Do You Admire Yourself?

Little girl and mirrorIf you asked me, “Do you admire yourself?” I would most likely say no.

If you asked, “Do you admire parts of yourself?” I would say, definitely yes.

That’s because there are always parts of ourselves that we admire, whether we allow ourselves to notice it or not. If you’re finding it hard to notice the good qualities about yourself that you admire, I have a shortcut for you. It has to do with learning the hidden gifts that can come with bad feelings.

Let’s say that someone does something really, really inconsiderate. You get infuriated. How dare that person act in such a despicable way? You hate the fact that there are such nasty people in the world. You hate that terrible person. You hate it when stuff like that happens to you, and you don’t deserve it.

Publius Terentius Afer, who lived around 160 years BC, wrote, “I am human, and nothing of that which is human is alien to me.”

I got his quote from Maya Angelou, and she thinks it means that each human is capable of doing what any other human does. We have all the same components, and no matter how awful it is, we’re actually capable of doing it.

I agree. I think that we blame others for being what they are when we have no idea what caused them to be that way. Even though that nasty, inconsiderate person is really behaving badly, you’re actually capable of behaving just as badly. You’re just choosing not to. In my view, the anger that you feel points to a clue about something admirable in you.

I believe that for at least some of us, the degree of outrage you feel points to how hard you’ve been working to avoid being that bad person with the bad behavior. You try to control those negative behaviors in yourself. If you’ve spent a lifetime inculcating good habits, patience, and manners, you’ll probably be really annoyed by someone who just doesn’t care and spews his or her nastiness on everybody carelessly.

So go ahead and feel your anger. You probably won’t see the gift it’s going to leave you right away. Let it run its course and try not to amplify it by engaging in a big fight. Eventually the anger will flow back away from you like a wave because that’s what emotions do. Just don’t forget to pick up the beautiful lesson that anger has left for you like a shell washed in on the wave.

It’s the gift of knowledge about yourself and knowledge of your own values. Before you go on with your life and just forget about the whole incident, remember to say to yourself that you’re grateful for your efforts and achievements in behaving well, even though you have the same feelings that nasty people do from time to time.

You’re probably the kind of person who consciously tries not to hurt others. You monitor what you say, you try to see things from the other person’s point of view, and you try to word things in a way that doesn’t offend. If you see someone suffering, you try to find a word of encouragement or leave a nice card on their desk when they’re not looking.

And that’s really a sweet trait that deserves admiration.

Experiencing that bad behavior and the anger you felt can serve to enlighten you about the effort you put forth every day to create more peace in the world. Admire that trait in yourself. Give yourself a little credit for not behaving like the person who just acted so badly. Take the time to appreciate yourself for not reacting with the same idiotic display that the other person dumped on you.

And remember that the more you can appreciate the good traits in yourself (and other nice people) when you see them, the better your life will be over time.




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When is it Good to be Sad?

IMG_20140309_171438I woke up feeling sad today. Now, if you’ve read any of my posts, you know I stand for happiness. You know I believe that happiness is not only beneficial to you, but to everyone around you and the world at large. (Happy people don’t start wars, do they?)

Happy people inspire other people to be happy. Happy people work together more easily and team up to find positive solutions. Happy people are productive — they’re not carrying around the baggage that weighs down a lot of other people.

And, I do believe that opportunities come more easily to happy people.

Now, I did wake up feeling sad today, but set about my morning routine as usual — feeding the dogs, taking them out for a walk, taking out the trash, etc. It rained pretty hard almost all day yesterday, and even though the sky was full of clouds, there was still bright sunshine all over the place this morning. In fact, it was refreshing.

Moods are like waves — they come and go. When you’re stuck in sadness for prolonged periods of time, it can affect your health and your interactions with people. In turn, those effects start to weave together in the attitude of sadness, and eventually that can create a whole life of sadness.

I wasn’t bummed out by being sad, because I know that emotions are like waves. I also know, now, that there are always underlying vibes associated with each emotion, and understanding emotions are the key to overcoming chronic depression.

Here’s an example. The first time I went skydiving, I was thrilled and excited. If there wasn’t any fear whatsoever involved in skydiving, I might have felt happy, calm, peaceful, appreciative of the beauty of the sky, comforted by the competence of the teachers, pilot, etc. There were lots of things about that drop zone that were comforting. But my primary emotion was excitement. Excitement is a mix of joy and anxiety. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong! But when I started learning how to analyze emotions, I started becoming aware of the underside of an emotion. Really thrilling experiences have a kind of tingling feeling underneath the joy of the experience. In this case, that tingly feeling was just a touch of fear. I had to appreciate the danger of extreme sports to fully experience the thrill of being able to participate.

Let me give you another sport that is not extreme: playing marbles. When you compete in a game of marbles with somebody, you’re probably not going to experience the same thrill that you’re going to get during your first skydive. Now, if there’s a monetary prize of $1 million, you probably will feel that thrill, because the stakes are higher.

This morning, I woke up sad. But at the core of that sadness, there was a peace. I realized that like the weather outside, the sadness has a certain cleansing power associated with it, and will blow away like the dark clouds did. I realize that all the emotions are necessary to have a full life.

While I used to be a chronic suicidal depressive, I have little to no fear of returning to that state. I have too much information now. I know so much more than I ever did about emotions and how they affect the life experience (and why, also).

In short, I was at peace with my sad emotion. I felt no fear around it. Yes, I was sad because of a temporary life condition that is part of my everyday reality, but I have very little fear of the life condition that might have sent me up the wall with anxiety in the past.

So if my sadness is tinged with anxiety, then I can expect more of it, and my emotions will tend to draw me down the path of making mistakes, misreading people, and having accidents.

If my sadness is tinged with peace and understanding, then I know that it’s part of what life has to offer, but I’m not married to it, and therefore it’s of no real concern.

If you have to be sad in life, and I know that sometimes you will be, I pray that your sadness is underlain with peace. I pray that you’ll recognize it as a cloud that’s passing by in the sky, containing its own hidden gift and providing temporary shade or nourishing rain. I pray that you’ll come across the information that I did, information that saved me from a life of anxiety, fear, depression, and endless thoughts of suicide. When you have the knowledge that every emotion has an underlying emotion, I think you’ll find it easier to make peace with your life conditions.

Please comment … let me know if this is helpful or just plain confusing!


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Writing is Easy for Me — Except Writing for My Own Benefit

cat typingWriting’s always been easy for me, at least since I was a teenager.

Yes, I admit it – I was one of those geeks in the sixth grade who adored diagramming sentences.  (I actually remember someone telling me how much he hated it, and I was amazed.)

I started writing big time when I was between 17 and 18, because I realized that writing was the only way I’d ever be able to squeeze out a whole sentence without getting interrupted.

After that, a whole lot of years passed before I started writing again. At age 39, I started writing a self-published free newsletter dealing with the causes of abuse and trying to draw parallels between different kinds of abuse. In my mind, all abuse stemmed from a common cause, but I couldn’t really articulate what it was. In fact, the newsletter was part of my quest to actually find the common cause. I knew somehow that property abuse, drug abuse, spousal abuse, etc, had a common thread. I just didn’t know what it was. By that time, I’d already been self-abusing, but for some reason I didn’t even think of that. I had just read some research that physical abuse in families escalated at Christmas time, and I wanted to shed some light on that, so a newsletter contributor and I actually made a speech at the Fresno Center for Nonviolence. At that time, I had four jobs, one of which was writing the free newsletter, which obviously paid nothing!hand on mouse

Many, many more years went by. I had gotten some work that actually paid enough that I only needed one job, but continued to work in a second one out of habit, I guess. But the tacky little BS that goes on at work was ticking me off too much. One time, I actually got castigated at work by some supervisors because I was doing the work of three people and apparently they were alarmed because I’d be hard to replace if I ever left. I was thinking, “Why would I ever leave?”

But, instead of praising me for being so efficient, they just blew me away. Within a few weeks, as the BS continued, I stomped out of there in a huff. I didn’t mean to, but I actually left rubber on the driveway after cussing out one of the bosses. (Well, the cussing was on purpose.)

So I went back to college and there I had to write again. I was still good at it, but the college professor pointed out some things that I could improve. At least he acknowledged that I was good, so that made it okay — helpful, in fact.

pencilIn college, I began to focus on writing as an act of communication. What became essential to me was to make sure that someone reading a paper would easily be able to follow every point I made. In college, you’re always supposed to argue for a point of view. To me, the point was not to convince anyone of anything; I just wanted to be so clear that readers would actually understand me.

Now, I do a lot of work as a ghostwriter. This is fun at times — it’s even exhilarating when I’m working with the right person and we mesh. Other times, I feel like I’m wasting my time writing copy for someone else’s business. But that’s where my trick knee kicks in — I find it really hard to write when the likely result will be to improve my own life. It’s very easy for me to create for someone else, and to see the value in someone else.

I guess I’m learning in my old age, because life has become too painful not to. Being broke and trying to squash myself into a pigeonhole someone else designed is not serving me. As the years roll by, being in bad shape financially, mentally, and every other way is not helping me reach the people I would really want to help. And it doesn’t keep the dogs fed.

I was listening to a TEDxTalk the other day, and the guy said that one in four people in developed countries would suffer from Depressive Illnesses in their lifetime. That is horrific.blurry wave

I’m not always in a happy, ecstatic frame of mind, and I rarely have a suicidal moment anymore. When I do, I realize that it’s a wave. Trying to fight a wave and beat it back with a stick will never work. I just let it come. There are times I’ve been known to just lie on the couch and let myself feel bad for whatever time it takes. I think that resisting the onset of the wave makes it come more often. Eventually, life is going to bring you some reason to get up again. You either fall asleep and wake up, the doorbell rings, you have to eat, or something like that.

The wave recedes by itself. And if it hasn’t receded yet, you can always go back to the couch.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’ll think of some weird, very funny, unrelated thing that happened while in the throes of depression. Or I’ll hear something on the radio. Sometimes I’ll bust out laughing. I wasn’t always able to do that. I think I’m free to do it now because I know that the pain is transitory. I know that when good things bubble up in my consciousness, it’s okay not to resist them. I give myself permission to laugh.

When you fight back at a wave of depression, you just magnify it, because that’s what you’re thinking of.

When you give yourself permission to feel good, you allow Mother Nature to bring you back into balance.

Obviously, I would never let my dogs starve while I’m suffering on the couch. That’s why it’s helpful to have someone that you’re taking care of — someone who won’t give you a lot of crap by telling you why you shouldn’t be depressed!

The people who try to help you are often the ones who make it worse. The dogs never say anything like, “You should be happy!” as if there’s something wrong with you for being the authentic person you are. They never say, “Get up, you lazy bum!” either.

red punching bag resizedWe really believe in fighting in this society. We really believe that the best way to solve a problem is to put on boxing gloves and come out swinging. We really believe that the best way to get someone to do something is to just keep nagging or just try knocking them down.

I’m not suggesting that you “owe something” to someone simply because they’re depressed. I’m just saying that kicking them around won’t make them happy. It might make them ACT like they’re happy so you’ll stop kicking them, but that’s about it.

I think that life just puts choices in front of you.

I think it’s okay to choose to be unproductive or down on yourself when you’re truly being obliterated by a wave.  I think that you’ll decide when and if to get up and try again, and the impulse will come from within. It will feel right. It won’t take will power. It won’t hurt. And it won’t be to please someone else.

Trust your inner voice.

The secret is that even people with Major Depressive Disorder laugh once in a while. Even suicidal people like to pet their animals, watch a favorite TV show, or taste something good. In each and every day, there is something that you smile at or about … and it isn’t forced.

The secret is to amplify that laughter or good feeling, instead of SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESwasting your time trying to fight the bad.

So why am I writing this now, instead of writing for someone else who’ll pay me to do it?

It’s because Life called me. Life put questions in front of me, and made me want to figure things out. That impulse to diagram a sentence and figure out what makes it work is the same impulse that makes me want to figure out what’s going on with myself, with people, with animals, and with the earth. Not in a blaming way, and not in a way that puts me down or puts someone else down — just out of curiosity. And the older I get, the more curious I get. So I’m still trying. Still trying to figure it all out.

And sometimes I just feel like writing what I want to say, whether or not it brings in the coin. 🙂

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Should we Stamp Out Bullying?

angry-woman drawingI’ve heard a lot in the media lately about fighting bullying; combating bullying; and stamping out bullying. That’s a relief on one hand, because when and where I grew up, bullying seemed to be cool, and everyone just wanted to get on the side of the bully.

And now I see people taking the opposite point of view, which is a relief, because anyone who’s been bullied can tell you — it’s not pretty.

From from my vantage point now, I can see that this languaging around bullying is probably going to have short-term value but none in the long run. These bullies are not actually in a good place, you know.

If someone can only feel good by beating someone else down, then beating them down in return won’t be sustainable. You can’t beat somebody into a feeling of peace and acceptance of their fellow man.

I’m not suggesting that we condone or allow the behavior. In fact, I think we need to teach bullies that they are NOT their behavior. There is more to them than their behavior.

Let’s look at the analogy of fighting fire with fire. It works. It works really, really well in some circumstances. But eventually, you’re either going to have to use water or you’re going to have to dig a control line, which is a really, really wide strip of deforested land that prevents spread. Eventually, the fire burns out on its own.

For most of us, we automatically dig those control lines around people we don’t like. We just don’t call them, hang out with them, or do business with them. When we try to change them, we get bitten. When we try to argue with them, we find out that they are better fighters than we are — more practice.

On the other hand, if we try to soothe them or placate them, which is analogous to pouring water on the flames, bullies take it to mean that we approve of or enjoy their bullying. Yes, they are that crazy. So most people choose to dig a control line instead of pouring soothing water on the fire.

There are some people who are wonderful at helping bullies connect the dots. They are very talented at making bullies see that they have more to offer than destructive behavior, and also that they’ve harmed a lot of people and that in the long run, they’d be happier if they were just … well, happy. Happy people don’t bully.

But the discussion wouldn’t be complete unless we brought in the other side, which is that bullied people tend to become likely to meet up with more bullies. These are the people I like to work with, because that’s where I used to be.

And, if you’ve been bullied, it’s not your fault. You didn’t cause it. Only the bully lifted his or her arms to hit, or his or her voice to demean. That’s their side of the street.

The point is, do you want to keep attracting bullies into your life? If you still keep finding these people in your life, despite doing everything all the self-help books are telling you, then you just haven’t found the secret that it took me 59 years to find out about.

Keep seeking, because there is help for you.crying grey hair

Did you like this post? Please let me know – it keeps me going. And please feel free to let me know what you’ve already tried in the comments, and what’s working for you now.


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Did I Create This … ?

head coldYesterday, I was so deathly ill that I couldn’t get out of bed. I caused it.

I was so stressed out about something that I literally made myself sick. Granted, the subject was deep, so any thought about something that cuts that deep to the bone is going to have reverberations.  It involved someone who means the world to me, and it involved some guilt over doing the wrong thing, even though I was trying so hard to do the right thing.

Has that ever happened to anyone else?

Anyway, the bottom line was that I felt like a heel, and I couldn’t stop thinking of what I could do to make it up, but what was done was done.  And I was carrying a lot of fear about the subject, and guess what? When you feel afraid, really afraid, you’re more likely to cause a total collapse than you would be if you felt strong, clear, and capable.

So I had to put off other work and sleep half the day. That doesn’t make it easier, but in truth, problems like overwork pale in comparison to problems like messing up one of the most important relationships in your life.

I took advantage of modern medicine and took lots of Vitamin C, used a humidifier, got those tissues with lotion in them, and just generally admitted to myself that I created this illness and that this, too, shall pass.sick guy in hospital

Now back to fixing my side of the relationship…

Hope I have better news for your tomorrow!!



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I Love to Imagine…

12 Sunrise & Palms Ocean Shores 31March2015In the mornings, I love to lie in bed and imagine for awhile. Sometimes I wake up with fears and worries on my mind (like at 3 AM).  If I can’t go back to sleep, I soothe myself with something fairly mind-numbing, like a funny YouTube video or a game of solitaire on my cell phone. I know that it’s good for me to search for ways to feel better, even if someone else looking over my shoulder would accuse me of being lazy or escapist.

I don’t care. I know what suicidal feels like.  I know that lying in bed and playing solitaire is a step up from lying in bed thinking about frightening thoughts or getting up and screaming.

After I’ve distracted myself a little from what I’m worried about, I’ll close my eyes and let sleep come if it will, but if it doesn’t, that’s okay too. I don’t feel obligated to get up and work on my “problems.”  If I attack a problem in a petrified state of mind, I’m not clearly thinking and I might even make it worse. So I let myself dream, whether I’m in a good or bad state of mind.

And this is what happens…

Today, in the process of simply lying there with my eyes closed, letting thoughts flow through my brain without paying any attention, I got a very inspiring thought. You see, the problem that was weighing me down and causing me so much grief somehow morphed into something inspiring. Over the course of 3 am – 6:30 am, I began to realize that not only do I have this huge desire to achieve something that had seemed impossible, but that I have this ability to do the thing I want so much. And that means that I get to feel the feelings of gratification that I so much want to have (instead of my traditional feelings of angst).

So imagination works for me. I’m not living the wonderful reality I just created in my head, but I know that if I keep imagining it, and do it with such clarity that I can already taste it, I’ll get it.  This is what fun I can have. This is how proud I can be. This is how free I can be.

I love to imagine…

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I Really, Really Want to…

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMore than anything else, I really, really, really, really, really want to pay my own bills right now. I really, really want to make my own customers happy. I really, really want to pay Uncle Sam. I really, really want to do good work and give my customers the speed and attention they want. And I want to make my neighbor happy, who also happens to be my BFF, because I’m doing her a favor right now and I want her to be delighted. I want to be a good pet owner, good homeowner, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Overwhelmed.

And, I really, really, really want to have the time to do my own creative writing, each and every day.

So here is the conundrum — how do I please everybody and still have time for me, and why do I even want to please other people if they’re not paying me money?

Well, in my case, here is why: I want to be happy!

I don’t know if this will help you when you’re feeling overwhelmed and out of time, but I just devised this process today for getting my own head together. I was feeling so pressured to do so much work in such a short period of time, and I really want to do it, because I’d love to have money coming in…but then I have to ignore my pets, ignore my friends and neighbors, forget about writing my own stuff, and have a life that sucks!  I couldn’t figure out how to get it all done, much less retain a good life.

I realize that some people don’t feel the same way I do about bills. They think, “If only I didn’t have to pay these bills,” or maybe, “How can I get rid of these bills?” I think that the best way to get rid of them is to just pay them all off, and my big motivation to take on more work is that I THINK I WILL BE HAPPIER IF I HAVE PLENTY OF CASH FLOW TO TAKE CARE OF ALL OF THE BILLS EASILY.

I then realized that I was caught in a chain reaction.  I couldn’t see how everything could work out the way I wanted, and I know from prior experience that YOU CAN’T HAVE THE OUTCOME YOU WANT UNLESS YOU CAN VISUALIZE IT.

So I drew a big picture and in the middle, I wrote: “Be happy.” After all, that is my bottom-line intention and desired destination.

Then I drew little circles all around the inside so I could write my “To Do” list in there. I know if I achieve all these things that I want to do, I’ll be happier. So I have to put my “To Do’s” in such a way that I realize that doing them is not a chore, because they are all steps to becoming happier.

So here is the template — you’ll find your own “To Do’s” to write into the little circles around the edges.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Have fun with it and realize that there is nothing you want to do, be, or have in this world that doesn’t share a common destination: happiness.



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