A Virtual Colloquy - What are YOU reading?!

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We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have

“Giving is the highest expression of potency. In the very act of giving, I experience my strength, my wealth, my power. This experience of heightened vitality and potency fills me with joy. I experience myself as overflowing, spending, alive, hence joyous.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

When we give, we do not deprive ourselves of anything, we enhance our lives from our abundance, and it comes back to us as joy.

Most importantly, we cannot give what we do not have.

That’s something to remember when you love someone, but they don’t seem to be loving you back the way you wish they would. Everyone loves in the way that they can, unconsciously. They give from what they have. If they feel they have little, they give little. It’s up to you whether you accept their offering of love and continue the relationship, or not.

Love is not a tit-for-tat thing.

We give of our time, our energy, our love, and our finances, voluntarily. When our cup is full and we know it, we feel it, we can’t help but share of it. It cannot be forced or coerced, and it never needs to be.

One little thing that I have to say, though, is that making a law, enacting a tax, using the force of government to make other people share what they have is not love. It’s a lack of faith in humanity, and it spreads that lack of faith. Ultimately, nothing good comes of it. It creates animosity and forces people to take sides against each other.

Where Did Our Words for “Love” Go?

“The first step to take is to become aware that love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, say music, painting, carpentry, or the art of medicine or engineering.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

Let me start by saying, as I did in my monthly “What in the World is She Reading” newsletter, that I got so much out of this little book and I’m still processing it. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says. Some of it was a bit to “far out” for me. But, wow, there was a lot of usable material here. I know…I promised only to post a few pieces per book but this one is going to be hard to narrow down. I took so many notes!

Do you consider love something you work at doing well?

Or is it something that you “fall into” and passionately experience?

Fromm believes they are two different things and I think I agree. There is that immediate attraction to another human that is based on hormones, pheromones, and instinct. And then there is the higher cerebral order that humans are capable of, that of actively loving people. I think we confuse the two, and debase or idolize one or the other, on a regular basis.

Like Fromm, I believe we should be putting more of our energy into cultivating the art of love.

What’s crazy is that we have to define what we mean by “love” since we don’t have separate words for different kinds. Why is that? Why do we lump so many different ideas into one word and then expect everyone around us to know what we’re talking about? Doesn’t that create chaos?

I say to my children, my husband, by friend, the kid that makes my sandwich just right, “I love you!” That’s crazy. What happened? Where did our words go?

My “Level Up” Birthday Giveaway!

Started a new book for a new year…story to follow. Read on!

A BIG HUGE THANKS to Book Coffee Happy – Let’s discuss books! for the Birthday Inspiration she gave me last night! Go wish HER a Happy Birthday, too! Personally, I think December babies are the best kind of people, especially the redheaded ones. We’re just cool, if I do say so myself.

So…it’s my “Level Up” day, as I like to call it. Currently rocking Level 48 as of today. I’ve gained many experience points, not too many weapons gathered, but many spells and skills. Here’s to hoping for many more! How about you?

My birthday has already been pretty fabulous because I started reading Ready Player Two this morning. My Dad and I LOVED Ready Player One and when he pointed out that there was a TWO coming…I immediately jumped over and pre-ordered it and then…magically…it came in the mail just days before by birthday so I saved it! And now I’m sure my Dad and I will have many notes to compare in the coming weeks. …swoon…

Reason #2 for an already awesome birthday!

A friend got me this cup yesterday while we were shopping at Target. I passed it by three times, saying, “No coffee cups. I have enough!” But…it was just so perfect. “It’s true! It’s true!” Embracing my “not always nice, but I AM trying” personality. Maybe that’s just part of growing up?

My wish as I blow out the candles this year? Another year of chances to share more loves, conversations, cups of coffee, tacos and pizza. Drinks with friends, tv and couch snuggles, new books, and…dare I say it…the courage to attempt more writing and sending those letters to publishers.

In honor of this day…and my fabulous parents, both birth and step, I’m going to give away an Amazon gift card to a random commenter, just like my friend at Book Coffee Happy. Yay! Your gift to me will be commenting something clever instead of just reading and loving my words in your heart, which I know you do every single day. Don’t try to hide it!

Be Your Own Source of Happiness

“Then if happiness can only come from inside you and is the result of your love, you are responsible for your own happiness.”

The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz

We cannot expect others to be the source of our happiness. We should be connecting with others to share the happiness each of us brings with us to the table, like big love potluck!

What if, now…stick with me here…, what if we all developed as whole individuals living together instead of incompletes looking for their missing pieces? What if we believed that everything we needed to survive was born right there inside us and what we were looking for all our lives was people to share it with?

Think of life as a potluck. Sure, I could make and eat my lasagna all by myself. I’d survive. But…what if I brought my lasagna to the party and shared it? And others did the same? Suddenly, I have more than I made myself. Now, I have a salad, some garlic bread, and nice glass of wine as well…and so does everyone else that brought something to the party.

That’s what you do when you live your own life, create your own happiness, joy, and satisfaction. You bring that happy person into all your relationships; share it with them and you both have more than you started with.

But what about that person that didn’t bring anything to the potluck? What do we do with him? We can feed him with our love, for a while. But it won’t work long-term. At some point, those that did bring something will begin to resent being fed off of.

Don’t be that person in life. Put in the work to build your own life, your own happiness, and THEN build relationships to share it.

Quotes from The Mastery of Love – Two

“We learn to pretend to be what we are not, and we practice trying to be someone else, just to be good enough…”

“Soon we forget who we really are, and we start to live our images.”

“The woman has an outer image that she tries to project to others, but when she is alone she has another image of herself.”

The Mastery of Love by Don Miquel Ruiz

Taking this quote out of context makes it sound so sinister, as if there is some evil forcing all of us to mold ourselves into something horrific, as if there is some force out there hell bent on changing us all so that we don’t achieve our greatness as humans. Maybe there is.

But to me, it’s just human nature. Somehow over the millennia, it was important for us to adapt to each other and stay in a homogenous group to survive and thrive, but things have changed. The world, technology, human needs, have all changed and so should we. Unfortunately, change takes a lot of time. Generations even.

My parents changed a little and so did theirs. I’m changing a bit more in the hopes that my children will take that torch and do more with it, or theirs will.

This generation has more time and resources to discover who they really are and who they want to be than every generation before. I plan on using it as best I can. I used to think I should have started earlier, I would have gotten so much more done, but these days…I’m starting to see that I did. I’ve always been evolving into who I was. We all are.

Awareness takes time, small steps are hard to see, and we all move at our own pace.

“The emotional body perceives emotions, but not through the eyes.”

“Children feel emotions and their reasoning mind doesn’t interpret or question them.”

The Master of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz

Have you ever asked a child, “What are you crying about?” Or “Why did you do that?” They rarely have a logical answer and I’ve heard parents (way too often) get angry and accuse the child of lying, hiding, or being ridiculous. If I could change one thing that adults do to children, it would be this.

Children are primal little beings. They simply feel things from the very start. They are attuned and primed to fear…everything. They are born helpless and they instinctually know this. As adults, we teach them that there are things they can count on, things they never need to question or fear: the first being that this large person nearby will help, sooth, and care for them. And then their brains begin growing and developing into the higher being that they are.

As we grow up, we learn to feel the primal emotion and instead of blindly following it, like an animal, we learn to use our logical minds to decide how to use that emotion to the best of our ability. In my opinion, this is what sets us apart from other animals. It is what religions call the spark of being human, the god within every one of us.

Fear is our first emotion and without a loving and kind adult to show us there is comfort in this scary world from the very start, we learn to dwell on that fear. And you know what Yoda says, right? “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. And hate leads to suffering.” I know, it’s corny, but it’s true. If we learn to face our fear, work through it, we tend to be less angry, and less angry leads straight on to less suffering in every single instance.

Quotes from The Mastery of Love – One

“…the instinct to love is so strong that you pay a high price to have a relationship with others.”

The Mastery of Love by Don Miquel Ruiz

That it is. No matter how many times we’ve been hurt, how many times we’ve lost, the primal urge to connect with others pushes us forward.

We create new and inventive ways to protect ourselves, ways that sometimes don’t seem to make sense or get us anywhere near where we want to be, but we’ll do anything to love and be loved.

Ruiz makes a beautiful analogy about the human condition. He says we all act as though everyone’s skin is covered in painful sores. The longer we live, the more we have. It hurts to touch and be touched, yet we crave it. The worst part is that most of us aren’t even aware the sores are there or that others have them too. We react badly when people touch us, thinking they are deliberately hurting us, and hurt them back.

The solution? Awareness of the pain we carry from our injuries and allowing others to touch us anyway. Awareness that everyone else has that pain and may not yet be aware of it themselves. Touch gently. Love and be loved. Pay the price and you begin to heal and grow strong until loving and reacting in love becomes the new habit.

“We domesticate humans the same way we domesticate a dog or any other animal: with punishment and reward.”

The Mastery of Love by Don Miquel Ruiz

Another quote from the same book that touched me. It reminded me of the way we raised our kids. We tried our best not to use punishments and rewards to control behavior. Instead, we tried not to control behavior at all but learn to communicate and get along with each other, make space and time in the hopes of filling everyone’s needs as much as possible.

When it wasn’t, we attempted to negotiate and make sure everyone had as much input as possible. It didn’t always work. There were times when rewards were handed out and punishment meted, but it was usually when we (the adults) were not at our best.

This is the way that humans are in this world. Your behavior or activity is disrupting. Your needs are too much for those around you to accommodate. You are rewarded for not bothering people and punished when your behavior steps out of the bounds the authority as made for themselves. It sounds so medieval, but it’s not that crazy.

You are hurting me with your behavior, so I hurt you until you stop or go away. You’re not hurting me so  I reward you with my love and attention. Easy, right?

But when I think what one’s behavior means, it starts to sound ugly. Say you’re very tired and you don’t have the communication skills to convey that information, so you decide to pull your parent away from the people they are visiting with. The parent refuses. You are hurting her, so she hurts you to tell you your behavior is unacceptable. She knows no better way.

Is there a better way? I believe so. She could listen to you and attempt to figure out what you are trying to communicate with your behavior and see if you can come up with a solution. But in the world we live in, most people don’t see that as a way at all.

The same goes with all kinds of relationships. Your new boyfriend teases. Why? What is he trying to communicate? I doubt he’s trying to hurt you deliberately. There’s no need to retaliate. Your friend doesn’t answer your texts right away. Your mother insists on telling you how to run your household. All these relationships have been built on punishment and reward.

What if we assumed positive intent, validated everyone’s needs, and attempted to communicate directly instead? We only train animals that way because we can’t communicate with them directly. They don’t speak our language or have the ability to learn it.

But It’s My Right!

In all things.

In a perfect world, this would be a beautiful mantra to live by. But what about in this world? Can we live this way in a world where scarcity actually exists? Where we are bombarded with the worry that if we don’t take all we can, someone else will and we’ll be left with nothing?

I believe we can.

In many aspects of our lives, scarcity is real. We have a limited amount of time and energy, for one thing. I may have the means to visit every state in the union, but I only have so many days in my life. Most of us have a limited supply of money, everyone but the federal government that is. They seem to be able to keep printing new dollars every day with no recourse whatsoever.

Wait… Let’s stick to things we can do something about, like our own attitudes and actions.

There are things in our world that are only believed to be scarce and those are things we can work with. Love is one. Compassion. Empathy. Care. These are things that we can give infinitely, but should we take more than we need? Can I take too much love from others?

Yes. I can demand their attention, insist they love only me or give them hell for not giving me the affection I want. I think it is better to accept what they give voluntarily and learn to meet my own needs instead of insisting that others fill them.

Come to think of it, it may even work for scarce items like food and water. I may need a certain amount of water to survive and I could hoard it because I need it and live longer. But I could also choose to show compassion and share what I have, allowing others to do the same for me…or not. My life may be shorter, but it may also be more fulfilling.

This all sounds like bullshit. I’m dancing around an idea that I can’t quite put my finger on. What am I responding to? What am I really trying to say?

A friend suggested that since someone’s hours were cut back at work, that they should apply for unemployment. I was at a loss for words to express why I was so offended by the idea. In this instance, there was simply no need for more money, but that didn’t seem to matter. He had a right to more and should take it. I just don’t agree with that at all.

Hours later, driving in silence (which is one of the ways I really find time to think) the idea of scarcity came to me. Why do we scrabble for more, hoard it all up as if someone might take it from us? Why do we sit on our possessions like a fire-breathing dragon? My money. My things. My family. Mine!

I’m guilty of it myself. I have plenty. I could be giving more to help those that don’t. But again and again, I feel like I’m being taken advantage of. I’m already caring for my family and friends as best that I can. You all voted to take my earnings from me before I could spend it and give it to programs that help people…and it never seems to be enough. You wanted the government to do it with force and now you want me to give more voluntarily? I feel used and angry, like a child forced to share a precious toy before they were ready. You try to teach a lesson and end up creating monsters. Live with this monster you’ve created!

This scarcity thing, the use of force by vote, and the “it’s my right” idea, that’s what is bothering me and I can’t seem to put my finger on how to express it clearly.

Why I Get Up in the Morning – Episode 1

This is exists. It’s called grass and you can walk on it. It grows where water flows. Crazy.
Something else that makes life worth living!

I promised you that I’d write a more positive weekly article as well, so here it is!

Why DO I get up in the morning? To see what happens next!

Why do you watch the next episode of tv show that you know is going badly? Why do you turn the page and read the next chapter of a book when the one you just finished killed off your favorite character? Humans have a strange fascination with the ugly shit, don’t they? I’m no different.

Yes, things are definitely changing, but if it didn’t we’d all be sitting around complaining about how boring things are. This is not how I thought life would go right now. I’m genuinely not happy and there is much that I worry about on a daily basis. Nothing is certain at the moment. And, to be completely honest, I’ve always been a conservative soul. I enjoy continuity and predictability with maybe a small change or mix up in a regular routine for spice.

This is too much spice for me and it is straining my mental resources to remain calm and find safety.

Yes, I can count my blessings (for they are many). Yes, I am damn lucky and resourceful. The choices we have made as a family have put us in a pretty decent position to ride much of the bullshit out, but…and this is a big BUT…what about the future? What about my children? What about my friends and acquaintances that aren’t so lucky or haven’t made any plans or have simply lost too much? That’s what I start to lose sleep over.

And there are relatively (in the grand scheme) silly things that I stress about. Will I get to take my grandchildren to Disneyland someday? Will my son finish college, get a house, and be rich? Will my other son ever have his orchard? Will we get to dress up with our friends and go to the Renaissance Faire, eat turkey legs, and get drunk in public? Movies? Travel? Eating in a restaurant? Shit…seeing people’s faces?!

What can I do? I can get up in the morning and put my own oxygen mask on so that I’m ready to help when and where I can. I’m done with fearing what might happen and ready to deal with what does. I’m done arguing with people and trying to convince them that my ideas have merit and ready to live my life without their approval. I can’t change what others are doing but I can change my attitude.

That doesn’t mean I approve or love what’s happening. I honestly believe much could be avoided if we did a few things differently, so I’m starting with me. I won’t be hostile to others that choose differently, even when I feel they are trying to force me to choose their way. I won’t blame others for what is happening in my life. I won’t fight “them” or otherwise participate in building up conspiracy theories.

People are going to do what they are going to do. I believe the kinder, the more open, the softer, and more loving to others we each are can make a huge difference. We’re all are making it really hard on each other lately but I know it’s because we’re scared. I’m scared too, but someone has to start going first.

I’m turning the page, or hitting ‘play the next episode’, and watching what happens next.

It’s Not The Plant

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This plant has been thriving for a couple years now. It’s in the corner of my bedroom, getting the damp soil and indirect sunlight it needed, and making me smile each time I see another leaf bud or another tendril start to grow and reach toward the window.

It wasn’t always this healthy. It came to me as three wilted leaves in a giant plastic pot filled with dried out dirt. I found it in an office with one west-facing window that never had its curtains opened. I’m not a big plant person, but every house has these and I knew it just needed water and bit of sun to thrive.

I’m not sure why I felt compelled to take it home and adopt it, but there I was each day growing increasingly frustrated with my co-workers when I’d leave for a few days and no one would water it or open the curtains in the afternoon.

After weeks of coaxing and no improvement, I decided to throw the whole thing away. The old plastic pot was starting to crack and any day now it would leak all over the filing cabinet anyway. I picked up the pot, carefully so as not to dump dirt all over the office and started walking toward the dumpster outside. Somehow…some way…the plant ended up in the bed of my truck. I might have been possessed by Groot. I just couldn’t throw those three leaves away.

Originally, I planned on putting it in a smaller pot with new dirt, getting it growing good and healthy, and then bringing it back to the office. Maybe I’d put it upfront near the big window and it would do better. Several months later, when it had really taken root and began to climb up my bedroom wall, I changed my mind. No one loved him like me! No one even noticed he was gone! He’s mine!

It’s sick really, the way I feel about plants sometimes.

Why in the world am I going on about a plant? Because no one is worthless. No person’s life is pointless. No matter how young or how old, there is an environment that they will thrive in. Don’t throw people away. Help them to find their place in this world and watch them grow into what they were born to be.

Learning to Understand and Accept Change

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Photo by Ramiro Martinez on Unsplash

There is something important that I’ve recently learned to understand and accept. Things change. And they don’t always change permanently. Analogies about the cycles of the moon have become cliché but maybe there’s something to it after all.

I never really noticed the changes in the moon until I moved to the rural desert. The living room of our desert home is mostly windows, which makes the moon-rise, and the sunrise for that matter, very visible. Through our mostly uncovered windows, it’s obvious that the sun and moon rise and set each day more and more to the north and south as the earth wobbles on its axis. It’s amazing to watch and makes one see very clearly why ancient people might worship this cycle. It’s very comforting.

While the sun takes its sweet time moving across the sky, the seasons change day by day, week by week, the moon gives us a whole different feeling. To me, the sun is the big picture, the whole life, but the moon is our daily struggle. She rushes across the night, coming up at different times of the day or night, in different shapes and sizes. Her cycles are quicker and more dramatic than the sun’s. One week she comes up at sunset full of herself. The next week she’s late and half-dressed. Sometimes she comes up a shell of her usual self, right in the middle of the day. Some days we can’t see her at all. And yet, no one stresses about it. No one thinks, “Oh shit! The moon! Something has upset her. We have to fix it!” We just wait, because we know she’ll be back if we leave her to her own devices.

And the moon? I don’t see her as caring much about what the sun is up to, or the earth, or us. She just does her thing and we love her for it.

What if we were more like that? What if we became more aware of our own cycles and simply accepted them? What if we understood other people will have different cycles that have nothing to do with us, and accepted them right where they are?

And why is it that we think that we must live in a straight line or a climbing staircase? These analogies cause us to believe that if we fall to the left or right of the line or reach the end of a set of stairs with no way to go up farther, we fail. We look at our relationships with the world around us as if they can only escalate or die, reach the next level or die off.

For me seems to be more of a cycle that comes around again and again, sometimes with the same person, sometimes with a different person, with any type of relationship. Whether we’re talking about a romantic relationship, a platonic friendship, a sexual relationship, or a parent, child, or sibling, etc., makes no difference. All relationships cycle through and around and back, spiraling up, down, or laterally. Even the relationship we have with ourselves.

My relationship with myself is complicated. There are days and weeks that I feel like she’s doing a fine job of all the things I expect of her. I’m proud of her accomplishments, her strength. She’s a good, responsible friend to have. And then, even though she has not changed one bit in reality, my feelings toward her change. She forgot something I wanted her to remember or took a day off from responsibility to play. I blame her for everything that has gone wrong with our life. In time, again though she’s not changed at all, I begin to fall in love with her. She’s sexy and confident and I want to be close to her, to spend time alone with her. Then it’s gone again, she’s just another woman in my way and I long to break free. Days later, there she is again impressing me with her strength and brilliance. And we’re coming around on the cycle again.

In every relationship we have, each time we go around this cycle we learn more about each other. With every successful ebb and flow of the tide of emotions, we learn to trust each other more. What constitutes “successful?” We don’t walk away from the relationship and we don’t throw hurtful words or actions at each other to make the other do or act the way we want them to only to make us feel better. Success is loving the other unconditionally, regardless of our feelings at the moment.

The more I come to understand that how I feel is not necessarily a reflection of anyone else’s behavior, but merely a season or phase of the moon, the stronger my relationships grow. Every time I learn again that the cycle will return, that every feeling is temporary, the stronger that cycle turns into a spiral ascending into the sky.

Pretty “out there” isn’t it? It’s the truth though. You won’t always be happy. You won’t always be sad. No one needs to be fixed. No one needs to be set straight. It all just is. Accept it. Be in it. And wait for the moon to cycle back again.

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