Still going strong

30 09 2007

verbena bonariensis

Flowers are getting rare this time of year. Their colours are fading. Some, however, can still hold up their heads.





What I know for sure

29 09 2007

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Mark Twain





I didn’t think I had it in me

28 09 2007

In high school, I was called a whore by one boy.  And I remember being shocked. For I knew for sure that I was not. Until one day, years later, I realised I could be. I heard this little voice in my head making a racist remark. At first, I could not believe I could even think something like that. But there was no denying it. I had to admit I was a potential racist. In the years that followed, I have discovered I am in potential a lot of things, good and bad. I’m a sinner, but I’m also a saint. I have learned there are no dualities, good and bad are just two sides of a polarity. I can’t be all bad or all good. There is no wrong or right, I am good and bad at the same time.





The beam in my own eye

27 09 2007

I could get so frustrated by people’s behaviour. Why was he always late? Why did she never return my phone calls? Why was the person in front of me driving slowly? Their perceived lack of consideration could make me so angry. On some level, it even made me feel as if I didn’t matter. Until I learned that I was late on some occasions, I did not always return phone calls, I drove slowly when I was relaxed. Apparently, what irritated me with others were my own unrecognized (bad) habits. I was baffled. From then on, whenever I got frustrated or cross with someone, I realized that I must be culpable of the same ‘crime’, so I investigated how, when and why I did or had done the same. What I have discovered is shocking. The evidence I have uncovered is rather discriminatory. So for now, all I am willing to say is that I have become very, very, very tolerant toward other people.





If

26 09 2007

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling





gratitude attracts gratefulness

25 09 2007

Most of my life, my glass has been half empty. I was not happy with my life. I focused on the things that I didn’t have, that weren’t going the way I wanted. I wasn’t grateful for all the things I did have. You cannot see your glass as half full and half empty at the same time. At one point, I started a gratitude journal. Each day, writing down 5 things I was grateful for. At first, it was so hard. I just didn’t know where to look for it. But slowly, I learned to find gratitude in everything. In the smile of the woman passing by, in the bird singing his song, in the green of grass, in the way raindrops tick on my window, even in the way my tummy looks after giving birth and the extra pounds I have gained. Nowadays, my glass is half full on a bad day, but full on most days. I have learned that gratitude attracts gratefulness. What are you grateful for?





My past is my past

24 09 2007

What part of your past would you like to fast-forward or even skip altogether when telling your life story?  In stead of curling up in shame, trying to avoid the pain or maybe denying it happened at all, you could try to find some positive meaning to it. What have you learned from it? What has that brought you? And what can you learn from it now?
I believe every situation holds an opportunity for spiritual growth. I have come to deeply appreciate difficult periods in my life for they have taught me the most amazing life lessons.  For instance, I have learned that I always bounce back, that I can turn bad things into positive experiences, that my life is worth living simply because I am here. My past is my past. It has made me who I am today. I wouldn’t want it any other way.





Breathtaking

23 09 2007

butterfly

Enjoying life is about enjoying the small things, like this butterfly warming itself in the September sun on one of the few flowers left.





It is but a dream

22 09 2007

All that we see or seem
is but a dream within a dream.

Edgar Allan Poe





No wild-goose chase

21 09 2007

I believe it makes a huge difference if you’re being called a ‘stupid cow’ or a ‘genius’ on a daily basis.  How can you not believe these words if you hear them over and over again. It becomes a part of you, literally marks your personality. Knowing this, I made a conscious choice to speak to my baby in positive phrases only, from birth on. I thought I was doing rather well…Only, I had forgotten one little detail. As it seems my method was not fool proof, there was a loop hole I had not thought of. Nor did I see it, until it was pointed out to me. What I had completely overlooked, was one very crucial point: I lead by example. And there I wasn’t doing too well. Whenever I was making a sandwich and took the butter out of the fridge, but forgot the cheese, getting dressed and came downstairs realising I didn’t put on my shoes, sitting in my car and noticed my sunglasses weren’t in my bag, I would call myself ‘goose’. I said this over a zillion times a day. I said it so often, I didn’t notice it anymore. It had become a bad habit. A potentially dangerous habit, that is. Had I not caught it early on, it would have raised my daughter instead of me. It would have taught my daughter it is ok to belittle yourself, despite al my efforts. And that is not ok with me. Ever since, I’m on a goose chase. Every moment of the day, I try to lovingly eliminate geese from my vocabulary.





What makes sense to me

20 09 2007

I know christians as well as atheists who stick to their principles with ardour. They have taken a stand and will not budge. Not when there’s evidence pointing in the other direction, not when an inner voice whispers there might be an other side to their truth. It is their way or the highway.
I was one of them. I was afraid to see the evidence and to hear that inner voice, because I feared my life would collapse if the foundation was taken away.  It did, but under the remnants I discovered another foundation. I discovered me.
The real me doesn’t know for sure if there is a higher power, what it is like or if it affects my life. What I know is that I feel it’s presence in everything. Maybe, my mind is playing tricks on me. I don’t care. It may not be logical, but it makes sense to me to believe I am a spiritual being having a human experience, to believe I am part of something bigger, to believe the journey continues after this life. I may not believe everything that is written in the scriptures, but it makes sense to me that a higher power cannot be captured by human vocabulary. You may think I’m fooling myself. You may think I’m no true believer. Maybe.
I ask you to consider that your beliefs are … well… beliefs, that whatever you believe, you have chosen to believe. So, until this great Mystery is solved,  I choose to believe what makes sense to me. I listen to my heart and follow that inner voice …





Closed path

19 09 2007

I thought that my voyage had come to it’s end
at the last limit of my power, - that the path before me was closed,
that provisions were exhausted
and the time come to take shelter in a silent obscurity.

But I find that thy will knows no end in me.
And when old words die out on the tongue,
new melodies break forth from the heart;
and where the old tracks are lost,
new country is revealed with its wonders.

Rabindranath Tagore





Don’t cheat yourself out of a choice

18 09 2007

“I’m a woman, I should be able to bear children.” I heard a woman say who is physically unable to have children naturally or through IVF. I am deeply sorry for her, not only because she cannot fulfil a lifelong dream, but also because she is not willing to let go of that dream. She feels cheated by nature, by God and she’s angry about it. I can understand that. She believes giving birth is her birthright. She cannot accept this is beyond her call. She is fighting a fight she cannot win and is depending her happiness on something she cannot control.
In everything, she sees reminders of the children she should have. She says she feels stuck. I am not surprised and am afraid she will for the rest of her lifeif she doesn’t drop the ‘shoulds’. Been there, done that. Different subject, same should. I can tell her it’s a dead-end. Instead, I have learned to see my life as it is, to change the things I can change and accept those I cannot. I have learned that in some circumstances, my power lies in how I cope with them. I have learned that choosing a different perspective changes the way I feel about them. I have learned this choice is my birthright. I have chosen to count my blessings, become pregnant with hope and have given birth to happiness. With all my heart, I hope she will too.





If I had only one day left

17 09 2007

Trying to live each day as if it were your last, seems awfully tiring to me. Frustrating too. I mean, if I had only one day left, I certainly wouldn’t bother cleaning my house or paying the bills. Yet in order to live a balanced life, be happy, it is also necessary to those things you don’t like.
Although, I refuse to see this day as my last day, I live my life as if death were around the corner. This means I’m aware of my mortality, but it also leaves room for the future. It gives me focus. I try to enjoy every moment to the fullest and be grateful for everything I experience, so I will have lived a full life. I try to keep the end in mind and make choices that reflect my values, so I will have done what matters to me. I try to do my best and learn from my mistakes, so I will have no regrets.
And if this were my last day…? I would organise a goodbye party to celebrate my life, to tell everyone in person how they enriched my life and how thankful I am for their presence in my life. While writing, I realise I don’t do that enough. I make the decision that from today on, I will tell the people in my life how appreciative I am of them on a regular basis, so that when I die suddenly everyone will know for sure I have loved them. 





Last of the summer green

16 09 2007

 hydrangea paniculata

Enjoy a last splash of lush green. Delicately filtered light through thinning leafs.





Reality is superceded by our limited perceptions

15 09 2007

‘Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvres in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battlship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.
Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, “Light, bearing on the starboard bow.”
“Is it steady or moving astern?” the captain called out.
Lookout replied, “Steady, captain,” which meant we were on a collision course with that ship.
The captain then called to the signalman, “Signal that ship: We are on a collision course, advise you to change course 20 degrees.”
Back came a signal, “Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees.”
The captain said, “Send, I’m a captain, change course 20 degrees.”
“I’m a seaman second class,” came the reply. “You had better change course 20 degrees”
By that time, the captain was furious. He spat out, “Send, I’m a battleship. Change course 20 degrees.”
Back came the flashing light, “I’m a lighthouse.”
We changed course. ”

Frank Koch – Proceedings, the magazine of the Naval Institute
as cited in The 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey





Smiles instead of hairdos

14 09 2007

While I was riding my bike, I saw this woman walking behind a stroller. She smiled at me. She looked happy. I smiled back somewhat automatically, because all I could think of was her hairdo. So eighties!
As I had passed her it struck me that because I had been passing a judgement on her, I had not been able to reciprocate her kindness. This holier-than-thou attitude blocked my vision. I didn’t  see her as she really was, because I was focussed on what I thought she should be like. It blocked my empathy, as this experience was all about me. Being judgmental impedes humanity. From now on I’ll focus people’s forte. I’ll concentrate on  smiles instead of hairdos.





Breaking the spell

13 09 2007

This week, a friend came by my house unexpectedly. It was a mess. He walked through my living room a few times, sighing with relief. He was so happy my house could be a pigsty too. I felt horrible. As my friend was celebrating the mess in my living room, I was doing my utter best to convince him this was not normal. Everything would be normal within an hour, clean and tidy. Although he clearly felt more at ease with me now he knew I was only human, I was trying hard to uphold this image he had had of me. I was under the spell of perfection.

For most of my life, I’ve been under it’s magic charm. I was led to believe that if people got to know the real me, they would not love me. So I desperately tried to live up to this self-created picture perfect image. Up to the point where I could not separate myself from the image I had created. I was all tangled up. I had to learn I could not please every one, had to learn I did not want to live up to everyone’s expectations. The best I could do was doing my best at being me. In doing so, I somehow have broken the spell and slowly have got to be me again. But sometimes I stumble upon a part of me that is still living under that vicious spell called perfection. When I spot it, I look my demon in the eye and murmur my counter spell over and over again: perfection is boring, perfection is boring, perfection is boring, perfection is…





The time will come

12 09 2007

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott – from Collected Poems 1948-1984





What will it take for you to be happy?

11 09 2007

At this moment in her life, this was perfect for her, said a woman living in an apartment of 23 m2 (about 250 ft2) in the West-Village, NYC. Maybe one day she would love a penthouse with a roof terrace, but for the moment she wouldn’t want it any other way.  It raises a question: How much do you need to be happy? Do you really need that extra pair of shoes, that bigger house? How long before you would want more? Really, what would it take?  Imelda Marco’s shoes? Buckingham Palace?

This year, I’ve come to understand that if you’re not happy with where you are and what you have in this moment, all the shoes in the world or the largest house on earth will not make you happy. I repeat: will not make you happy! You will always be in search for more. Life will never be good enough.  Ask yourself: would you rather be happy now or in a year? Well, what are your waiting for? Choose to be happy right now. Love who you are. Be grateful for what your have. And enjoy what you do. Everything else will come naturally…





Declare war on self-terrorism

10 09 2007

As someone paid me a compliment on this weblog, I felt this deep kind of relief. Although, I loved what I was doing, sometimes was even amazed at what I had written, I had been anxious on some level. Deep inside, I apparently needed someone else to affirm my worth. Why do I still hunger someone else’s approval? Why can I not validate in my own feelings of worth? Why do I find it so hard to have confidence in me?  I blame it on my inner-critic, that mean little voice in the back of my head that always makes snide remarks. Over the years, she’s taken so much power, it doesn’t leave any room for inner-praise. Of course, I’m the main culprit here. I somehow tend to believe my inner-critic and be suspicious of inner-praise. But then I wondered: don’t we all?
Our inner-critic seems to be nothing more than the sum of negative voices we’ve been exposed to when growing up: criticizing comments of our parents, teachers and even of that bullying classmate. But I am not that kid anymore. I’ve grown up. I have learned criticism is rooted in fear.  So why do I still listen to that frightened little voice? Why do I give any credit to some out-dated coward?  Honest? I wouldn’t know.
In my life, I have no room for nagging friends or draining relationships. Life is too short. Why would I allow the most important relationship I have (with myself) to be ruined by such a tyrant. I won’t. Anymore. Today, I’ve declared war on self-terrorism. I have given my inner-terrorist an ultimatum: Either she is with me or against me. Friend or foe. If she’ll keep terrorising me, I’ll hunt her down and smoke her out.





Let the dawn dawn upon you

9 09 2007

rietkraag

Feast your eyes on the diffusing light, smell the moist green air, feel the tingling of the tiniest waterdrops on your skin.





I Recognize That I Give Life Meaning

8 09 2007

It’s up to me to give life meaning – I don’t expect others to give it meaning for me. I create my own reality.

Deepak Chopra – Success Cards





The sun can shine as bright as it did back then

7 09 2007

I was this investigative, independent toddler, the happiest kid you can imagine. I can still vividly remember playing in the sand pit making mud pies, riding my bike, walking to school. In those memories colours are bright and it seems as if the sun is always shining, even on rainy days, as they too were special. At the age of 6, we moved from one side of the country to the other. I was eager with anticipation, but no one had prepared me for the changes life was about to bring. As the new school year started, I literally felt dislocated. All of a sudden, I deeply missed my former life. I did not learn how to cope well. I had a hard time making new friends. My self-esteem and everything else went spiralling down.

It took me more than 20 years to realize the sun could shine as bright again as it did in my memories, that I could be happy again, that I could be me again. I had been reliving on a daily basis what had happened to me between age 7 and 11. I learned that I didn’t have the right coping skills back than. As sad as it was, I couldn’t change that. What I could change, however, was the way I coped with my past in the present. This was a turning point in my life.

Everyone responds differently to life’s challenges. Some have learned to cope better than others. But every day offers new opportunities to sharpen those skills, to see the bright side of life, to be happy, to be you.





This is… whose mind… IT IS!

6 09 2007

Yesterday, I cleared up my inner basement. It was a dump. I couldn’t even move around.  Without realizing, I had held on to a lot of beliefs I just didn’t need any more. I keep yearly spring cleanings, so I was under the impression my mind was not too cluttered. But in stead of tossing old beliefs, I had apparently been storing them in the basement, because I found heaps and heaps of them. Newer beliefs on top of older ones. I couldn’t belief I had been holding on to so much broken records. What had I been thinking?!
So, I lined up everything I found on the driveway. I walked by all these beliefs, looked at each belief and decided in a split second if it was still useful or not. I guess about 95% went to the local dump. The other 5% I organized neatly on some shelves.
All mess is distracting. A cluttered mind as much as a cluttered house. Energy can’t flow freely there. You may say: what you can’t see, isn’t there. But you know, the point is: you know it’s there! You may say:  it doesn’t bother me. Then I’ll say: O yes it does, you just don’t know it, because you have never consciously lived a clutter free life. Clutter holds you back. So, just clear up one area of your mind and you’ll be amazed at the how good it feels to move freely through your thoughts, to clearly see what you’re thinking and to simply enjoy being there. You decide who’s in charge: some bunch of old beliefs and habits or YOU. It’s your mind, you claim it!





Laziness is in the eye of the beholder

5 09 2007

Yesterday, I had a great day. I did some research for this website, took some photographs, read a book for a while and took my daughter for a walk in the sun. In addition, I folded the laundry, reorganized the bathroom, cooked, cleaned the kitchen, and took care of my nine month old girl, but I didn’t do enough. Or so I felt, because I didn’t clean the bathroom or clear the basement. As I said, I had a great day, except for those feelings of guilt, hanging over me like dark clouds. And somehow, they managed to cloud my whole day.
Why do my days have to be packed with activities I don’t like? Even as I am writing these words, I’m feeling the urge to add some things to make you believe I actually had a very busy day. Why am I afraid people might think I’m lazy? Why do I have such difficulty accepting that part of me would like nothing better than curl up in the corner of the couch and read a book all day or take my little girl for long strolls in the autumn sun.
My so called laziness allows me to engage in activities that are close to my heart, like painting, writing, singing, photographing and playing with my little girl. I should know better than to feel guilt when enjoying life. I guess laziness is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe the real question is why I see the activities I love as mere pastime, not real activities. So today, I’ll  be clearing the basement.  My inner basement.





Touched by an angel

4 09 2007

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

Maya Angelou





A house is a house is a house

3 09 2007

On the news, I saw a man who was $14.000 in debt. Due to the  increasing interest, his monthly mortgage costs had increased by $700. Yet, he was very reluctant about selling his house. He didn’t want to go back, he said. Back to what, I wondered. Why was he holding on to a house he so obviously couldn’t afford? It was clear that this was about more than just a house. What was he afraid of losing if he sold that house? It seemed as if his self-esteem was linked to this structure of wood. He was even willing to get more indebted to hold on to this false sense of security. 

How about you? Have you built your self-esteem on fleeting things like success, good looks, health or even a house. How far would you go to keep the picture perfect? How would you feel about yourself if you lost your ‘house’?

I have learned that true self-esteem comes from self-love. Ask yourself: which parts of yourself do you need to accept, before you can love yourself? Why can’t you simply accept these parts and what will it take for you to accept them? Work through the answers. Have patience and most of all: have compassion on yourself. Then one day, when you’ll lose your ‘house’, you’ll be able to stand tall, accept the challenge and move forward.  Then you’ll know that a house is a house is just a house.





Autumn is coming

2 09 2007

blog-070902-hydrangeas.jpgblog-070902-hydrangeas.jpg

Nature is preparing for the finale. One last burst of colour before she takes a well deserved rest. 





Give yourself a break

1 09 2007

Are you living your life in the fast lane? To busy to smell the roses?  Give yourself a break. How about just 15 minutes a day, to begin with… Switch of your cell, laptop, i-pod, kids, anything that might distract you. Treat yourself to some peace and quiet. Forget about all the things that need to be done. Just be, daydream a little, stare outside, count your heartbeat, follow your breath. Practice doing nothing. This might feel somewhat uncomfortable at the beginning, as you are addicted to the rush, but give it a try. Set yourself the goal to sit still 15 minutes a day for the next 21 days. That’s the time it takes to instil a new habit. Try it and see how your perspective on life changes, getting clearer every day. You’ll love it!