if we all shared our feelings of inspiration and gratitude with the people who sparked positivity in our lives?  I can tell you that since starting this blog, I have had many beautiful connections develop, because people took it upon themselves to reach out to me and thank me for writing.  I find a lot of peace, happiness, and motivation to keep writing in knowing that this blog has positively affected other people.  So I know firsthand that telling someone that they inspire us creates a positive ripple effect into the world.  Who inspires you?  Have you told them?  If not, I would encourage you to try it.

I personally get very excited and inspired when I see people living life to the fullest, and making time for the things that bring them the most joy!!  I find that a lot of the time, I will meet people who are doing things that I am currently dreaming of doing, so it allows me to see a version of my dreams in action.  For example, I dream of traveling the world with my son.  I have traveled in the United States extensively and have lived in a total of 10 states, but I have only left the country once.  I know that international travel will expand my heart and mind so much, and I am really being urged to do it.  So I hope to share the experience with my son.  This summer, while exploring and backpacking up in the mountains together, my son and I met a woman from Switzerland who was there camping long-term with her 8-year old son!!  Apparently, they had visited friends in LA, and then ended up traveling to Hawaii with them, and then had landed up in the mountains where we were hiking.  When we met them, they had been camping there for almost a month.  The woman told me that she works independently and had some money saved as well, and that she homeschools her son, which allowed them to stay as long as they wanted.  Later that day, I was talking to my son about how much I would love to travel to other countries with him, and he asked me if I was jealous of the woman we met.  And I immediately told him that I wasn’t jealous, but INSPIRED because she was showing me that my dreams are possible!

Even with everything I have been through, well likely because of it, I see so much more beauty in this world than darkness.  Maybe it’s partly because I know that it’s the darkness that shows us the light in this world.  I think we all have certain things that inspire us in life depending on our own journeys, interests, and unexpressed urges.  I find artists and musicians very inspiring, because they create from their hearts and then put their works of art out into the world for all to see.  I think maybe it’s that level of vulnerability and authenticity that inspires me the most about it, along with the fact that they’re following their passion and doing what they love.  A good friend of mine from college recently shared with me that he’s had a book of his poetry published. I went straight to the link, and bought a copy for myself.  I can’t wait to read it!  I love to support friends who share their creativity with the world!  (you can find his book here: http://www.tammyjournal.com/#/the-attic-the-basement/)  What inspires you?

There has been so much negativity and hate spewed out in the world lately.  And so inevitably, it lands on our Facebook feeds.  What if we countered the negative with positive?  What if we were to use Facebook as a platform to let our friends and family members know how they have positively impacted our lives, and how they inspire us?

We generally walk through this life always thinking that we have more time.  More time to do the things we long to do, and more time to say the things we want to say.  But what if we don’t have more time?  What if today was our last day in this life?  Are there dreams that we aren’t fulfilling?  Are there words we’re leaving unsaid?  We aren’t going to experience a different kind of world if we aren’t willing to move through this life in a different kind of way.  If you’re having trouble believing that you can make your dream a reality, look around, because you’ll see that there is inspiration all around us!

(If you enjoyed this post or any of my other posts, please feel free to like and share them!)

Matisyahu “I Will Be Light” Live

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

A theme emerged as I was waking up this morning.  I felt like I was dreaming, but I was fully conscious of what I was seeing and was able to actively think about what I was seeing.  My mind flashed to images of times in my life where the words or actions of others made me feel badly about myself.  I saw images of childhood, of middle school girls etc.

I feel the need to say here that probably some of what I experienced in middle school from mean 7th grade girls was karma for times in elementary school when I joined in and was mean to kids too.  I’ve always felt badly about that.  I went along with the majority in an unconscious attempt to feel better about myself at the expense of someone else’s heart. If anyone I negatively affected happens to read this, I want you to know that I am truly sorry.  I had girls in middle school who made me feel so badly that I didn’t even want to keep going to school, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.  In writing this, I realize that I was hurting and trying to fit in when I said those mean words AND I realize that the mean girls in middle school were also hurting and trying to fit in. They were doing their best to hide their own insecurities and make themselves feel better by joining in with a crowd that decided they hated me for something they thought that I had said.

Today, times flashed in my mind’s eye of when I was made to feel like what I was saying or doing was wrong.  And I realized as I was seeing the images, that those times were partly responsible for my feelings of low self-worth.  Rather than acknowledging that what I was hearing was only someone’s opinion and not fact, and therefore not worth worrying about, I internalized the message that I was not good enough.

I’ve come to realize that it’s not so much the events in our lives that matter, but the stories that we tell ourselves about those events.  And then in true Universe fashion, this timely quote from Lee Harris popped up on my Facebook feed this morning:

“Who you think you are today is only made up of stories you have experienced throughout your life and how you have interpreted them.  That is who you have become. This is what we all do as human beings.  We experience life through our own filters of perspective and our reactions to what we see and feel in the world around us.  So becoming awake in our perspectives and reactions is the first step to freedom and potential growth and change for us.  Becoming awake to what lies underneath your own self-worth issues is a great key that will let you create change.”  — from Activate Your Self Worth by Lee Harris; quote as posted on Facebook on 8/11/17 (https://www.leeharrisenergy.com/store/activate-your-self-worth-a-guided-energy-journey)

A lot of the images of moments that flashed in my head were from my childhood, from middle school, things I had forgotten about.  Other ones from my adult life came to mind as thoughts, but without images, likely because their impact is still fresh enough for me to remember without pictures.  As I write and contemplate these instances that so greatly changed the way I felt about myself, a sense of shame comes up for me.  My inner critic feels silly for allowing outside influences to affect my view of myself so negatively. But when I do this, I realize that I am allowing the negative event to hurt me twice — once by giving it power in the first place and once for feeling bad/guilty/shameful that I gave it that power.  And really that does nothing but make me feel doubly bad.

So I have to remind myself that a lot of the scars I carry, I picked up when I was a kid with a much different capacity for thought than I have now.  I certainly didn’t have my current level of mindfulness and confidence that gives me the ability to see that what other people say or do really has nothing to do with me, and instead has everything to do with them and what they have going on in their own lives.  As for the times in my adult life when I allowed others to squash me, I also realize that I was still unconscious to how I was allowing others to impact my sense of self.  I see that the things that people said to me only held merit, because I also believed them.  The way that people treated me was really a mirror for how I was treating myself.

The difficulty lies in the fact that a lot of us developed wounds when we were children and they made us hurt so much that we buried them deep, so that we could forget about them and move on.  Essentially, we buried them in an attempt to protect ourselves from them.  Out of sight, out of mind.  The challenge that we face as adults is to shed light on all of the things that we have kept hidden from ourselves that continue to have a negative impact on our lives. Because what we are unable to see remains.  WHAT WE ARE UNABLE TO SEE REMAINS.  It’s only when I can fully see my beliefs and patterns that I gain the ability to change them.  Otherwise, they just continue to unconsciously affect my life.  It is only when I can unravel my old wounds with compassion that I can commiserate with the child in me who buried them, and release their hold over me.

I can see that some parts of my story about myself are based on other people’s reactions to me — many of which occurred when I was too young to know any better.  And so now, part of my work surrounding this is to release the parts of my story that are no longer serving me and my greatest good.  Part of my work is forgiving myself for allowing the opinions of others to strongly affect my self-image in the past.  I also work to remain conscious of how I allow others to affect me and my peace of mind in the present.

The way we treat ourselves and other people really does send out a ripple effect through the Universe.  When I think of how people have impacted my life, I become acutely aware of how I have the ability to impact others.  We cannot expect anyone to treat us better than we treat ourselves.  Just as we cannot expect others to love us more than we love ourselves.  I truly believe that we get from the Universe what we send out.

I am still working to respond rather than react to situations, though I sometimes find myself getting triggered in the present by old triggers developed in the past.  In these times, I know that I need to show myself more patience and love, which can be easier said than done for this recovering self-critic and perfectionist.  So I move forward with everything that I have learned and continue to learn, being as mindful as I can, with the hope that my overall impact on the world will be a positive one.

I am working to uncover and rewrite the story I hold about myself.  When we view situations as “bad”, then they tend to impact our lives negatively.  But when we view situations as “good”, they tend to impact our lives positively.  If we believe that the world is a hostile sphere of negativity and doom, then what we see around us is a battle ground of negativity and doom.  When we believe that the world is a loving, beautiful place, that supports our soul’s growth, we look around and see beauty in everything.  Our minds really are powerful.  The story that we hold about ourselves and the world creates either a life of limits or limitlessness.  It’s our choice.  I’m currently working to choose limitlessness.

How can you open yourself to the limitlessness that the Universe holds for you?  Are there parts of your story that you need to shine a flashlight on today to make way for a better life for you tomorrow?  What can you do to treat yourself better today?

Matisyahu “Live Like a Warrior” Live

Stopping the Hamster Wheel

I have always been my own, worst critic.  I am coming to realize that the majority of us judge ourselves harshly and hold ourselves to a standard that usually isn’t even attainable.  I don’t remember how or when my inner critic became so loud in my head, but at this point, I don’t remember a time when she didn’t exist.  Maybe you have that voice too?  The one that calls you stupid when you make a mistake, or tells you that you’re no good when you don’t measure up either to the standard you’ve created for yourself, or to the comparison that you make with other people.  I’ve said things to myself over the course of my life that I wouldn’t have even said to my own dog.

I believe that this negative self-criticism and the fact that I had a hard time expressing and letting myself feel my feelings when I was a kid, led me to many years of low self-esteem, depression, and eventually, disease.  Even as a kid, I was very hard on myself.  I always felt such a need to please people, especially my parents and the other adults in my life. Luckily, my Mom recognized this quality about me, and never punished me for things like a C on my report card, because she knew that I would be punishing myself enough for everyone.  And boy was she right.  Instead of seeing my mistakes as mistakes, and learning from them and moving on, I would internalize the message that there was something wrong with me and that I wasn’t good enough.  And years of doing that really weighed heavily on me.  I kept my emotions stuffed down deep inside me for years until I got to high school, and became depressed.  Over the years, I would wish for my death when something difficult was happening in my life.  I never had a plan.  I never talked to anyone about it.  But I realize now that at that point, because I had not dealt with my emotions about so many things I had experienced in my life, my emotions became larger than life. My emotions began to overwhelm me and I had no idea how to cope with it all at once.

Several years ago, I began to read a lot of books and articles on spirituality and mindfulness. Many of them shared the same core message that our thoughts are powerful and can create our reality.  I began to pay attention to what I was telling myself during the course of a day.  I realized that in the times that really challenged me, I was not only trying to escape from feeling my more difficult feelings by stuffing them deep down inside of me, but I was also being really mean to myself.  There have been times when I had a regret about the way something went and I played that moment over and over in my head a million times, like a hamster running in a wheel, and each time I would be so upset with myself for falling short.  This once unconscious habit led to a lot of suffering.  My mind would spiral around and around until I ended up in a sea of anxiety on the verge of another bout of depression. For years, this happened, over and over.  Life kept challenging me to grow and learn, but my mind was stuck in a perpetual hamster wheel for a long time unable to see the meaning in my experiences, and to experience the growth from my mistakes.  That is until I realized that I had a choice.  We all have a choice.

Every day, we choose how to treat ourselves and how to talk to ourselves.  I started choosing to treat myself nicely and to talk more kindly to myself.  When the critical chatter would show up, I’d snap myself out of it by sometimes saying out loud, “you’re doing it again.”  Just the simple act of recognizing what was happening in my mind was often enough to quiet the negative comments.  Once I started to pay attention, I realized that I had a lot of automatic thoughts that I had become so accustomed to that they were able to slip in and do their damage unnoticed by me most of the time.  As I mentioned in my last post, we have all had our struggles and if you’re reading this, then you and I have both lived through 100% of our worst days so far.  And this simple realization can be our starting point for showing ourselves more compassion.  When I began to look as my life as a story, and could see all of the things that had shaped me as a human, I began to feel real compassion and love for myself.  Rather than only paying attention to my perceived flaws or to what I felt I had done “wrong,” I started really focusing on my strengths and all that I had accomplished.  I began to focus on the positives.

In a lot of ways, my illness saved my life.  When I was sick, I was forced to focus on myself for a change.  I no longer had the option to give all of my energy and love away to everyone but myself.  I was forced to take good care of myself.  I was forced to show myself that I thought I was worth the extra time, money, and resources towards my well-being.  And, I learned that stress made me more sick.  So, I began to cut things out of my life that caused me stress, one of which being the hamster wheel in my mind.

Just by changing these thought patterns and ending the negative self-talk, I started seeing improvements in all areas of my life.  In accepting that I am human doing the best I can, I started cutting myself some slack.  It turns out that when I cut myself slack, I cut others slack too.  When I’m not judging myself harshly, I stop judging others harshly.  And as I learn to accept and love myself more just as I am, I accept and love others more just as they are. After all, we are all humans doing the best we can in this Earth School meant to grow our souls.

Around this same time, I also started seeing the divine reasons that certain things had happened in my life.  And friends, when I opened my mind to the possibility that the Universe knows more than I do and that the events of my life have been strategically planned by my soul before my birth, I gained an amazing freedom from trying to control every single aspect of my life.  I realized that I’m not really in control of anything but my own actions, words, and thoughts.  And with that realization, I finally felt free.

By the time I started working to change my thoughts, a lot in my life had cleared out to make room for this new way of being.  My divorce had come and gone, my health had improved drastically, and I was a few years into my new career of nursing.  But my new way of thinking was tested when within a matter of months, I lost a relationship with my best friend of 20+ years, and my dog of 14 years died.  I thought that surely my spirit would be crushed by these two events and I would again spiral into a depression.  But that never happened. While my heart did hurt quite badly, I was able to recognize that I was left with a version of me that could handle whatever the Universe threw at me.  I had just lost two of my biggest support systems, and yet I moved on with the confidence that I was capable of living and thriving beyond my losses, and that the Universe was taking care of me.  In fact, I believe that both were taken from me when the Universe knew that I was ready to be my own support system.

I continue to have my new way of thinking tested all of the time, both by big events, and small ones.  My closest friends and family know my story.  They know that I live alone with my son and no family within driving distance (or even on this side of the country).  I completely trust that the Universe is taking care of my son and I, and so I will continue to make the best of the situation and to live each day to the fullest.  I have fallen down many times, but I choose to continue to get up, always stronger than before.  I am driven by my love for my son, my quest for inner peace and happiness, and the love that I have for life. We live this life in the blink of an eye.  I don’t know about you, but I plan to make the most of it.

How do you speak to yourself?  How do you cope with your greatest challenges?  Is there a simple change that you could make that would make a big impact on your quality of life?

Matisyahu “Carry Me”

You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone

Joni Mitchell said it best when she sang the words, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”  It’s so true.  We walk around in this life taking so much for granted most of the time, like people, places, situations, our health.  I often think that I have never known better health than I know right now, but that’s not true.  My best physical health was probably sometime back when I was in my 20’s and hiking daily through the red rock canyons of Utah looking for desert tortoises, or when I was running up and down forested ravines chasing Mexican Spotted Owls in New Mexico, or when I was hiking 17 miles into the back country of Kings Canyon National Park in a day just to get where I was living and working for part of the summer at 10,500 feet elevation.  But, I’ve never had such good health as I have now AND appreciated it as much as I do now.  THAT’S the key difference.  I no longer take my health for granted.

In 2009, just 6 months after welcoming my son into the world, I lost my health.  I almost died.  At the time, I had no idea what this meant for me or my life.  It felt abrupt and unfair.  After all, I had been one to eat healthy, even as a vegetarian for about 8 years, and I exercised extensively for my work as a wildlife and fisheries field biologist.  I felt that I didn’t “deserve” this change in circumstances.  (Stay tuned for a future post where I go into more detail about my health journey.)

It is the total loss of my health that has brought me to the level of gratitude that I live with in my present day life.  And it is this level of gratitude that breathes joy and peace into my entire being.  I have almost died and so my perspective on life has been forever altered.  It’s amazing how small other obstacles in life become when the comparison is near-death.  Try it and see what sounds like the worst-case in each of the following scenarios.  I had a stressful day at work – I almost died.  I got a divorce – I almost died.  I got side swiped by another car – I almost died. My son says he hates me – I almost died. Someone at work doesn’t like me – I almost died. Friends left my life – I almost died.  I live in California away from my family – I almost died.  Life can always be worse, my friends. Mine has been, and for that I am eternally grateful.  In fact, I am especially grateful that I lost my health.

You see, as humans, we tend to only learn, I mean REALLY learn and internalize the big lessons, when life kicks the shit out of us.  Generally, we don’t learn as much by watching others on their journeys, and we don’t learn by being happily guided through a life of little or no strife.  Our strife isn’t the Universe’s way of punishing us, but rather its way of growing us.  We get what we need, not what we want.  But, it is always our choice whether to grow and learn from our experiences, or to see them as some kind of negative force, curse, or punishment in our lives.  After living many years in the latter state of mind, I have chosen to move forward with the clarity that I am always being taken care of by the Universe and that everything really does happen for a reason.  In making that mental shift, in changing my thoughts about myself and my life towards the positive, I have completely transformed my life for the better.  I was tired of suffering, so I chose to start accepting what is.  It’s a constant choice I have to make though.  There are days when I trust how my life is unfolding more than others.  My trust is a work in progress.  I am a work in progress.

At this point in my life, I am so thankful to be able to look back on my life as sort of a movie playing out.  I can see the various turns that my life took and the lessons I gleaned from my greatest challenges.  I am aware of how past challenges have shaped me into a person who can handle today’s challenges.  It’s all about perspective.

As a child within my sometimes dysfunctional family, I grew to be a strong and independent woman.  With a name spelled like Jammie (pronounced like Jamie), I learned to be assertive and feisty.  With each loss of a friend or family member, I’ve learned not to take the people in my life for granted, nor my time in this life for granted. With the loss of my health, I learned to enjoy every breath that does not bring chest pain, and to enjoy the ability of my body to be on my feet for 12+ hours at work, and to still have enough energy to hike, swim, and play with my son on my days off!  Through a difficult marriage, I learned that I was only getting the love that I was willing to give to myself, which at the time was not much.  More importantly, from my marriage, I gained my son, who I believe is meant to be my biggest teacher in this life. Through a difficult divorce, I learned that I alone am the one who holds the power over me and my life, and that I am infinitely strong and capable of rebuilding my life from the ground up all by myself.  My time working as a Registered Nurse on an adult oncology unit taught me that death is a natural part of life and that it is not something to be feared.  Through a breast lump scare last year, I learned to not waste time worrying about the what-ifs and to instead just trust that life is unfolding for me in the exact way that it’s supposed to.  I have been shown time and time again that I am stronger than any obstacle I may face.  And as my sister, Amy, likes to remind me, so far, I have survived 100% of my worst days.  Soak that in.  YOU have survived 100% of your worst days!  What has happened in your life to give you a greater perspective of the big picture? What positives have come from your challenges?  How have your challenges shaped you as a person?

The perspective that my drastic change in health gave me is one where the present is all that I have for sure.  The past no longer exists, and the future is not guaranteed.  It can be difficult to really believe that the present is all we have, after all, most of us live in the past fretting over what went wrong and regrets that we have, or in the future where we dream of a time that is better than now.  The beauty is that now is it.  All we have to do is be present today, be happy today, do things that bring us joy TODAY.  Not next year, not once we retire, but NOW.  How would you live your life if all you had was today?  What would you change?  Do you have enough joy in your life?  Do you make time for the things that you love to do?  Do you make time to be with the people you love?  What are you waiting for?

Life is short.  We owe it to ourselves to stop taking so much for granted.  May we all recognize and appreciate the wonderful things we have while we have them, and not just when they are gone.

Joni Mitchell “Big Yellow Taxi” Live