Red flags

Don't be afraid of storms_edited-1How many times have you purposely ignored a “red flag”? In hindsight, you realize that you knew at the time that it was a bad idea, a foolish choice, a waste of money, a potentially dangerous situation, a heartache in the making but, you went ahead with it anyway. Later, you smack yourself in the forehead and say “What was I thinking?” You were thinking but you weren’t doing what I refer to as “right thinking”. Right thinking comes from knowing, respecting and trusting yourself. It comes from having standards of personal behavior and ethics that you live by and an inner compass that you follow, even when no one is watching. Right thinking is about protecting yourself from situations that can harm you. Most of us were fortunate enough to have parents who tried to teach right thinking to us but, many chose not to follow their example and advice and insisted on learning everything the hard way. I’m in that camp. Can I see a show of hands?

A red flag is just another way of saying you feel fear about something. I read a very good book about the value of fear called “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker. The main focus of the book is to provide information about how to avoid becoming a victim of violence but I especially liked the author’s respect for and validation of intuition, also known as gut instinct, because I have been guilty of ignoring or underestimating my own intuition too many times. That book caused me to think about my own gut instinct and the situations in which I ignored it. For example, I can remember waiting alone for an elevator in a high-rise hotel late one night and, when the door opened, the only person in there was a scary looking man. For a split second I hesitated but then pushed away whatever my instinct was trying to tell me and got on the elevator. Fortunately, nothing happened but the reason I got on the elevator instead of respecting my instinct was a stupid one – I didn’t want to offend the man, who happened to be dark-skinned. Women are especially prone to ignoring their intuition for fear of looking foolish or offending anyone.

I’m not thinking exclusively about potentially violent situations but, the fact that any and all situations that have the potential to be harmful to us usually prompt red flags to pop up and it is our reaction to them that is important. I’m proposing the idea that we almost always know when something doesn’t feel right but, for any number of reasons, we choose to ignore those feelings. Have you ever had the experience of being able to actually remember red flags you were ignoring to the point of almost being unaware of them at the time? That is a great example of not honoring and trusting your higher self. The bride-to-be who keeps getting the feeling more and more often as the wedding date gets closer that she is making a mistake but, the banquet hall has been reserved and the invitations were sent and she doesn’t want to look “foolish” so she chalks it up to jitters and gets married. How about the man on a first date with a woman he thought was his “dream girl” who ignores red flags about how much she is drinking and the disturbing information she is revealing about herself because he desperately needs for his dream to be true, damn the reality in front of him? I’m sure you can think of dozens of examples, as can I. In fact, I recently went through a situation in which red flags went up regarding a new acquaintance and, although it may be of minor importance in the big picture, it was significant to me and I chose to have no further interactions with her.

After too many years of ignoring red flags I have finally learned to pay attention, even when they are just protecting me from involvement with negative people. Looking back, I see now that I was too often so concerned with being fair and non-judgmental – or at least appearing that way – that I neglected my own welfare. I have become almost militant about safe guarding what is important to me such as my integrity, happiness, close relationships, and the overall quality of my life. Compromise and flexibility are necessary in order to function in the world but you should never compromise on anything that damages your integrity and you should never ignore your intuition because that is a gift from God and is what connects you to your true nature. Gavin de Becker says “Denial is the enemy of safety” and I think that can be applied to any situation that has the potential to hurt you whether it be physically, emotionally, or financially. Be bullish – let those red flags grab your attention!

Stella obeys her red flag and stays AWAY from the ocean!

Stella obeys her red flag and stays AWAY from the ocean!

Don’t forget to say a prayer today for the men and women currently serving in our military and for our veterans.

 

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Re-vision

Email is greatWhen you break down the word “re-vision” it tells you in no uncertain terms to take another look. Writers are all too familiar with the word revision but I think we all have times when it would be helpful to take another look at whatever situation we’re dealing with or thought pattern we seem to be stuck in or even our life in general – and try to see through new eyes.

 I like the idea of seeing through new eyes. I can remember the fun of  seeing things through my son’s eyes when he was a baby and everything was strange and new to him. Sometimes I find myself doing that with Stella – what does this look like to a dog? We are all guilty of becoming so blind to our normal surroundings that sometimes we don’t even notice when there is something different right in front of us. We get so caught up in ourselves that we don’t notice when someone close to us is in trouble. We don’t take time to pay attention to the small details that change the big picture. The artist, Georgia O’Keefe, was famous for her giant close up paintings of flowers. She thought that most people don’t take time to notice the beautiful details of flowers because they are so small and she wanted to draw their attention in. She certainly forced us to into a re-vision of the way we see flowers.

If you’re struggling with a problem, try changing your perspective for a while – I don’t just mean that figuratively, although consciously changing your mental perspective is important, but also literally change what you see. When I’m working on an illustration and something isn’t quite right I have a habit of turning it upside down or holding it backwards toward the light. This little trick changes the way I’m viewing the drawing and usually helps my eyes to see where my proportion or perspective is off. It changes the way my brain is working. When I’m feeling down or my thoughts seem to be stuck in a negative rut I change my surroundings by going to a park or the beach. Even just going out to the screened porch for a while can help me to “see” things differently. If you can do it, there is nothing like getting away for a few days to change your perspective. The important thing is to find a way to pull yourself out of the rut so you can see things in a different way.

Several years ago I began cultivating a conscious attitude of gratitude and I have noticed that it has made me much more aware of my surroundings and the things that give me pleasure. Living in an attitude of gratitude is an important step in re-visioning. When you take a few moments each day to silently think of all the blessings in your life, the people and things for which you are thankful, you actually see them more clearly. This might take some time and practice (it did for me, anyway) especially if you’re going through a difficult passage in your life. There were plenty of times when I either forgot to take the time to cultivate gratitude or it felt like a struggle to think of things for which I was thankful. For a long time I kept a gratitude journal and I have encouraged many other people to do the same because of the positive results I experienced. If age has one benefit it is the gift of perspective, because the more experiences you go through the more you understand that all things really do pass and problems that seemed like mountains at the time become mole hills when viewed over your shoulder.

 I believe so strongly in the idea that changing the way you look at things changes the things you look at – both figuratively and literally. So, while you’re taking a fresh look at things, don’t forget to re-vision yourself and be sure you don’t do it through anyone’s  eyes but your own – how you view yourself affects every action you take. Recently I read in a book “Is this an act of self-love or an act of self-sabotage?” and it struck me as something so simple and yet something that has often been so difficult for me to recognize. I think if you are honest when you answer that question it will lead you to a deeper understanding of what motivates you, a feeling of peace about the decisions you make and, ultimately to self-love.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

                                                ~Marcel Proust

Stella does some "re-visioning" in the park

Stella does some “re-visioning” in the park