More about happiness

Whole and Perfect-The Love HatIn my last post I was writing about expectations and how they can make you unhappy. As mentioned in that post, I recently read”Happiness is a Serious Problem“by Dennis Prager, which led me to do a lot of thinking about the concept of happiness; what it actually means and how to”get” it. For one thing, happiness is not a light weight or simple idea. Pleasure is not the same thing as happiness but in our contemporary culture they are usually confused with each other. I’ve known people who had plenty of money and every material possession they desired and they were often unhappy and I’ve known people who were poor or who had serious health issues (or both) and were happy.  The most important thing I have learned from my own experiences is that this elusive thing has to come from inside yourself – no one can give it to you. That is a statement that can easily be misinterpreted because we all immediately assume that our happiness is derived from things outside of ourselves – relationships, family, material possessions, money, success, approval, etc., that hold great importance to us. I’m not trying to say that those things aren’t enjoyable or pleasurable or don’t add to your happiness; I’m saying that if you’re trying to find happiness solely from external things it will be fleeting or will often seem to be just beyond your reach .

I wasn’t consciously aware of it but, I used to be a person who was always waiting to be happy. Surely, if a certain man loved me or if I lost weight or if I made more money or if my relationship with my son was better or if I won the lottery or if I lived somewhere else – then I’d be happy!  When I was younger my mother used to say I was a “cock-eyed optimist” or that I saw the world through “rose-colored glasses”. Those are nice ways of saying that someone doesn’t see things clearly and is not grounded in reality – in fact, is emotionally immature. I’m much happier now because I have the strength and maturity to deal with negativity when it confronts me instead of trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. The truth is, if you’re happy within yourself, you’ll enjoy all life’s blessings in a more fulfilling way but you’ll also be strong enough to weather life’s storms and keep your balance. It’s not always easy to find your happiness and holding onto it through all the challenges and sadness of life is an ongoing task. Thankfully, I do have a much better understanding of what need to be happy than I did as a younger person and, yes, –  wait for it – self-love was my biggest discovery because it led to everything else!

In past posts I’ve shared my thoughts about expectations, gratitude and humility, which I think are all elements of happiness. Forgiveness is something I didn’t recognize as an element of happiness until I read somewhere that it is more about you than the person you’re trying to forgive. I was awed and humbled by the forgiveness exhibited by some of the families of the victims of the shooting at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston this summer and the Amish school in Pennsylvania a few years ago. Thankfully, I’ve never had to deal with anything like that and I honestly don’t know if I’d be able to forgive in that type of situation. I’m ashamed to admit that I have struggled to forgive in situations that were of much less significance. I know that forgiveness is a fundamental tenet of Christianity but, it can bring peace of mind and emotional well-being to anyone. If you harbor feelings of anger and hurt toward someone, who are you punishing? Even if you never again see someone who has wronged you, you’ll feel better if you forgive them for whatever they did and let go of those bad feelings. In the end, forgiveness is really about the type of person you want to be, how you want to think and feel.

I’m fascinated by the concept of human happiness. It is so much deeper and more nuanced than I realized. I just started reading “Happiness” by Randy Alcorn, a Christian pastor and author of more than 40 books, and I learned that the word for blessed in Greek, makarios, was used by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount and actually means to be happy or blissful but, it also means “a self-contained happiness”. I guess I’m on the right track.

It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.  ~Agnes Repplier

 

 

Liberty finds her bliss

Liberty finds her bliss

 

Happiness can be found at Lynda Linke Productions  New Christmas cards are available now!

Christmas Eve

 

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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

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

Parenting 101

A drawing I did from an old photo of me and my son

A drawing I did from an old photo of me and my son

Remaining true to my contrary nature I’m going to start right off by saying that, despite the title of this blog, I can’t tell you much about parenting and I don’t think I was very good at it. Also being true to a common theme on this blog, I have to say that my lack of success as a parent, as in so many things, stems from a lack of self-love (yes, everything leads me back there). When I got divorced I didn’t really know myself and, unfortunately, that carried over into being a single parent. A lot of the good things I learned about parenting from my own upbringing went out the window when I was confronted with the reality of raising a child alone. Nothing in my knowledge or previous experience had prepared me for that kind of nail-biting stress, worry, fear, and loneliness. Being a single parent turned out to be the hardest job I ever had and, to be honest, I know now that my own lack of self-love made it even harder.

 Looking back I can clearly see where I went wrong; I became infected by a very, very bad five letter word – GUILT. I felt guilty when my son was hurt by his father’s absence or disappointed by a canceled visit and that guilt began to affect the way I parented him. He was smart and strong-willed and he learned at an early age how to manipulate me by using my guilt but my own insecurities and lack of self-love made it easy for him. I understand now that I was trying to overcompensate for the fact that he didn’t have his father in his life – as if all the blame for the divorce was mine – and I was inconsistent with discipline and probably gave him conflicting messages because I felt conflicted about so many things. Through his teen years and 20’s he had what I can only describe as a love-hate relationship with me. If I said yes and did whatever he wanted he loved me, if I said no he hated me. I usually did whatever he asked, even when I knew it was a mistake, because I wanted him to love me. (Hint – this doesn’t work any better with your kids than it does in relationships with anybody else!) Ultimately, all I did was allow him to extend his adolescence. Don’t worry, it’s a happy ending – he grew up to be a very nice man, in spite of everything.

 My son is 36 now and things have been calmer between us for the past few years; partly because he finally started to grow up and partly because I did. I started loving myself and taking care of my own needs. I learned how to say no to him and mean it. I forgave myself for whatever mistakes I had made as a parent and, most importantly, I stopped trying to “win” his love. I know he loves me but he doesn’t communicate very often in between our infrequent visits and doesn’t share much about his life with me. When I drop him off at the airport I never know how long it will be before I hear from him again. (Maybe he actually works for the CIA.)

Anyway, for those of you who are still parenting a dependent child – or even an adult child who still acts like one – my best and only piece of parenting advice is to love yourself. If you don’t show yourself love and respect then you can’t expect it from anyone else, including your children. One of my mother’s favorite sayings is “start out as you intend to go on” and it is beautiful in it’s simplicity because it works no matter what new situation you are entering – marriage, job, school, friendship, parenthood – it is simply telling you that if you’re true to yourself from the start, you won’t go wrong. Here’s what I learned about guilt – if you remain true to yourself in all situations, you will never have reason to feel guilty.

I like to be babied ... but this is ridiculous! (Stella has " issues" sometimes :-) )

I like to be babied … but this is ridiculous!
(Stella has ” issues” sometimes 🙂 )

Speaking of parenting, have you read my book “Velvet Ropes: The Ties That Bind Mothers and Daughters” ? 20 true personal mother/daughter stories – a great gift!

See more of my artwork and books at www.lyndalinke.com

An Introverted Tale

A Star to DiscoverShe pulled the car into the garage and pressed the remote to close the door behind her. It always felt like she was closing out the world when that door rumbled down. She exhaled a deep sigh of sweet relief as she entered her peaceful home. Her dog was waiting for her as she entered the kitchen from the garage and greeted her with much tail wagging and soft cries of happiness. She placed her handbag on the counter and bent to pet her dog. She felt a comfort and happiness to be back in her “sanctuary” that would be hard to explain to anyone who didn’t share those feelings. She knew that many people were lonely and unhappy about living alone but she didn’t feel that way. She never had a problem spending time alone and, in fact, most of the things she enjoyed the most were solo activities like reading, drawing, writing, and listening to music. She had discovered in her later years that she even enjoyed traveling alone – no matter how much she liked someone, after a few days she craved solitude. She knew this was something about her that was hard for some people to understand. The past couple of weeks had been good, but also had depleted her energy reserves and she was looking forward to recharging her battery with alone time. Her best friend, who lived in another state, had visited for 3 days and it had been wonderful to spend time with her. Then she had enjoyed a vacation with her mother and, finally, that night she had attended a friend’s birthday party. She hadn’t really wanted to go but she had promised so she drove for more than 45 minutes in the pouring rain to her friend’s house. She enjoyed the first hour at the party but, making small talk with people was an exhausting experience for her and she had to force herself to stay an “acceptable” period of time before leaving. She realized that most people didn’t feel that way but she was used to living in a society where extroverts were in the majority and she often had to pretend to be one in order to get along. She changed into her pajamas, settled on the sofa and happily picked up the book she had left on the table a few hours earlier.

This little story is about someone who is known as an introvert – defined generally as one who is drained by social encounters and energized by solitary, often creative pursuits – it is about me. Shyness is not the same as introversion, although the term is often used interchangeably. I admit I did struggle with shyness in many situations in the past but, I have overcome that and I am perfectly able to socialize when I want to. The difference now is that I often prefer not to. I know and accept myself much more than I did 15 or 20 years ago when I used to force myself into social situations on a regular basis because I believed there was something wrong with me if I didn’t so, I tried to “fit in”. To me, a “cocktail” party is like a holding cell – that doesn’t mean I can’t keep up my end of the small talk and even enjoy some of it, it just means I’m counting the minutes until I can escape. These days I’m not trying to prove anything to myself or anyone else so I stick with things I like, such as one-on-one conversations, small group gatherings, and lots of solo time. I like to visit historic sites and beautiful vistas – Las Vegas and cruises are not my style. I’m not a hermit, a “loner” or some other kind of defective personality and, in fact, I’m more empathetic and a much better listener than most extroverts I have known. I have a deep respect for my privacy and for the privacy of others. I’ve recently been reading a book called “Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength” by Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D., that refreshingly validates all that and points out the many positive aspects of the introvert personality. I don’t feel the need to explain myself or make excuses anymore but I do wish I had read this book many years ago when I felt so often like a misfit – now I proudly and unashamedly declare that I am an introvert!

FYI, some famous introverts include Bill Gates, Thomas Jefferson, Julia Roberts, Clint Eastwood, Abraham Lincoln, Woody Allen, Carl Jung, and Jane Goodall. Surprisingly, many performers and public figures are introverts. We might think of introverts as librarians or writers but, in reality, they can succeed in almost any career as long as they are in tune with their need for solitude, thinking, and problem solving.

If you recognize yourself in anything I have written and have ever felt like a misfit because of it, I highly recommend that you read the above mentioned book and embrace the things that make you unique and special.  Trying to be something you are not is never sustainable – plus, it makes you unhappy! Once again, the bottom line is self-love.

Stella enjoys a quiet moment of  solitary contemplation

Stella enjoys a quiet moment of solitary contemplation

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

A Fine Romance

In SympathyAfter so many years of meeting the deadlines, dictates and expectations of others it is pure luxury to spend my time any way I please, which turns out to be mainly wandering from one idea to another. I realize now that this has always been my nature; I just didn’t have the freedom and time to follow it. As J. R. Tolkien said “Not all who wander are lost.” This week I have wandered into the meaning of romance. I am writing this for all of you who are without a partner and feel like less of a person because of it – I have felt that way in the past and I’m here to tell you it just ain’t so. You are whole and perfect as you are.

I have started doing some life coaching and, during a recent session, someone described themselves as romantic. It started me thinking – I’ve heard many people describe themselves as romantic but, what does that really mean in today’s world? I researched it and found that there are several words with the root “Roman”, among them romance and Romanesque and by the middle of the 18th century romantic was in common use as an adjective describing appreciation of the wonders of nature such as, sunsets and spectacular views. Gradually it was also used to describe a style of literature, music and visual arts. In fact, the period from the mid 18th century to the late 19th century came to be known as the “Romantic Era”. I gather that it was not an easy movement to define but, simply stated, it seems that it embodied the elevation of nature and validation of passionate, unfettered human emotion and creativity. It was actually a revolt against the scientific rationalization of nature. There was also a renewed appreciation of the high-minded medieval ideals of chivalry, heroism, and pure chaste love.

From a serious intellectual movement based on passionate feelings about the beauty of untamed nature, artistic creativity, individualism, and the idealization of chivalrous codes of conduct we have evolved (or perhaps devolved) to a very different definition of romantic. Today it is strictly used within the context of a love relationship between two people. It is the cliché of the single ad – “I love a romantic candlelit dinner and a long walk on the beach with that special someone”. (Did you ever wonder why the beaches aren’t crowded with droves of couples walking up and down?) Romantic means flowers, chocolate and a card on Valentine’s Day. It means a sappy love story. It means “our song”. The Romantic Era was a complicated philosophical and intellectual movement that affected not only the arts but also education and politics and we have boiled it down to a Match.com adjective!

Jane Austen, who was one of the important authors of the Romantic Era, wrote an interesting book called “Sense and Sensibility” about two sisters who have very different viewpoints regarding romantic love. It’s interesting because, now that I know a little bit about the philosophy of her era, I see that she was using her story to pit romanticism and rationalism against each other. The word sensibility was used at that time to describe a person who was ultra-sensitive and, therefore, more aware of beauty, moral truth, and the emotions of others. Supposedly, this type of person felt things more deeply and was, therefore, superior in some way. In the book Marianne “falls in love” with a man who affects her sensibilities with his handsome appearance, charming personality, and romantic gestures but he turns out to be all show and little substance. Today we might refer to him as a “player”. She is so swept away by her romantic feelings that she loses her sense; her objectivity. She mocks her sister, Eleanor, for not showing her feelings, implying that they couldn’t possibly be as deep as hers if she could keep them under control all the time. Eleanor had developed deep feelings for a man who is not quite as handsome, confident and charming but who is a person of honest character whose feelings are equally as deep as hers, although he is awkward and hesitant about expressing them. Jane Austen uses the characters to show us that all is not as it appears to be and, in fact, we can have very deep feelings for someone without losing our sense. She makes the case that romanticism and rationalism are not mutually exclusive. In other words, you don’t have to be irrational to appreciate romance. I have been the sensibility sister in past relationships and, although I enjoy romance as much as anyone else, if the situation ever presents itself again I want to be the sense sister next time. As always, when I think of a good relationship my parents come to mind – two people with lots of sense and enough romance thrown in the mix to still be holding hands and slow dancing alone in the garage in their 70’s. No drama, no flash, no histrionics – just deep love, respect, and lots of laughs. Until the day he died my father always introduced my mother as his bride. Now, that’s what I call romantic.    

Even though the word romantic has become linked with relationships, the Romantic Era was not about relationships; the movement focused on artistic imagination and the individual, and it prized intuition and emotion. It promoted a strong belief in the importance of nature, particularly its effect on the artist when alone and surrounded by it. Those feelings of awe and wonder and the connection to your spirituality that you feel when you observe the sunset or a beautiful natural scene are romantic – and you can enjoy them even when you are totally alone! The emotions that stir in my chest when I look at a great work of art or the Grand Canyon are romantic. My teary-eyed, lump-in-the-throat response to the “Star Spangled Banner” and the sight of our flag billowing in the wind is romantic. No doubt there is great enjoyment in sharing these things with someone you love but don’t fall into the trap of thinking romantic feelings are limited solely to a relationship. What if you never have another love relationship? Does that mean you will never feel passionately romantic about anything again? Life is full of deep, passionate, romantic emotions so don’t dilute them or suppress them just because you’re a “singleton”. Enjoy!

 Romantic: marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of the heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious or idealized; appreciation of external nature

Stella chillin' in the great outdoors

Stella chillin’ in the great outdoors

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

 

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