Archive for personal development
In this post I was wanting to capture the feeling of learning to fly for ourselves. We are untangling, we are, in bits and pieces, letting go of what we thought was true about ourselves and grasping on to something new, something better. These moments of growth, these little steps, are not so small… Allowing ourselves to see a bit clearer, stepping into the freedom of being more of our true selves each day, choosing to live in the truth even though others may find it hurtful, can feel like leaping across a crevice… There is tremendous courage in these moments.
In an excellent fantasy series by George R.R. Martin (the first book entitled A Game of Thrones), Bran is a curious, adventurous young boy who loves to climb as high as he can, whether it’s in the trees or all along the tops of the castle. But one day he is intentionally pushed from a high castle window, falling far to the ground and becoming physically crippled. Just before he wakes up for the first time, after weeks of being asleep, he has this dream. It struck a deep chord with me and I’d like to share it with all of you. In every moment, we move farther along our miraculous journey. With love ~Carla
It seemed as though he had been falling for years… Fly, a voice whispered in the darkness, but Bran did not know how to fly, so all he could do was fall. The ground was so far below him he could barely make it out through the grey mists that whirled around him, but he could feel how fast he was falling. The ground was closer now… He wanted to cry.
Not cry. Fly.
“I can’t fly,” Bran said. “I can’t, I can’t…”
How do you know? Have you ever tried?
The voice was high and thin. Bran looked around to see where it was coming from. A crow was spiraling down with him, just out of touch, following him as he fell. “Help me,” he said.
I’m trying, the crow replied…
The crow took to the air and flapped around Bran’s hand.
“You have wings,” Bran pointed out.
Maybe you do too.
Bran felt along his shoulders, groping for feathers.
There are different kinds of wings, the crow said…
Bran was falling faster than ever. The grey mists howled around him as he plunged toward the earth below. “What are you doing to me?” he asked the crow, tearful.
Teaching you how to fly.
“I can’t fly!”
You’re flying right now.
Every flight begins with a fall, the crow said. Look down.
Bran looked down , and felt his insides turn to water. The ground was rushing up at him now. The whole world was spread out below him, a tapestry of white and brown and green. He could see everything so clearly that for a moment he forgot to be afraid. He could see the whole realm and everything in it…
“Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?” he heard his own voice saying, small and far away. And his father’s voice replied to him. “That is the only time a man can be brave.”
Now, Bran, the crow urged. Choose. Fly or die.
Bran spread his arms and flew.
Wings unseen drank the wind and filled and pulled him upward. The terrible needles of ice receded below him. The sky opened up above. Bran soared. It was better than climbing. It was better than anything.
*Please note, this passage is taken from pages 160 to 163. Though it is quoted word for word, I have left some parts out to facilitate easier reading!*
Taking a thinking break, I looked over to my calendar. The saying for February was about growing quietly but persistently… I liked that one. Suddenly I realized that it was time to turn it over to March! Pulling it off my cubicle wall, I excitedly peeled up the next page to read this month’s quote. It read:
“The most powerful agent of growth and transformation is something much more basic than any technique; a change of heart.” ~John Welwood
In a split second, I took my pen, crossed out “heart” and wrote a different word underneath.
A change of heart… My heart has to change? How?…
It was as if I was a little girl in church again and the pastor was telling me that I needed to change my heart. Feet dangling above the floor… innocent eyes and ears drinking in every detail, every voice inflection, every verse read, every song sung. Change my heart? Make it somehow… better?
Does this mean I have to change how I feel? Yes, I guess it must be that. I have to have better feelings. So some feelings are bad, and some feelings are good. Okay… so how do I change the bad feelings to good feelings? Because that “good” heart?- that’s what I want. Oh, and having a change of heart means I need to be good on the outside too? Maybe that will help… Okay, give me the list of what’s good and I will work very hard at it. Very hard! If I can work hard enough at this list, then will I get that good heart? Where do I go for the stamp of approval? What signs can I look for to know that my heart really has changed for the better?
I don’t think the writer meant for his words to be taken in quite this way… but that is how they struck me today. Instead of the phrase change of heart, I’ll be looking at the phrase change of understanding for this coming month.
Understanding. After I wrote it, I thought about that word. I pictured something strong standing up on the inside of me, strong legs and strong arms holding up my heart, holding it in place, letting it breath, letting it pump and flow and give and receive and BE alive. Understanding. Knowing that way before it got so confused with other people’s versions of “good”, my heart was good. It was born that way. It’s not my heart that needs to change. The thing that creates the vitality of transformation is a change in the underpinnings of what I believe about myself and a new understanding of where the faulty underpinnings came from in the first place.
Excerpt from A Clash of Kings, pg 97, by George R.R. Martin
“Sam squinted up at the Wall. It loomed above them, an icy cliff seven hundred feet high. Sometimes it seemed to Jon almost a living thing, with moods of its own. The color of the ice was wont to change with every shift of the light… The Wall stretched east and west as far as the eye could see, so huge that it shrunk the timbered keeps and stone towers of the castle to insignificance. It was the end of the world.
And we are going beyond it.”
In a previous post, I described the process of breaking through the walls that hold us back, how the light shines through the cracks and we can see the lies that these walls are whispering to us, the lies that keep us trapped inside.
There’s this one big wall that I keep coming up against time and time again. Sometimes I break through it. Other times, I give up. I peer beyond this wall. I know there’s so much to thrive in beyond it! It is a place full of opportunity, growth, joy. But when the lies start whispering it looks all the more unsafe, unfamiliar, there’s not as many people, there is too much to learn. When planning to pursue something new, I sometimes take a few steps in but then start believing (what I see now I’ve believed my whole life) that because I find this new thing so difficult, I just musn’t have what it takes to do it. I am incapable; I MUST just be inherently flawed.
This is such a painful lie to be stuck behind. My true heart says “I want to go beyond! That’s where all the good stuff is, the stuff I’ve dreamed about my whole life! I deserve to be there! I must be able to do it!” But the old rut says, “But it’s so hard. You’ll be uncomfortable. There’s pain to go through. People might think you’re crazy. You’ll mess up and look silly.”
The athletes in this year’s Olympics were champions against that lie (and YEAH Canada!!). A friend of mine pointed this out to me this week. They work and work and work towards a goal, going through all the ups and downs along the way. It’s no bed of roses; there’s no official place of “perfection”, of arrival. They embrace the journey and celebrate the progress towards or the achieving of their dreams.
So the simplest truth dawned on me. A thing won’t work unless I work it. Imagine a car sitting in your driveway. A person could look out there and say, “Hm, look at that car. It’s not driving; it’s just sitting there. It mustn’t work.” But… it’s plain that that’s not the whole truth! A thing won’t work unless I work it. A vehicle exists to serve me, but I have to drive it, get in and learn to work the controls, learn to keep moving forward. We work as a team.
In the world of thriving, there are many new things to actually put into practice, and I will fail from time to time. But my inexperience does not define my capability. It is simply inexperience, plain and simple. In the world of capability, I DO have what it takes to travel the path with all its ups and downs. Understanding this truth is totally freeing… The goals I envision for myself inspire hope in me again, and the resignation Wall loses its power.
It’s that stuff that makes us grow, helps us heal, helps us see. It transcends time, weaving its way through our childhoods, our presents, waiting for us in our futures (in the next second, and the next and the next…) It always leaves its candles burning, stars of light dotting our paths in every direction.
The truth leaves us forever changed. It comes and sits down in our living room or our kitchen and has a conversation with us. It welcomes every thought, every feeling, every doubt, every cry for help. It challenges us. It comforts us. It says, “There is a better way.”
Sometimes it is a whisper through stillness, a subtle sense in the far distance that knows if it comes any closer it will scare us away. It stays constant and unchanging. We move and it moves with us.
Sometimes it is a thousand trumpets! It bangs on our door in the middle of the night and says, “HEY! You were looking for me! HERE I AM! (oh, were you sleeping?…)”
Sometimes it runs to us, spanning miles and leaving its enemies conquered in its wake. It is valiant.
Sometimes it is just there. In the words of a friend, in listening to a child’s questions, watching the clouds, beholding a flower or a pet or cooking a meal, in a book or a blog or a song. It speaks out from such everyday things; it surprises us with how close it exists, how readily it speaks… candid, calm. It cries. It cheers. It watches. It sees.
Sometimes it is hidden. The lies we were told and the lies we believed encrusted it, and we pick up a chisel. We have to work at knowing it. Chip away this and this, and we glimpse it and keep chiseling and we sweat and we grow new muscles; we know there’s only one way.
We test it. We mull it over. We chew on it. It becomes part of who we are. Sometimes it tastes so satisfying, and this scares us at first! Sometimes we sit and look at it with hungry eyes for awhile, questioning if… we are worthy of it? Sometimes we can’t accept it because we aren’t ready. Sometimes we wolf it down! Sometimes it lands on us and explodes like fire. Sometimes it’s a seed that takes years to grow.
It reaches out to us in the long rays of a sunny morning and blankets us in the soft light of a night’s moon. It is the light that illuminates our souls and makes us shine.
Restless to be…
Restless to be in action…
Restless to take this for a spin, a test ride, a real ride.
Restless, like a horse in its stall, who’s just healed from a fall… Bandaged leg unwrapped, tender but strong, with a gleam in her eye for the long horizon… the brimming horizon… pawing the ground… breath steaming in and out… The walls around her have waited patiently. They watch her now, and when she gives the signal they’ll step aside to let her go… to let her run.
Not restless like I used to be. Not restlessly anxious to escape, to grasp at straws or distract myself with excitement. Not restless to hide, to run away, to quiet the cynic or appease the crowd.
Restlessly alive. Like the shudder of leaves, the swirl of birds in a chattering flock, the hurried ushering of water towards the falls… to do what’s next and to be what is now, right now. Restless and accepting all at one time. Whole… and Becoming.
Restless to let what’s growing inside, what’s taken root, to let it use my feet and do some walking. Less talking more walking. Restless to use my hands and form what’s mine, to give it life, to make it real, believing that what I feel is true and what I envision, I am worthy of. Restless not to make it happen, but to let it happen… to walk towards it and be carried. Restless to accept. Restless to build. Restless to live out what I have so gratefully received.
My husband gave me a dozen long stemmed red roses for Valentine’s day. I got them early which is great with me; We live out in the country so flowers are not found nearby and Valentine’s day is just another day after all. I used to think that how much he went out of his way for me, proved his love for me.
Carla’s post got me thinking about the whole love thing and the difference between how I think of love today and how I used to think of love. Here are some of my thoughts:
~ I know that because my husband gave me red roses, it doesn’t prove his love for me in the least. It just proves that he knows I love roses. =)
~I know that if I don’t bake his favourite cookies like I used to do every Valentine’s day past, that he isn’t going to conclude that I don’t love him. He doesn’t think that if I go out of my way for him that proves my love for him anymore either.
~ I know that because he is cooking dinner this year doesn’t mean that he loves me more then I love him OR that Valentine’s day is more significant for women than it is for men. It means that he decided to gift me with cooking a special meal for our family to celebrate our love for each other and our kids. (I am going to gift him back by cleaning the bathroom for him….LOL)
~I know that because I didn’t buy him anything that he isn’t going to think I don’t love him. He doesn’t want a dozen roses. =) and maybe he can have some of the chocolates we got the kids!
~He knows who I am; he sees me, (not who he wants me to be for him, not as his support person, not as he wishes I was, but he sees who I really am) and he appreciates our differences and our different interests and he supports my dreams and desires as I do his…..and I know that that is real love.
We are celebrating true love this year. We are celebrating connections, life, relationships, family, and friendships. We are honouring each other as individuals who choose to be together and share a home, a bed and a bank account. We are celebrating truth, life and that love is based in the definition of best for all loved.
Wishing you truth in all your love! Happy Valentine’s Day!
Today I contemplate the journey of wholeness, with emphasis on the journey… Last week I had my first listen to Alanis Morissette’s “Limbo No More” (listen here). I was moved to tears, not because I will never have limbo days again, but because I have come to this point in my journey where I am actually feeling excited about my life. I feel myself standing on my own two feet, making intentional decisions about things that stir my soul, relying less and less on other things or people to spark some kind of excitement for me. Darlene often talks about being reborn, crashing through the walls… I don’t really know how it happens, but I know I crashed through something last week.
A journey is unpredictable, even the most well-planned ones. This journey of wholeness is wholly unpredictable. For so long I held myself back, figuring there would be all these determining factors to tell me that I had finally “made it.” I figured I would feel this certain way or know this certain thing or behave exactly like this or that. But I am letting that go. I am letting myself be, trusting my heart, trusting that what I truly desire will manifest in my life in good time, enjoying what already has. We are human beings. Wisdom can recommend better and best paths to take, but our souls also thrive in spontaneity (especially when we have seen and let go of the lies that have trapped us for so long.) The spontaneous aspect of my soul has been so squished for most of my life. Now, I see how daring to embrace my spontaneity is another force propelling me along my path.
Last week I felt like I was on a mountain top… I drank in a bird’s eye view of all I have come through so far… The journey of wholeness is not always easy.
I started counseling 3 and a half years ago after 26 years of searching. The tough parts?… I have anguished over my progress/ lack of progress. I have thought a million thoughts, I have felt a million feelings, I have had highs and lows and everything in between. I have beaten myself up. I have grappled with the truth, trying to make it REAL to me, wondering why it didn’t feel real? Trying to put my questions into words… I have fallen, I have pulled myself back up, sometimes wondering if I really could pull myself back up. I have lost friendships, grown apart from people, I have gained new friends, I have renewed relationships. I have messed up. I have tried things and quit things. I have quit jobs, tried new jobs, and felt confused about what I was doing so many times. I have invested so much money towards my counseling. I have been broke, had to borrow, had to sell things, had to take second and third jobs. I haven’t had a real vacation in years! I have argued and yelled at God… I have wept and wondered why some victories didn’t seem to stick around long enough. I have even doubted at times if it was all going to be worth it, if I would end up quitting anyways…
Well, from where I’m standing right now… on this particular mountain top, with the crisp, fresh breeze, the sunshine, and the view… looking out over my journey with clear eyes and a full heart, right now it feels so much more than worth it. I am overwhelmed with gratitude. And it’s not even Christmas, or my birthday, and I don’t even have a boyfriend… I am envisioning new things for my future and learning to delve into the deep treasures of the NOW, based on who I know I am. I am excited.
I am excited…
Wherever you find yourself on this journey, especially if you find yourself going through some of the tougher parts, I just want to say that it’s worth it.
With love, Carla
According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary:
Self Help: 1. The theory that individuals should provide for their own support and improvement in society. 2 the act or faculty of providing for or improving oneself
Selfish: 1 Deficient in consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure; actuated by self-interest
I was recently part of a conversation where someone shared their belief that self-help can lead a person to become self-centered and selfish. Have you heard this sentiment before? I think it’s based out of fear. And I’d like to explore it here!
Does self-help make a person selfish?
The answer could fill a book (now, would that be a “self help, self help” book?…lol!) I have a few thoughts to share, and I’d love to hear your’s as well. For starters, what is self help? From Oxford’s definition, it sounds like it’s a method, an act of learning how to provide for/improve/support one’s own self. I would add that to help myself, I am really learning to lead myself in better ways of living. It goes beyond learning how to cope. From my personal experience, this has involved stretching out to my past (facing and getting rid of a lot of old garbage and lies) and also getting to know my deep passions and goals for my future. Both dynamics are helping me to live whole and alive in my present.
Beneath all of that, I think this is key: what drove my whole process of recovery was that I wanted to be me, the real me. I wanted to live my own unique life to the FULL, and I was willing to go through the pain, years of counseling, financial investment, and time commitment to find that life. I wanted to know my purpose for being on this earth (which has a lot to do with the question: how can I impact the world through being me?) Yes, I wanted to find relief and healing from my own pain. But I also wanted to learn how to live in a healthy outward way. I wanted to be a healthy, contributing, thriving part of this world. I believe this deep desire is at the heart of any person’s pursuit of self help, whether they realize it or not.
Some stages of my recovery do involve varying degrees of self care and inward attention, which might appear to be selfish. And, as I become more of the real me, others might feel like they have to relate to me differently, which is uncomfortable for them (I think that’s where the fear comes in). The thing with recovery is that we can’t know exactly what we’ll be like throughout the process. Our real selves may turn out to be very different than what people were used to before. I can understand how disconcerting that might be to others. But does that mean we’re selfish?
The big truth for me? I feel far less selfish now than I used to. I am less needy and more interested in engaging with the world. I have never been as free as I feel today. I have never understood what it means to give of myself with no strings attached, to be excited about other people’s lives as I am about my own life, to exercise my gifts and abilities in ways I was totally afraid to do before. I judge others less; I judge myself less. I’m learning how to speak my truth in ways that benefit others and myself equally. I take good care of myself because if I don’t, the real Carla won’t be as vibrant as she’s meant to be in this world! In gaining peace and fulfillment for myself, I find I naturally want to help others find that for themselves. I’m no saint, but I have grown. And I wouldn’t be becoming all these things now if I hadn’t self-helped myself.
I know one things for sure: if I hadn’t learned how to help myself, I would not be writing on this blog! So I think my answer to the question is pretty clear! But what do you think? I’d love to know.
This week I was presented with one of life’s challenges. I live in a townhouse complex and have my own assigned parking spot. Wednesday night, I arrived home as usual from my second job, tired and hoping to get to bed as soon as possible. But as I rounded the corner to park behind my place, I was shocked to see a big 4 by 4 truck parked in my spot.
I was furious. The stalls are clearly marked and I couldn’t comprehend how someone would have slipped into my spot accidentally (the person had even taken pains to neatly back into it!)… It was 10:30 at night… Most all of my neighbour’s windows were dark as I looked around. I had no idea who’s vehicle this was and didn’t feel like knocking on doors and waking people up to find out. And as much as I wanted to, I knew it wouldn’t be in my best interest to take a baseball bat to this person’s windows and puncture all four tires… Somewhere in one of the homes around me, the presumptuous owner of this vehicle was sleeping peacefully while I was fuming outside in the cold, trying to deal with my frustration, anxiety and intense feeling of helplessness.
I ended up putting a polite but straight-forward note on their windshield (“This is a private parking stall. Move your vehicle or it will be towed”), called and left a message at our property management company, and willed myself to fall asleep. The next day, I put my frustration to work. I called the property management company again and reception told me that someone would answer my message in time; I called the RCMP- they didn’t deal with situations like that; I called our local towing company- because this was my own titled parking stall, could I have the vehicle towed myself? No… because I’m part of a townhouse complex, I can’t… I called the property management company again and insisted on talking with someone. They told me I should be able to have it towed myself. I called the towing company again… Finally someone gave me the real facts: our condo complex was registered with the towing company. They would come and tag and tow illegally parked vehicles, but only a member of our condo board could call to have this done. The woman at the towing company went beyond the call of duty and called a member of my condo board to have them call me. I was able to talk with this gentleman, and now I have both his phone numbers programmed into my cell phone. The next time I come home and find someone helping themselves to my parking spot, I know exactly what to do to have them towed away asap!
Now, it was a lot of work to find the answer to my problem, and I expended a lot of emotional energy. To some people it might seem like too much work for one small incident. I had been able to park in my roomate’s spot, who wasn’t home that night; the person left the next day; no one got hurt; my life wasn’t at risk. It’s not like they broke into my house and vandalized it… Heck, some people are homeless. Some people don’t even have their own vehicle, let alone their own parking spot!! Some people are dying, dealing with disease and war and far worse things than this.
All these things are true, very true. And I regularly practice gratitude for all the blessings in my life, all the things I am able to enjoy that others do not have. However, comparing our challenges to someone else’s in order to legitimize our feelings or our actions towards them can lead us down the road of resignation and debilitatingly low self-esteem. I have heard this rationalizing/minimizing mindset echoed from people in many different kinds of situations. So and so has this problem, so I shouldn’t be so upset about mine. I’m so irrational sometimes. I should be more thankful and less angry. We don’t want to appear ungrateful or selfish, so we stuff our anger and hurt deep down and try to put on a brave face.
But this is not living. This was my life, my challenge. At that moment in time, at that point in my life, there was this one and only challenge staring me in the face, and I decided that it was worth dealing with. I embraced it as a challenge worthy to deal with because my life is worth it, my anger is justifiable. I wanted to solve the problem this time because I wanted to know how to constructively deal with it if it were to happen again. I didn’t want to live in the lie that I was a helpless victim, not worthy enough to stand up for myself, too worthless to deny how I truly felt about the situation. And after I had taken the action steps I did, I felt alive. I felt satisfied and at peace with myself. I had taken responsibility for myself and my problems. In doing so, I hadn’t stored up my anger to cause me pain later on down the road. Simultaneously, I had gained more skills for bigger challenges I may face, skills I can offer to help others in similiar situations. I had grown.
Life will always present us with all kinds of challenges, big and small. We don’t have to legitimize whether or not to take action with our challenges by comparing them to someone else’s. They are our unique challenges to deal with, and in being so, they are our unique opportunities to grow and practice self-value. Engaging with them is one part of the extraordinary dance of being and knowing that we are valuable and alive.
“Now hold your hand onto the plow
Work your body till the sun goes down
What’s left of death is more than fear
Let dust be dust and the good lord near”
(click on link above, then press the orange play button at the top to hear the song!)
New foundations give me strong footing to start taking positive action in my life, to start working out who I really am, to put “feet” on my truth and walk it out. I have always worked hard at things; I like to do things well. But now that I have this true foundation of knowing who I really am, effort is taking on a new meaning for me.
I used to hate effort. This was the lie at the root of my hatred of effort: if I have to work or try hard to do something, then that something musn’t be part of the REAL me; therefore, I won’t be being a “genuine” person (because if this desired action was part of the REAL me, then it would just naturally happen without me even thinking about it). This lie was fed by my fear of being judged by others as a fake, as pretending to be better than I really was. It made my attempts to change or grow in certain areas very uncomfortable and twisted; it created a self-made prison that limited how far I would go with my gifts and talents or how much I would pursue my dreams. Mixed in with that was my belief that if I could change enough outward things about myself, then my inside things would get better too. It didn’t work that way.
Doing the work of getting true, strong and deep foundations in place has freed me from these lies. I don’t have to be afraid of not being “genuine.” The more I trust myself, my heart, my good intentions, the more I see how good my heart really is. Rooting myself in this truth does a couple things. First, it frees me to see all parts of myself in the light. I am less afraid to see both my weaknesses and my strengths. In wholeness I give all the parts of myself permission to exist and to be as they are. Some parts need a bit more attention than others; some parts are ready for action and exercise; some parts are still in the early stages of healing.
I also see the roots, the beginnings, of my true potential more clearly. I understand that any kind of thriving requires a process of growth, which will at times require effort. The effort that I take now to grow and change is really different. It’s more like “tilling the soil” kind of effort, working with the good stuff that’s already there to encourage it to grow and flourish. I see that it will involve making mistakes, tweaking this or that, and trying again. What motivates me is not a ruthless drive to “fix” myself. I am motivated to become all that I truly am because I know it is good and worthwhile. I know there is reward and fulfillment for me in doing this work, and I also know that in exercising the real stuff of me, others will benefit in one way or another. I believe this is true for every single person.
I hope you find freedom in your foundations and take joy in putting your hand to the plow~ what you have to offer this world is worth the effort!