Winter Spring Summer or Fall, all you have to do is call…

I know that if there is God, he/she lives right inside of me…my good thoughts & my kindness, how deeply & fully & faithfully I love, my compassion and my empathy for those less fortunate than I…if there is God, I don’t need to look in books or go to a building where somebody tells me I should be if I want God to know about me.  “There’s only one commandment, don’t be an asshole” is a quote I have loved for years, and I think it’s true…if there is God, God knows that I am not a jerk, it really is that simple, to me.

I have become somebody I love again.  I have become my own best cheerleader again.  She never left me, our friendship never fizzled out, she just was a bit too quiet for too long for my own good, she’s back to being LOUD again and I like her better when she turns it up…my discovery, my awakening I guess is that I let other people’s judgments and thoughts and fears and criticisms infect me, to the point that all the mean and negative things that were swirling around in my mind, kind of, well no, they totally shut out all the wonderful and positive and loving…and I learned that when you let other people’s worries and upsets and beliefs become YOURS, you hurt yourself and only yourself, they don’t care that you now feel upset and worried and question what you thought you believed…it’s like gonorrhea, somebody gives it to you and then they walk away and now you are left with the misery or trying to cure it!  When the fears of other people make you question yourself, and diminish your very happiness, your contentedness with yourself, that’s a problem.  I understand now better than ever, that entire religions keep their shee-ople in line doing just this…fear and worry.  Well, it’s not for me.

Carole King and James Taylor, oh…just thinking of them singing makes me sigh with a deeply loving and contentedness feeling…can’t you just FEEL comforted, reading these words, winter spring summer or fall, all you have to do is call…you can’t help but sing them in your mind…and you know what?  It’s true.  You’ve got a friend.  All you have to do is call.  No matter where, what, when, or how.  When you are down and when you need a helping hand and when you feel like nothing is going right…she is right in-between your ears ♥  If you need a friend right now, and can’t quite get your thoughts in line, here they are…from 1971, celebrating Carole’s amazing song writing and feel better-ing abilities.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHhjKQ8L_iU  This video from YouTube is one of my favorites as it starts in 1971 and finishes up 40 years later, which is a wonderful REMINDER that you have a friend for your WHOLE LIFE!!!  It’s with you forever.  Like Glinda tells Dorothy, “you’ve always had the power my dear.”

I listened a lot to what I call my *singing ladies* mix over the winter.  A mix of songs that, while not energizing or good energy-pumping for heavy or intense work or cleaning, make me feel good from the inside out…Carole King, Cat Power, Aimee Mann, Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith…those are just a few, but they sing and wrote songs that if you listen to them often enough, you begin to feel like they were written with you in mind.  Lyrics that swirl around in your head become a constant companion, so much better than nasty judgmental words that somebody said to you that hurt your feelings, or vicious criticism that you read from an email somebody sent you…You learn to let go of all that shit when you finally realize that God, or the power, or the friend that you most need, is right inside of you all the time.  What a way to get rid of the dull and dreary winter thoughts, spring…hope, growth, bright warmth, awakening…

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It’s so easy

Linda Ronstadt sang it so simply, It’s so easy to fall in love…I don’t care if it’s with the sound of rain on your roof, I don’t care if it’s with the smell of your freshly bathed baby, I don’t care if it’s with the feel of your fuzziest blanket on your feet on your sofa on a chilly winter night, I don’t care if it’s with the taste of the most perfect peach of your summer, I don’t care if it’s with the sight of a freshly bloomed gardenia bud on the bush outside your window…Just fall in love with something good, LOVE something, as many somethings as you possibly can, a whole lot.

Some people might think I’m ridiculous and silly, the way I am so crazy in love with my exquisite black walnut floors, or how I am so crazy in love with the tidy results of skillfully folding my sheets and towels, the way I am so crazy in love with my granddaughters when they say or write something brilliant or clever, and the sounds of their laughter, or how I am so crazy in love with the way I breathe so deeply and fill my lungs so thoroughly when I am standing at the edge of the ocean and tasting that salty gritty overspray on my lips the first time I go up to the beach after a long dull dreary winter…In my life I’ve loved them all.  AND, if I had to, I could name a dozen more, or think of a hundred more…I am fully absorbed in the act of being glad for what is good and noticing and appreciating all the things I love, and if you are feeling like there is still something lacking in your life, something amiss in how you feel in this body on earth at this time, maybe, just maybe, STEP 21 is for you.

 

step21I think STEP 21 is a nice way to end this project.  I don’t know for sure if this is good for everybody but I do know for sure it’s good for me.  I can think, just off the top of my head, of SO MANY things I love, and the more I add to my love column every day, the less noticeable my dislike column becomes and the better I feel.

I know people who are happy on the outside and smile widely, and put on a great show of ‘everything’s fine’  but are deeply sad on the inside.  I know people for whom nothing in their life is the way they hoped it was going to be.  I know people who have reinvented themselves and recreated themselves and have been reborn in every way imaginable.  I know people who have had very hard times and splendidly super times.  I know people who lead seemingly satisfying lives, who in truth are not all that satisfied with much of anything.

Much like you dear reader, I have been very happy and also very sad in my days on this planet, but more than anything else, I have tried to be a good human and hope that you have as well.  There are some people I know who will never ever think outside of their tiny boxes, and there are some people I know who have awakened in a way that is so bold and big and beautiful that they can’t imagine ever going back to who they once were.  We are all so different, but I do believe that one thing we have in common is a want to love and be loved.

Some have had little success in the romantic love department and some have hit the jackpot.  I know some women who love shoes and dogs and some men who love cars and golf, but who have not found any success or satisfaction in romance.  I know some people who have had great success in the romance arena but little success in any other part of their lives.  I know people who find love in the four-legged-tail-wagging creatures who greet them at the door every evening after work, and I know people who find love in their kitchen cupboards and drawers and at their stove while they cook and create feasts.  I know people who find love in the ebony and ivory keys at their piano, and I know people who find love in the strings of a guitar.  I know people who find love in the soil and earth and air and water, and I know people who find love in their new 60 inch Samsung.

I know a lot of people who have been through a lot of different experiences and I found that we are all so unique in how we get through this thing called life.  I have found this 21 STEP program very useful.  Some of you might think it was a big waste of time to read these 21 ideas to a better life, but for me it was pretty awesome to force myself to think about things in a different way.  Some of my friends were going through some difficult situations over these last few months and I felt inspired to write about ways that we can all change for the better.  This is the end.  Not of RStar’s Common Grounds but the end of our 21 STEP program.  Was it helpful?  Did you find any value at all in reading any of the words I wrote over these weeks?  If not, sorry you wasted your time.  If so, stick around, I am not going to stop writing any time soon…

The other day my daughter and I were talking outside in our shared driveway, and she told me something I wrote to her in her card from her high school graduation that she’s never forgotten, “I wouldn’t trade our worst days for a life without you in it” and I thought when she said this, wow, that’s some good stuff…but more than that, I thought, well, maybe this is what makes life so beautiful.  Love.  No matter what kind of life it is, and no matter what kind of love it is.  Sure, romantic love with great sex and great kissing and candle lit dinners and travel has got to be fabulous, but honestly so is discovering that scarlet bee balm looks fabulous in your garden behind the lavender, or that it turns out you really enjoy golf, or spin classes, or working at the food pantry once a week, or volunteering with the ladies auxiliary at the local fire company, or…or…or…there is SO MUCH that is wonderful in life, we just have to be able to love it.  It’s so easy.

 

You’ve Got a Friend

I have tried during this process of STEPS to be less self-absorbed and less first-person narrative than usual, and have tried to write in a way that was open and “user-friendly” for all who cared to read.  Less me-me-me, I-I-I, and more us & we,  but we are near the end of this series, so this morning I am thinking about myself…STEP 20 is, of all the steps, the one that has most profoundly turned me right-side up.  I had felt for too long like I was drowning, but I realized during this 21 STEP program that it was because I was holding my own head under the water, trying to float with cinder blocks knotted to my ankles, trying to tread water with my hands tied behind my back…when all I had to do was turn my head and I could breathe…STEP 20 has made me change the way I see everything, and I will try to do it for the rest of my life, &  if you are feeling like you are drowning or that you’ve fallen and you can’t get up, or that you just can’t go on one more day with the way things are, here is my advice to you… STEP 20

step20I had let the one difficult situation of my life take up all the spare thoughts in my head, for months on end.  I had allowed the negative thoughts about the one thing in my life that has not been going so well, to bully the positive thoughts about all the wonderful things that go very well day after day.  I had let the voices in my head who say the mean things, be so much louder than the voices who remind me of the nice things.  I was booing at myself from the stands instead of being a cheerleader.  I was short-tempered about everything and irritable towards everyone.  My fuse was short and my eyes had lost their sparkle.  I KNEW it was happening, I could feel it, I could see it in the mirror, but I just could not, no matter how many books I read, figure out how to stop, HOW to stop doing it to myself.   I have so many girlfriends who I really like and I really enjoy and I was canceling plans and not responding to invitations…I was isolating myself and comforting myself and I had become somebody I didn’t really like, and I discovered that when we let that happen, nobody else really likes us either.

To be clear I had indeed known for some time that I was feeling so negative and so unlike myself, I’d talked to friends who used meditation, I’d talked to friends who used medication, I’d talked to friends who used exercise, I’d talked to so many friends about what they do to “fix” the cracked bits of their lives,  but it took the little blonde haired wonder who lives next door to me to help me glue the broken parts back together… She had one of those cheap plastic $.99 cent cups in her hands, it was pink with Rapunzel on it, and she was sitting at my breakfast bar and she squeezed the Rapunzel cup from the bottom and held it on its side so the open part was facing me, and said to me, “Nana I am tired of seeing this face” and the plastic cup was squeezed into a frown, and she then grinned and pushed the cup down from the top, and said, “I like this face better” and the plastic cup was smiling…it hit me, WAY harder than one would think possible…I went into my bedroom and I cried…not a heaving sobbing just finished watching Terms of Endearment or Steel Magnolias cry, but there were tears and nose blowing.  I cried for two reasons; one that this little granddaughter who I love so much recognized something in me I was failing to address, and two, that I have a really wonderful life and had let the one thing that is a bummer and has absolutely been difficult and been a drag, weigh down all the other parts of my life that are fabulous…she, with those squeezes to the center of a plastic cup, made me see so clearly.

I felt a bit like a switch just turned right off.  It was my own thoughts making me so miserable, it was my own thoughts making me so irritable and negative, it was my own thoughts that were making me smile so much less than I was frowning…WHO would want to be around this kind of person??!!

With two squeezes of a plastic cup, the little blonde wonder next door revived me so completely, so lovingly and so honestly, and I became fully aware & totally awakened that it is ONLY me who can change the way I see myself, my life, and my world.  Nothing of what was “wrong” in my life can be fixed immediately.  Nothing of what was wrong in my life can be fixed today either, and it won’t be repaired or resolved or remedied fully before the end of the summer, but it has been addressed and I am taking deliberate steps to change it.  I do not have the magical skills of Samantha Stephens to wiggle my nose and fix anything; I do however have the skills of a woman who knows to focus on the positive, not dwell on the negative, who knows that with patience and deliberate actions she can change anything that she wants to change, and who acts like the friend she’d want to have…

Whatever…

When my daughter was a teenager, I used to hate, HATE, absolutely loathe when she would respond to my statement, any statement,  with the word  “whatever.”  I hated it most when accompanied by an eye roll, or an exasperated sigh, or a door slam or a stomp down the hallway that ended with a door slam.  To me, back then, s0 many years ago, it was the equivalent of her pretty much saying to me, f* you, nothing you say matters, at all, and I disregard your view, totally.”  …but,  she was for the most part a very good teenager and I would seldom let the “whatever” lead to any kind of turmoil or tumult.  I often would remind myself that I had raised a girl into a woman who thought for herself and had her own opinions and views, and for me that was a very big deal, and so I let her self-expression be what it was…this does not however imply, at all, that the agitated “whatever” response was something I liked, but I did tolerate it.  During this exploration of STEPS, and thoughts about changing and evolving, I have read many books, that some might surely dismiss as self-help jibber-jabber, but others would describe them as thought-provoking and insightful and stimulating.  One of the books I read was called F**K It.  No, really, that is the title.  It’s called “F**K it.  The Ultimate Spiritual Way” and I bought it and I loved it.  I learned a little, but mostly the author expressed views that I feel like I already knew, felt, or believed, but he put them in an order that was refreshing, and his words helped me see, my daughter had been onto something back then… It was such perfect timing too that when I finished the book I was at this point, STEP 19.  Some of you might enjoy STEP 19 very much if you are tired… Tired of having to edit yourself.  Tired of having to make others comfortable or happy or content.  Tired of feeling like you have to accept truths that are not yours, some other view that feels off.  Tired of having to do what you are “supposed” to do and not want you want to do.  Tired of fitting in.  Tired of making choices that benefit others more than yourself.  Tired of worry about how others feel, and not giving enough time or thought to how YOU feel.  Tired of the status quo.  Tired of the way things are…Tired.

step19If this seems crass or coarse, sorry, but it’s pretty powerful, this STEP 19.  I think it takes a lot of bravery really to get to this point…to be able to be comfortable with yourself; what you believe, how you live your lifestyle, the choices you makes, the mistakes you stumble over, the achievements you make and the failures, EVERYthing that IS you…to own it and no longer worry or fret or wonder or apologize over what other people think about you, your beliefs, your lifestyle, your choices, your mistakes, your achievements and failures.  We did after all read in The Four Agreements that what other people think about you is none of your business…what a powerful agreement to live by.  I’ve learned that you have to find your own tribe…I read that once, “your vibe finds your tribe” and it’s true.

In Oprah magazine recently, I read an essay where a woman wrote, “No, you don’t want to compare, because comparing is the death of happiness.”  It’s not easy, full acceptance of your errors and your misses can be difficult, though also it means, in the Yin-Yang of life, FULL acceptance of your goodness too, every single one of the things that makes you a good person.  Accepting the bad, that is not an easy pill to swallow, ever, but I am at an age where I now value the importance and significance of it all, and accept that my teenage daughter was onto something.  STEP 19 expresses  TRYING, trying so very hard to NOT compare at all, in a world where comparison is so fully in our faces every day, and just be present, and just to accept what is…it’s a path to being totally comfortable with yourself, which I guess in some ways is the only value of the steps at all…acceptance and moving on…

We ALL have had misses with our hits, we ALL have had bad times among our good, we ALL have made some awesome choices and some really dumb ones, and those who have been just perfect all along, or seem to think they are better than the rest of us who have tripped up, well good for them.  Really, I truly and sincerely mean this, good for you…but for those of us who have had some low times or have a regret or two, well, own it.  Accept it and  get on with your life.  ‘Stop stumbling over what is behind you.’  For me, being a good person, loving fully and truly, being somebody people find honest and dependable, being a good friend and a better Nana, finding something beautiful to notice every day in nature, making somebody smile, feeding people I love, keeping my little piece of the universe tidy the way I like it, is being the best human I can be in a world where there are many humans who are not very good…and this is what matters.  This is what the book “F**K It” meant to me…the ultimate spiritual guide guided me towards thoughts I already had…be a good human and you don’t have to apologize.  The worry over what other people think, what other people have, what other people might have done differently…oh good grief!!!  who really cares??!!  Think the word, “Whatever” and roll your eyes if it feels good, say the word “whatever” and slam a door, whatever you have to do or think or say or believe so that you feel right in your skin, your life, your lifestyle…so that what other people think or say or do does NOT bother you in any way, does NOT strive to mold you into something you aren’t, does NOT aim to conform you to ideas that don’t feel like they fit…whatever