Obstacles

Don't be afraid of storms_edited-1For quite awhile I’ve been mulling over the concept that obstacles are placed in our path for a reason. It could be to slow us down so that we are forced to take more time to think or it could be to teach us a difficult lesson or to know ourselves better. Maybe we are just supposed to find a different approach. I see God’s hand in this but, you don’t have to believe in God to understand what I’m getting at.

The first obstacles are placed in front of us by our parents. We want to do something or go somewhere and we are told we can’t. Kids react in different ways to restrictions imposed by their parents. Some have temper tantrums, some become argumentative, others sulk or cry. Eventually, most kids learn that certain behaviors can win favor and others cause more restrictions to be heaped on them. In general, most kids eventually understand the reasons for the obstacles their parents have constructed. They want us to be safe, to learn self-control, responsibility, and that our actions have consequences.

When we become independent adults the obstacles we confront are no longer placed there by our parents but are we able to stand back and see them as “teaching moments”? Speaking for myself, the answer to that is no. In fact, it is only very recently that I started seeing things in a different light and realized that some obstacles that frustrated me in the past ended up actually helping me. Maybe if you strongly desire something and, no matter what you do, you just can’t achieve or obtain it you should stop pushing and take some time to analyze the situation. Maybe what you’re working so hard at is actually not the right path for you and that is why you keep failing.

I can apply this concept to several times in my life when I railed against what I perceived as an obstacle. For example, on two occasions I believed that a relationship with a particular man was what I needed. In hindsight I can clearly see that marriage to either of those men would have been disastrous for me so now I’m grateful for the obstacles that prevented that from happening. At the time I was frustrated and broken-hearted but, in reality, I wasn’t ready to be a partner in a healthy, stable relationship and neither were the men to whom I was attracted. The disappointment I experienced from those failed relationships led me on a journey of self-discovery that helped me to become a stronger more centered person. Those obstacles ended up teaching me a lot but I couldn’t see that when I was going through it.

Another example: a few years ago I was very restless and I wanted to move but two big obstacles were in my way. First, my mother didn’t want to move and I wouldn’t leave her alone and second, the housing market tanked and I couldn’t sell my house without losing a lot of money. Considering how restless I felt at the time, I probably would have sold the house despite losing money if I had been willing to leave my mother. It would have been an impulsive, poorly thought out decision. I was frustrated by my inability to move and often felt trapped, which led to periodic bouts of depression. Once again, I was pushing against the obstacles instead of trying to understand why they were placed in my way. Fast forward about six years and I now see that those obstacles prevented me from hurting myself financially – not a smart thing to do in your late 50’s! I wanted to retire at 60 so I had to face the fact that any impulsive moves would ruin that dream. Once I retired I also gave up on trying to convince my mother to move because I could see it would make her unhappy. I admit, sometimes I resented having to give up on an idea that seemed so important to me at the time but now I’m glad for the obstacles that prevented me from moving because I can appreciate the value of having a home which I can comfortably afford on my retirement income. Also, if I had been able to move when I wanted to I’m sure I would still be working! I could cite many more examples but I think you get the idea.

I was hesitant to write about what I have learned from obstacles in my life because I recently started volunteering for Haven Hospice doing pet therapy visits with my dog, Liberty, and the experience has shown me that the obstacles I have dealt with so far are nothing compared to what so many people are facing and what I may also have to face someday. Would I still be able to think there is something to learn from an obstacle if I was confined to a bed or a wheelchair? What if the “obstacle” is that I had lost all my independence and everything that was important to me and I only had a few months to live? I don’t know. I was afraid that it might sound like self-indulgent clap trap to write about learning from obstacles but I decided that I wanted to share these thoughts because, in the end, they may have value to someone who is currently facing an obstacle.

I know now that I have learned from the obstacles in my life to be more grateful for my blessings, more appreciative of my surroundings and more thoughtful in my decisions. I have learned from obstacles that so much of the quality of my life is dependent on the way I think and react. Maybe those are the lessons that will serve me best in facing whatever obstacles, large or small, I will confront in the future.

I’m convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.   ~Charles R. Swindoll

the appropriate bandana for a dog named Liberty

the appropriate bandana for a dog named Liberty

for more of my artwork and books visit www.LyndaLinke.com

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Attitude of Gratitude

A Prayer for YouRecently I read a saying that has stuck with me: “What if you woke up tomorrow with only what you thanked God for today?” I like that saying so much that I plan to use it in a future greeting card and add it to my online shop at Lynda Linke Productions. I think a lot about thankfulness, in fact, every morning as I’m walking my dog, Liberty, I thank God for all the blessings in my life – ever since reading that saying I make sure to include everything I wouldn’t want to wake up without tomorrow! I spent a lot of years wanting, wanting, wanting  and not fully appreciating what I already had but when I began to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” I gradually became more content.

One of the things I thank God for every morning are the people I love and who love me.  Heaven knows, I’m not always easy to love! Today I went to my friend Rena’s house – it’s my birthday next week and she wanted to make me a special lunch.  She outdid herself with not only delicious food but, also, a lovely table setting fashioned in her own unique style. She invited another friend because she thought we would like each other, which we did, and the three of us enjoyed good conversation and laughs. Rena is a cat lover (she has four!) but she invited Liberty to go with me to her house a few weeks ago and declared that she is a “nice doggie”. She behaved herself and was invited to come back with me today.  This is just one example of Rena’s generous spirit – she knows how much I like to have Liberty with me so she invites her out of friendship and kindness to me.  Thankfully, Liberty was a good girl again and only had one small mishap when she fell in the pool – apparently the cover looked like something to be walked on!

Thanksgiving is coming up next week – I love the idea of a national day of thankfulness. I just hope people remember it isn’t only about stuffing your face, drinking too much and watching football.  Days of thanksgiving have been associated with the harvest since ancient times but the origins of our holiday stem from the story of a feast of thanksgiving shared by a small group of Pilgrims and their Wampanoag neighbors in 1621. There were very few details about this feast but the story was passed down through the generations and struck a chord in our hearts – as a people we embraced the idea of thankfulness.  In 1777 the Continental Congress proclaimed the first national day of thanksgiving and in 1863 Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November that year as a day of thanksgiving but it didn’t become an official fixed annual holiday until 1941 when Congress proclaimed Thanksgiving to be observed on the fourth Thursday of November.  Originally, it was a somber day of prayer but, gradually it became known as a day of feasting and festivities shared with family and friends.

My own Thanksgiving celebration has gone from the big family gatherings of my childhood to my small immediate family to just me and my Mom. Since my Dad passed away we like to get away for the week and enjoy a quiet dinner together. Several years ago, when my Dad was still with us, I started the tradition of each of us saying what we were thankful for and Mom and I have continued that. However you will be spending Thanksgiving, no matter how large or small your gathering, don’t forget to take a minute to be thankful for all your blessings. That small humbling act will make you feel really good. Then go eat!

PS/Don’t forget to kiss the cook (s)  🙂

 

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

 

 

Merry Christmas-Decorating the tree

CHECK OUT ALL MY NEW CHRISTMAS CARD DESIGNS AT LYNDA LINKE PRODUCTIONS!

 

 

When I’m 64

This is my November birthday card and, in many ways, it reflects the "essence" of me.

This is my November birthday card and, in many ways, it reflects the “essence” of me.

When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now …
Will you still be sending me a Valentine, birthday greetings, bottle of wine?

In November I will be celebrating my 64th birthday. 47 years ago The Beatles released a catchy little song (with tongue-in-cheek but, slightly condescending lyrics) titled “When I’m 64”. I turned 17 that year and, in the way of almost all young people, being 64 not only seemed very old to me but, also very far away in the distant future. I’m amazed at how fast I got here!

Several years ago I experienced a revelation about aging and it is that no matter how much the aging process changes your physical appearance, you are still the same person on the inside that you always were (as long as you have your mental faculties!). You might be thinking this is obvious but it wasn’t to me because I was guilty of thinking “old” people were somehow intrinsically different than me just by virtue of their age and appearance but then, as my own body and face began to change with age, I realized the falsehood in that. Yes, of course, we learn and grow in many ways as we travel through life but our essence, what some call our soul, is never changed. The truth is, unless I see my reflection in a mirror or window, I completely forget about my chronological age and, in my thoughts and feelings, I still feel like a much younger woman. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I feel “ageless”. Now when I look into the eyes of an elderly person I have a sense of their ageless self looking out at me. (This is hard to put into words so I hope you understand what I’m trying to say)

There are physical things about aging that I don’t like – and probably never will! – but, through aging, I have learned to better appreciate the mind and personality that has always existed at my core. As a younger woman I was very critical of myself and placed too much emphasis on my appearance but, as an older woman, I have learned to appreciate the longer lasting gifts of my intelligence, creativity, kindness and sense of humor. A lot of young women waste too much energy (and time and money!) on their physical appearance – and are still rarely satisfied with the way they look. They compare themselves to models, actresses, music stars – really anyone who is any type of celebrity – and they think they’re not as ________ (fill in the blank). They need to be reminded that the photos are airbrushed and the celebrities to whom they compare themselves have personal trainers, stylists, nutritionists, chefs and plenty of money for cosmetic surgery! In other words, it’s not reality! Magazines that target a young female demographic are loaded with articles about improving and/or enhancing your physical appearance, presumably to attract a man and then, once you’ve got him, how to please him so he’ll stay with you. It is a challenging task to overcome so much powerful propaganda but, it is up to us “older ” women to remind the younger women in our lives of what is truly valuable and beautiful about them and to show them, by example, how to age gracefully.

We can tell them it is important to take care of your body by feeding it a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight, giving it exercise and rest but, beyond that, it is more important to simply love and respect it for the amazing machine that it is. If you are blessed with a strong, healthy body in which to house your soul then you are very fortunate but, remember, that’s all it is – a place for your soul to temporarily abide – and it will change, either over time through aging, or as a result of illness or injury. That is the message I’d love to give women – young or old – take care of and appreciate your body but don’t forget to nurture your soul because that is what lives forever.

 

There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you tap this source, you will have truly defeated age.                                          ~Sophia Loren

 

Liberty in her bed

 

See more of my greeting cards at www.lyndalinke.com

PS/This is my 64th post! I now have 67 followers and the blog has had 1,188 views since it’s creation in August 2013 – thank you to everyone who has shown an interest in my scribblings. I am honored!

I might be mistaken

Great pair of shoesWe all make mistakes and I’m no exception. Now, as a mature woman, I can look back over the years and clearly see where I “went wrong” but, I also see that everything I did brought me to the place I am now, which is a darn good place if I do say so myself. The ramifications from some of the mistakes I made were minor surface ripples and others went deep and affected the course of my life but, getting older has given me the blessing of perspective and I can see how much I have learned and grown as a result of my mistakes.

When my son was younger his impulsive nature led him into many bad situations. In some ways, he was his own worst enemy because he often repeated the same dumb mistakes. I would tell him (after I finished lecturing him) that we are all mere humans and we make mistakes but, the worst mistake of all is to repeat the same ones over and over without learning anything from them (we all know that famous definition of insanity). Mistakes aren’t just difficult and painful experiences that we have to suffer through; they are opportunities to grow as individuals and learn valuable lessons. This isn’t about instant gratification; sometimes it takes us years to recognize what we learned from a particular mistake. Of course, sometimes the most important thing you learn from a mistake is simply that you don’t ever want to do that again!

I used to beat myself up over some of my bigger mistakes and, if you don’t love yourself, it is easy to fall into the old pattern of guilt, shame, and even anger. Sometimes I felt sorry for myself and tried to blame someone else for the choice I made (of my own free will!) – if not out loud, then certainly in my own head. I think a lot of mistakes occur as a result of not knowing yourself or lacking self-respect but – and here’s something to ponder – dealing intelligently with the mess you got yourself into actually shows you what you’re made of and builds self-respect. This is the silver lining of making a mistake – it helps to develop good judgment.

One of my biggest mistakes as a parent, which was an offshoot of my own guilt, was to rescue my son from the results of his poor choices. Children have to feel the consequences of their decisions and their behavior and when you rescue them you’re not doing them any favors. As difficult as it is to just stand back and watch them flounder around, learning how to deal with the results of a mistake actually builds character and encourages emotional maturity. When I finally overcame my feelings of guilt about my son’s “broken home” I also stopped feeling as if I had to save him from his mistakes. I’m sharing this example from my life to demonstrate how the mistakes you make because you don’t love and respect yourself can affect those you love.

Yes, it is true that even if you love and respect yourself you’ll make mistakes (you are still a flawed human being) but, they won’t be disastrous and they won’t be as frequent! They’ll be small and manageable and you’ll learn something from them without derailing yourself or hurting anyone. I’m amazed at how I always end up talking about self-love and respect, even if it is not my intent when I start writing – everything leads back to being true to yourself. One of those things I learned the hard way, through many mistakes, is that getting your emotional house in order has a profound effect on every aspect of your life – every single relationship you have, every endeavor you undertake, your enjoyment of life – even the mistakes you make and how you deal with them. Start by forgiving yourself for your mistakes and then think about all you have learned from them.

Words of wisdom from a man who made some whoppers but always picked himself up and “carried on”:

If we look back on our past life we shall see that one of its most usual experiences is that we have been helped by our mistakes …
~Winston Churchill

 

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

August 2014

Liberty

Lynda Linke logoI recently adopted a dog, a young beagle mix, who I named Liberty. Why did I choose that name? Because liberty is a word and a concept that I have only recently come to understand and I wanted to name her in honor of something I hold dear. I also wanted to be constantly reminded of the true meaning of the word. I always thought liberty and freedom had the same meaning but I have learned that freedom is liberty only when personal responsibility and morality are added; in fact, freedom alone can be quite destructive.

For my entire adult life – up until just two years ago – I was woefully ignorant about politics, current events, and even American history. I started my journey of self-education by reading the Constitution (for the first time since 8th grade Civics class) and went on to read biographies of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. Next I’ll be reading “1776” by historian David McCullough. I began paying attention to the news and listening to and reading political/current events analysts and I gained a whole new appreciation for the freedoms we all take for granted in this country.

I used to think of myself as “liberal” but that word, as it is currently used, is no longer one with which I can identify. I have discovered that many of my beliefs align with Libertarianism, which is actually very close to the definition of classical liberalism. I try very hard to be true to myself and still respect the right of others to have a different opinion – sometimes I just have to agree to disagree. I have a “live and let live” attitude about most things. The title of Matt Kibbe’s new book “Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff” is actually the very simple and basic underlying philosophy of Libertarianism. Here are his “Rules for Liberty”:

1. don’t hurt people
2. don’t take people’s stuff
3. take responsibility
4. work for it
5. mind your own business
6. fight the power

Whether you call yourself liberal, conservative, libertarian, or a combination of all these things, I’m sure you can recognize the common sense behind these rules but he hasn’t invented anything new – in much simpler terms this is the same thing our Constitution tells us. Too bad so many of our politicians in both parties, who all take an oath to uphold the Constitution, have drifted so far from its guiding principles, especially in the last 20-30 years.

Last week I went to a five-hour Constitutional workshop titled “The Roots of Liberty” presented by KrisAnne Hall, attorney, disabled veteran, Russian linguist, and patriot. Trust me, anyone or anything that can hold my interest for five hours has to be pretty good! She presented the 700+ year history that gave us our founding documents and drew parallels between the relevance of those documents and today’s headlines. She calls it “connecting the dots”. She defined liberty as freedom plus morality and that is when a light went on for me.

Our republic was created by men who believed in God and were students of history but, you don’t have to believe in God to recognize that the morality inherent in their religious beliefs is the underpinning of our founding documents and our foundational laws. The founders believed that our rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are natural rights given to us by God, not by government (always remember that whatever the government gives you it can also take away), and the founding documents were created to protect them. Freedom is powerful – it requires morality and personal responsibility to be of real value. That is true liberty.

Liberty

Liberty

Changing your seasonal attitudes

 

Comfort and joy

It’s that time of year again! Is this a happy time for you or do you feel stressed emotionally, physically and financially? Do you have the true meaning of Christmas in your heart and spirit or do you feel like you’re just going through the motions and doing what is expected of you? I enjoy the trilogy of holidays now – Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year – in a way I didn’t for much of my adult life but it did take a long time to get here. As with so many things in my life, I spent a lot of time on the wrong path. I lost my belief in the true meaning of Christmas in my early teens and didn’t start to get it back for many, many years. For a long time I even doubted the existence of God so Christmas meant nothing to me but pressure to spend money I didn’t have, and pressure to “make the season bright” for my son and my parents. As a cash-strapped single parent I dreaded the annual letter to Santa Claus! I felt like I had to fulfill his every wish (the guilt monster again!) even though I knew I’d be paying my credit card off for the first three months of the New Year. On top of that it seemed like every holiday season was fraught with relationship troubles and, since I especially wanted to have a “special someone” in my life at the holidays, I was usually depressed and feeling sorry for myself when things weren’t going well in that department. The relentless commercialism of the season disgusted me and certainly didn’t help my mood. It seemed like every year I ended up with back spasms or bronchitis or both.

When I moved to Florida 20 years ago (two days after Christmas) I decided to change the way I observed the holidays. I wanted to have a completely different perspective. I started by drastically reducing my gift giving and card sending and, believe me; this didn’t go over well with everyone in my life. I didn’t care; I was on a quest to find authentic meaning. Since I didn’t know anyone in Florida, relocating was an opportunity to remove myself from the expectations of others and do things differently. That first New Year’s Eve I offered to staff the hotline office at the domestic violence shelter at which I had begun volunteering. I had no plans and, having worked in a shelter, I knew the regular staff would appreciate having the holiday off. I could have stayed home alone and felt sorry for myself because the man I was involved with was out of state, which is something I would have done before but, I decided to make myself useful and I was glad I did. As a result of spending less on gifts and cards I was able to start my own tradition of giving an annual donation to a few charities I like. When my parents moved to Florida a few years later I encouraged them to keep the gift giving to a minimum and I began another tradition of putting tickets to a show in their Christmas cards – the gift of time and shared memories instead of “stuff” they didn’t need. These simple changes in my perspective and habits paved the way to a better appreciation of the holidays – no more stress, no more pressure, no more unrealistic expectations.  

If you love the holidays and are perfectly happy with the way you observe them – carry on! On the other hand, if you are struggling to keep your spirits up I hope you’ll take some time to find authenticity and meaning. If you have children, do everything in your power to keep them from getting sucked into the empty void of materialism and greed that has enveloped Christmas. Teach them that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive. If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on gifts, just remember that Christmas is not about the number of gifts you give or the cost of them. It’s not about the lights, the decorations, the music, or the food. It’s not only about romantic love; it is about every kind of love. To be sure, those are all enjoyable trappings but it’s important to remember that they are actually symbolic rituals to remind us of deeper meanings. The gifts we give each other are symbolic of the gifts the three wise men brought to honor baby Jesus. The lights signify the return of “the light” to a darkened world. The evergreen trees and branches that we bring into our homes (even the artificial ones!) represent eternal life. Many of the decorations we hang on the tree are symbolic or representative of things that have importance in our lives. The food is a celebration of the abundant blessings provided to us from the harvest. The celebration of the birth of Jesus is a reminder of God’s gift to us of love, forgiveness, redemption, and new life. I didn’t think about the miracle and mystery of Christmas for a long time and, when it started coming back to me, I felt sadness for all the years I had been oblivious but, also joy for the return of belief. Even though I don’t fully comprehend the meaning of Christ, I recently began studying his life again and I have a new appreciation for the wisdom, simplicity, and truth of his teachings.

I’m glad I’m not the same person I once was and that I can be truly thankful on Thanksgiving for all the blessings in my life, feel the spiritual promise of Christmas, and look forward to the New Year with hope and optimism. This won’t be a surprise to anyone who regularly reads this blog but, I believe it all starts with self-love.

 Christmas Gift Suggestions

To your enemy; forgiveness.

To an opponent; tolerance.

To a friend; your heart.

To a customer; service.

To all; charity.

To every child; a good example.

To yourself; respect.  

~Oren Arnold

So ... who's the little fat guy in the red suit?

So … who’s the little fat guy in the red suit?

See more of my artwork at Lynda Linke Productions

Success?

Relaxing dayHave you thought much about your definition of success? I didn’t get to this for a long, long time. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized the definition of success is individual and has to be developed from your own experiences and desires. Prior to that I accepted the typical definition of success without thinking  – education, good job, family, home, and financial security, but it still took me a long time to achieve that. I dropped out of college after 2 years and didn’t go back to complete my degree until 20 years later, I didn’t have a “good” job until I was well into my 30’s, I got divorced, I didn’t own a house until I was almost 40, and I didn’t have any sense of financial security until I was in my 50’s so, for most of my adult life, I didn’t meet the standard definition of success. In fact, I often felt like a failure because I compared myself to other people I knew and thought they were better than me. I finally learned that it is a big mistake to compare yourself to others because things can look good from the outside but none of us really knows what is going on inside someone else’s life. I’ll never forget the first time that really hit home with me. I was friendly with a couple whose marriage I had always admired and envied and then the wife confided that she was having an affair – and it wasn’t the first time. Another lesson about comparing myself to someone occurred when a man I knew professionally for years was charged with embezzling funds from the non-profit for which he was the CEO. He was a few years younger than me and I had envied his quick rise to “success”.

No one else can tell you if you are a success or not. Even if you followed the prescribed path to success and you’re making a lot of money and getting awards and accolades, you can still feel empty inside. Why is that? I think it goes back to self-love and following your inner compass. You have to figure out what has meaning to you and what makes you happy, regardless of what anyone else says. Recently it has occurred to me that the definition of success, like so many things, can change over the course of a lifetime. My decision to retire at 60 and take a decreased retirement income may not be considered a smart move by some people but it gave me personal freedom, which had become part of my new definition of success.

Surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges in reinventing my life has been redefining success. When I retired I had no plan and knew only three things for sure. I knew I wanted to draw and write. I knew I wanted to keep my mind open to opportunities and experiences that would be meaningful to me and through which I could learn new things about myself and the world in which I live. I knew I wanted to take more time to just enjoy simple things like watching birds from my porch, walking with my dog, having the time to try new recipes, being able to lie on the sofa all afternoon reading a good book without the pressure of a schedule. It was difficult for me to stop thinking in terms of accomplishments and goals. I realized recently that even after 2 years I was still operating under some of the old standards of success by pressuring myself to be “productive” and feeling guilty if I didn’t do “enough” in a day. By whose definition?

My new definition of success is much smaller in scope than my old one – now it is defined only by the quality of each day. When I go to bed at night can I look back on the day and feel that I enjoyed whatever I did? Did I treat everyone with kindness (including myself)? Did I remember to be grateful for all the good in my life? If I can answer yes to those questions then I have had a successful day. I think this new definition will serve me well for the rest of my life. The truth is, no matter what phase of life you are in, you never have to meet any definition of success other than your own. If you have worked hard to achieve what you thought was success but you don’t feel happy and fulfilled, don’t lose heart because it’s never too late to reevaluate and make some changes. Maybe asking yourself my questions every night would be a good place to start.

I enjoyed everything I did today. I was kind to everyone I met ... um, what was the other question?

I enjoyed everything I did today. I was kind to everyone I met … um, what was the other question?

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions