Tuesday, April 26, 2016

37 Days of Confidence

I have struggled with body confidence my entire life.  Even at my leanest, I felt like my flaws were magnified.  In today's media environment when we are surrounded by pictures of models and celebrities, inundated with fad diets and magic pills, and covered over with the "keeping up with the Joneses" concept, it is easy to feel like we don't measure up. Whether we think we're too fat, too skinny, too hairy, too bald, or what have you, we're daily wishing we had what someone else has got.

While doing my last project, 37 Days of Gifts, I noticed when I interacted with people that I avoided eye contact and spent a lot of time walking with my head down.  When someone attractive smiled at me, my normal response was to blush and look away, or worse, give them a "deer in the headlights" look.  I wonder how many times I've given off a bad first impression just with my unconfident body language.

So my next project is 37 Days of Confidence.  My goal for the next 37 days is to focus on things I like about myself, and concentrate on improving my posture and projecting a more confident aura.  Other people are attracted to confidence, and a positive attitude gives off good vibes.  If the theory "be what you want to attract" holds true, then perhaps I'll find myself more in the company of confident, positive people.

37 Days of Gifts Recap

For the past 37 days, I have been focused on seeing ways in which my life is a gift to others.  What I learned was that small things, even things that seem inconsequential, really do add up and make a difference to those around me.  Sometimes it was something as simple as making the coffee for my coworkers, or paying a small favor forward to someone else.  Sometimes it was listening and comforting a friend who was feeling down.  Sometimes it was performing "labors of love", like cooking or cleaning for my kids, or teaching them about manners and boundaries through tough love.  Sometimes it involved being generous with my time or money in order to make someone's day. And sometimes it involved doing things for myself, such as eating healthy, working out or relaxing, so that by taking care of myself I was better prepared to take care of my family.

There's a lot of times when we all feel unappreciated and that what we do doesn't matter, but it does.  Sometimes it's just a matter of changing the way we look at what we do; for example, cooking and cleaning might just seem like chores, but if I didn't do those things for my kids, they would go hungry and live in filth.  Performing those chores is an expression of my love for them, and my gift to them is making sure that they are healthy and well taken care of.  Far too often I've seen what can happen to children whose parents don't feel the same way. Working out may have been a gift to myself, but it was in fact a gift to my family because when the time comes for my strength and fortitude, I'll be in good enough shape to do whatever needs to be done and can take care of them. I've seen other family members purposely not take care of themselves and become a burden. 

What I took away from this project was that what I do for others is what gives my life meaning and purpose.  I wasn't put on this planet to only serve myself and simply exist from day to day for my own benefit; I was put here to be a blessing to my own little corner of the world, and I reap blessings from others in return.

If you've been wondering what your purpose is, or where you fit in the world, give the 37 Days of Gifts project a try and see just how much of an impact your life has on others.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The 37 Days of Positive Thinking Boot Camp

I started this project as a way to help rid myself of the negative thoughts that were holding me back from being happy, but have seen other people have a positive impact from trying it as well.  While I chose to focus on one positive aspect at a time every 37 days for myself, I have recently come up with a boot camp plan for those who are really struggling with a flood of emotions and need to regain focus.  Either way, making a change for the better is always a good thing.

The boot camp doesn't require any push ups or drill sargeants, only a notebook and some time to reflect.  Here's my 37 Days of Positive Thinking Boot Camp- every day you are to record in your journal the following:

  • 1 thing you are grateful for and why
  • 1 good thing that happened to you that day and how it made you feel
  • 1 way in which you made a positive difference to someone else and how they were impacted by it (it could be anything, even as simple as a smile)
  • 1 thing you found truly beautiful during the day
  • 1 thing you like about yourself
  • 1 thing you are afraid of and why, and
  • 1 thing that needs to be forgiven, whether that is yourself or past hurts and old grudges
It sounds like a lot and some of those items will be more challenging on certain days than others.  But here's the reasoning behind it- each one of those things serves to help you refocus your mind, empty your heart of negativity and fill it back up with peace.

Why did I select those things? To me, all positive thinking begins with gratitude.  When we take time to really look at the people and things in our lives that we appreciate but probably take for granted, we find that our blessings usually outweigh our troubles.  Even on bad days when you feel like the world is conspiring against you, there is always at least one bright moment that happens; let that bright moment shine in your mind and it will chase away the darkness you feel.  Negativity is very self-centered, so when we shift our attention to others and share simple acts of kindness, it show us that our lives have purpose and meaning beyond ourselves.  Taking a moment to savor something beautiful, even if it's just a flower growing in a sidewalk crack, make us slow down and appreciate the good things the world has to offer.  It is easy to be our own worst enemies and be critical of ourselves.  We tell ourselves things that we would never dream of saying to another person.  Reminding ourselves of our good qualities on a daily basis reminds us how important it is to be our own best friends.  Fear drives a lot of our actions and because it is painful, we hesitate to acknowledge it. Fear can make us make bad choices and hold us back from future happiness.  In order for fear not to control us, we have to bring it to the surface and process it, much like exorcising a demon. Only then can that fear be seen for what it really is and be conquered.  And lastly, forgiveness is the only way to achieve lasting peace.  If you harbor hatefulness and regret in your heart, you leave little room for peace.  Holding grudges usually causes more pain to the one holding the grudge rather than the one the grudge is about. It's a splinter that festers. Forgiveness helps you remove the splinter and begin to heal.

You might not be ready to tackle all of these items at one time. Split them up and work on them in a way that fits your current need. But the main thing is to take the first step and tell negativity that it has no place in your life.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Thoughts on Being a Gift

I was sitting at my desk at work, filling in spreadsheets and wishing I had someone special in my life. I was lamenting the fact that I always seem to attract weirdos and men older than my parents; I was jealous over seeing all the beautiful couples at the park and wishing it was me instead of them.

And then a lightbulb went off and I thought about myself in a way that never occurred to me before: I am a gift. The decision to share my time with another when I could be doing something else is a gift to that person. The decision to make myself vulnerable to another's desires is a gift. The decision to trust someone with my body and heart is a huge gift.  The decision to invite someone into my home, my private sanctuary, is a gift.

Not everyone is worthy of such gifts. Some people, like my ex-husband, didn't appreciate my gifts and took them for granted. Some people don't recognize the value of the gifts I have to offer and they treat them carelessly. Some people think they are entitled to my gifts because they paid me a little bit of attention. Unfortunately I have tried to give my gifts to all of those types of people, only to have my battered heart and bruised ego handed back to me callously.

Someone, somewhere, will be worthy of receiving my gifts someday. That person will see what I have to offer as I lay my treasures at their feet and will find them priceless gifts.  That person will take those gifts and gently care for them, not put them in a box on a high shelf to be forgotten, or tossed out with yesterday's garbage. They will accept my gifts with gratitude, and in return, give me their own gifts to treasure.

When I give someone a present for a special occasion, I put a lot of time and effort into choosing or making something that I know they would like and use. Most of the time my presents are homemade, because I enjoy using my talents and creativity to bring joy to someone else. There's no better feeling in the world to me than making someone else happy. Giving someone my personal gifts is no different; I put a lot of time and effort into making another person happy. It is in my best interest to find a partner that is worth all of efforts and in return makes the effort to try and make me happy as well.

Finding that special person takes a lot of patience. In the meantime, I will be sculpting my gifts and perfecting them in preparation for the one who is to receive them.  For the next 37 days, I will be taking a daily look at ways in which I am a gift to those around me, and how that in turn gives my life meaning and purpose.

The Top 10 Forgotten Truths for Happiness

This was an article I came across on Facebook, written by Kenny Kramer.  It has been reposted here with his permission.
Its been a minute since I went and wrote a larger article about mental happiness...
So buckle up and read , this is somewhat long....
but well worth your time I promise
The wisest, most loving, and well rounded people you have ever met are likely those who have known misery, known defeat, known the heartbreak of losing something or someone they loved, and have found their way out of the depths of their own despair.
They've been in the bottom of every bottle and lived there for awhile
These people have experienced many ups and downs, and have gained an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, understanding and a deep loving wisdom. People like this aren’t born; they develop slowly over the course of time.
I have worked with thousands of these incredible people over the past decade, both online and offline, through various forms of mentoring. In many cases they came to us feeling stuck and lost, unaware of their own brilliance, blind to the fact that their struggles have strengthened them and given them an upper hand in this crazy world.
Truth be told, when hard times hit, and the challenges you face are great, you can either let your situation define you, let it destroy you or let it strengthen you. The choice is yours to make.
I want to remind you of a few powerful, yet easily forgotten truths that will help you choose wisely and grow stronger even through the hardest times…
1. Pain is part of life and love, and it helps you grow.
So many of us are afraid of ourselves, of our own truth, and our feelings most of all. We talk about how great the concepts of life and love are, but then we hide from both every day. We hide from our truest feelings. Because the truth is life and love hurt sometimes, and the feelings this brings disturbs us.
We are taught at an early age that all pain is evil and harmful. Yet, how can we ever deal with real life and true love if we’re afraid to feel what we really feel?
We need to feel pain, just as we need to feel alive and loved.
Pain is meant to wake us up. Yet we try to hide our pain. Realize this. Pain is something to carry willingly, just like good sense.
Because you can only learn how strong you are when being strong is the only choice you have.
It’s all in how you carry the things that don’t go your way. That’s what matters in the end. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you
your own reality.
If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting the lies of insecurity destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel pain to endure it
to own your scars , to deal with the realities of life and love, as you grow into the strongest, wisest, truest version of yourself.
2. Mindset is half the battle....half
It’s okay to have down days and tough times.
Expecting life to be wonderful all the time is wanting to swim in an ocean in which waves only rise up and never come crashing down.
However, when you recognize that the rising and crashing waves are part of the exact same ocean, you are able to let go and be at peace with the reality of these ups and downs. It becomes clear that life’s ups require life’s downs.
In other words, life isn’t perfect, but it sure is good. Our goal shouldn’t be to create a perfect life, but to live an imperfect life in radical amazement.
To get up every morning and take a good look around in a way that takes nothing for granted.
Everything is extraordinary. Every day is a gift. Never treat life casually. To be spiritual in any way is to be amazed in every way.
Do not let the pain of a situation make you hopeless.
Do not let negativity wear off on you. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Even though others may disagree with you, take pride in the fact that you still know the world to be a beautiful place.
Change your thoughts and you change your reality.
And mindset is especially powerful when it comes to accepting that…
Why look for bad apples. when it is a bigger challenge to pick the ones from the top?
3. Your biggest fears don’t really exist. ... remember this shit..it took me ages.
When times are hard it can be difficult to follow your heart and take another step, but it’s a tragedy to let the lies of fear stop you.
Although fear can feel overwhelming, and defeats more people than any other force in the world, it’s not as powerful as it seems. Fear is only as deep as your mind allows. You are still in control. So take control!
The key is to acknowledge your fear and directly address it, brutally.
Fight hard to shine the light of your words upon it.
Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless, obscure darkness that you avoid, and perhaps even manage to briefly forget, you open yourself to future attacks from fear when you least expect it. Because you never truly faced the opponent who defeated you.
You CAN beat fear if you face it. Be courageous! And remember that courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid; courage means you don’t let fear stop you from moving forward with your life.
4. You are growing through experience.
Over time you will find that life isn’t necessarily any easier or harder than you thought it was going to be; it’s just that the easy and the hard aren’t exactly the way you had anticipated, and don’t always occur when you expect them to.
This isn’t a bad thing; it makes life interesting. With a positive attitude you will always be pleasantly surprised.
When you stop expecting things to be a certain way, you can appreciate them for what they are. Ultimately you will realize that life’s greatest gifts are rarely wrapped the way you expected.
Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted
Experience is the most valuable commodity you own – it builds your strength.
You have the power to turn your wounds and worries into wisdom; you just have to do something about them. You have to accept what has happened and use what you’ve learned to step forward.
It doesn't even matter if you went to full batshit crazy on someone and are
embarrassed ... Do something about it and don't ignore the elephant in the room
Everything you’ve experienced has given you the upper hand for dealing with everything you have yet to experience.
Realize this and set yourself free.
5. You can’t change situations you don’t take responsibility for.
Sigmund Freud once said, “Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.
Don’t let this be you. When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility – you surrender power over that part of your life.
Make no mistake, in the end, the price of happiness IS responsibility. As soon as you stop making everyone and everything else responsible for your happiness, the happier you’ll be. If you’re unhappy now, it’s not someone else’s fault.
Ultimately, your happiness depends on your self-reliance
Your unshakable willingness to take responsibility for your life from this moment forward, regardless of who had a hand in making it the way it is now. It’s about taking control of your present circumstances, thinking for yourself, and making a firm choice to choose differently. It’s about being the hero of your life, not the victim.
6. The present is all you really have to deal with.
Life is not lived in some distant, imagined land of someday where everything is perfect.
Don't run from mistakes
It is lived here and now, with the reality of the way things are. Yes, by all means you can work toward an idealized tomorrow. Yet to do so, you must successfully deal with the world as it is today.
Sometimes we avoid experiencing exactly where we are because we have developed a belief, based on past experiences, that it is not where we should be or want to be. But the truth is, where you are now is exactly where you need to be to get to where you want to go tomorrow. So appreciate where you are.
Your friends and family are too beautiful to ignore. Take a moment to remember how fortunate you are to be breathing. Take a look around, with your eyes earnestly open to the possibilities before you. Much of what you fear does not exist. Much of what you love is closer than you realize. You are just one brief thought away from understanding the blessing that is your life.
Happiness is a mindset that can only be designed into the present.
It’s not a point in the future or a moment from the past; yet sadly, this misconception hurts the masses. So many young people seem to think all their happiness awaits them in the years ahead, while so many older people believe their best moments are behind them. Don’t be either of them. Don’t let the past and the future steal your present. (Read The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment.)
7. There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.
Life is better when you’re smiling.
Being positive in a negative situation is not naive; it’s a sign of leadership and strength. You’re doing it right when you have so much to cry and complain about, but you prefer to smile and appreciate your life instead.
What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you were thankful for today?
Think of all the beauty that remains around you, see it and smile. Be thankful for all the small things in your life, because when you put them all together you will see just how significant they are. At the end of the day, it’s not happiness that makes us thankful, but thankfulness that makes us happy.
8. Great things take time.
Ask my dog, I make him work and behave to get treats...long run he's the
best he can be.
Instant results are rarely the best results. With patience, you can greatly expand your potential. If your desires were always fulfilled immediately, you would have nothing to look forward to. You would miss out on the joys of anticipation and progress.
Real happiness isn't at the click of a mouse ....Be patient
Remember, patience is not about waiting; it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard for what you believe in. It’s the willingness to stay focused, confidently staking one small step at a time, knowing that the way you move a mountain is by moving one stone at a time. Every stone you move, no matter how small, is progress.
Bottom line: You deserve more than mere instant gratification. Value that arrives in an instant is often gone in an instant. Value that takes time and commitment to create often outlives its creator – YOU.
9. Other people cannot validate you....fucking trust me on this
When we’re struggling to achieve something important, sometimes we look to others to validate our progress. But the truth is, they can’t…
No matter how many pics you post, until you know you are beautiful, you won't be happy
You are not in this world to live up to the expectations of others, nor should you feel that others are here to live up to yours. Pave your own unique path. What success means to each of us is totally different. Success is ultimately about spending your life happily in your own way.
You don’t have to be flashy to be impressive. You don’t have to be famous to be significant. You don’t have to be a celebrity to be successful. You don’t need to be validated by anyone else. You are already valuable. You just need to believe in yourself and what you wish to achieve.
You can be quietly humble and still be amazingly effective. Just because people don’t fall at your feet and worship you, doesn’t mean you are a failure. Quiet success is just as sweet as loud, flamboyant success, and usually far more real.
Success is how you define it, not what everyone else says it must be for you.
10. You are not alone.
In the midst of hard times, it’s easy to look around and see a bunch of people who seem to be doing just fine.
But they’re not. We’re all struggling in our own way. And if we could just be brave enough to open up about it, and talk to each other, we’d realize that we are not alone in feeling lost and alone.
So many of us are fighting the same exact battle alongside you.
We are all in this together. So no matter how embarrassed or pathetic you feel about your own situation, know that there are others out there experiencing the same emotions. When you hear yourself say, “I am all alone,” it’s just your worried mind trying to sell you a lie. There’s always someone who can relate to you. Perhaps you can’t immediately talk to them, but they are out there.
If you’re feeling desperate right now, hear me: I often feel and think and struggle much like you do. I care about many of the things you care about, just in my own way. And although some people do not understand us, we understand each other. YOU are not alone...
You're real...be happy about that.
One of life’s greatest gifts is the fact that life is difficult. Because in dealing with life’s difficulties, we build invaluable strength. This strength enables us to successfully fulfill our deepest, most meaningful purposes. It is precisely because life is difficult that we are able to make it great. It is because life is difficult that we are able to rise above the difficulties. We are able to make a difference and we are able to truly matter.
So remember this…
When times are tough, you must be tougher. Don’t pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a tough one that leads to greatness.

Embracing the Possibilities

Just now I was thinking about the past year and how much I've changed. This time last year I had already decided I was leaving my husband and we were still living together, but in separate bedrooms. I had a lot of anger and bitterness in my heart over my marriage and confusion over where I belonged in the world. I had a very stressful job and a very stressful home life.

At the same time though, I was growing and paving the foundation for the life I have now. In the last 12 months I have left my marriage of 9 years, moved into a new apartment with my two kids, changed jobs, and found my niche as a writer. I have let go of years of resentment, toxic and unproductive relationships, financial stress, and negative thought processes. I've discovered hidden talents and broadened my horizons; what used to be limits are now routine.

I'm still a work in progress though, still building on that foundation that is to be the basis for my best years yet. I'm learning to accept and own my flaws, and work towards changing them; I'm learning how to detox my body with better nutrition and exercise, and detox my mind by shifting my focus to positive things. I'm learning to let go of old fears and boldly try new things; instead of saying, "I wish that was me", I'm saying, "well why not me?".

For so many years, I was so stifled. My dreams didn't matter, my desires didn't matter, I didn't really matter. Now I feel like for the first time in a decade, I can breathe again. I can look at my life as a blank canvas, just waiting for a beautiful picture to be painted on it.

For the first time since I was an 18 year old heading off to college, I am embracing all the possibilities my life can hold and I intend to make the most of every last one of them.

What I See in You

Hey there you.
I can see you're broken; here, have some glue. I can't fix you, but I can help you fix yourself.
I see that you've had a rough time; here, let me hold you. I can't make it all better for you, but I can help you feel better.
I can see that you're frustrated; here, let me listen. I don't have the answers, but maybe I can help you find them.
I see you've given up on yourself; here, let me encourage you. I can't give you self-confidence, but I'll be your cheerleader.
I can see you're hurting, but you don't want anyone to know; here, let me see your pain. I can't take the pain away, but you don't have to suffer alone.
I can see that you've been treated unfairly; here, let me stand up for you. I can't fight your battles for you, but I can help you win the war.
Hey there you.
You want to know what I see?
I see someone with untapped potential, with dreams waiting to be realized.
I see someone who has much to offer, but doesn't know how to give it.
I see someone who has been kicked around and beaten down, but still has a lot of fight left.
I see someone who is more than the sum of their circumstances.
I see someone who has made mistakes, but has yet to forgive themselves.
I see someone who most people don't understand.
Hey there you.
I see you for who you really are- a friend who needs a friend.


This lovely piece was written by a friend in the UK and posted on another writing forum.  I thought it was so appropriate to the subject that I asked her permission to repost it here.

Soul food: Kindness

In catching up with some reading here this line from a film called Resting Place came to mind:
“Be kind. Nearly everyone is fighting some kind of battle…..and not always on a battlefield.”

While most days people win their battles, some days they lose them. The kindness, compassion, and love we give to others are often the weapons and armour which tip the balance in their favour.

When we are absorbed in our own battles we sometimes fail to make the most of our opportunities to be kind to those around us. We lose sight of the battles they too are fighting, and how our kindness can make all the difference to whether their battle that day is won or lost.

Kindness is rarely about grand gestures. It is often the simplest of acts which mean the most to others yet, because they are so simple, we often devalue them. They sometimes cost no more than a little of our time and some thoughtfulness, yet we rarely attach enough importance to them.

Like ripples on a pond those gestures can often spread, and what starts off as a single act of kindness to one person may radiate to many. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could make the world a better place, one act of kindness at a time?

37 Days of Positive Thinking Recap

Day 37: Recap- I've spent the last month or so changing the way I think. After having spent 9 years in a very negative environment and battling depression and anxiety, it was certainly a challenge to consciously make my thoughts lean towards the positive. But now I feel myself more inclined towards those positive thoughts and have an easier time shutting out my negative voice, although sometimes it is still a struggle. I have had far fewer down days than I normally would have, which is a feat considering that I changed jobs during this time period. There's a lot to be said for the power of positive thinking!

Overall it was a very enjoyable period of personal growth, and spawned thoughts for more 37 Day Projects, such as:
  • 37 Days of Gifts-  inspired by my revelation that I am a gift worthy to be treasured, I decided that for 37 days, I will find ways to be a gift to the people around me.  We're "not the only apples on the tree" as my mother would say, and the best cure for selfishness is to spend time doing for others.
  • 37 Days of Beauty- inspired by the small moments that brought so much meaning into the every day when I took the time to notice them, I decided that for 37 days I will look for beauty in every day.
  • 37 Days of Gratitude- inspired by the people and events for which I am thankful, I decided that for 37 days, I will find something to be thankful for.  I truly feel that gratitude can change your entire perspective, and in turn, change your entire attitude.
  • 37 Days of Positive Body Image- inspired by the moments that I feel strong and beautiful, I decided that for 37 days I will find something to love about my body.  This is a pretty monumental task since I have had such a poor image of myself for so long, that hating my body has become the norm.
  • 37 Days Without Jealousy- inspired by times when I felt down and out because I was jealous of other people, I decided that for 37 days I will strive to live jealousy-free.  We all envy other people and wish we had what someone else has, but there's a reason jealousy is referred to as "the green-eyed monster", because it breeds all kind of negative thoughts.

The Project Begins

The Lenten season is upon us. Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter and is a period traditionally observed in inward reflection, and for some, also prayers and fasting. It is a time to "give up" a vice, bad habit or something difficult to make one reflect on the meaning of sacrifice.

I grew up in the church and am still a very spiritual person, although I don't attend church regularly anymore. For me, observing Lent is still very much a part of my spirituality, rather than just a religious invention. It is a good time to take stock of my life and reflect on what needs to be changed.
This year for Lent my oldest child and I decided to give up sweets. This is pretty difficult for me since I have a huge sweet tooth and am constantly surrounded by cookies and desserts at work, but it is in keeping with my New Years resolution to set a better example of health for my kids. So for 40 days, sugar gets the boot around our house.

Then I got to thinking about my journal entry from earlier this week called "Snipping Threads", in which I said that my own negative thinking was holding me back from future happiness. So in addition to giving up sweets, for the rest of Lent I'm also giving up negative self-talk. This is way harder than giving up sweets, but by doing so, I hope to improve my self-confidence and self-esteem.
My inner negative voice is very hard to ignore. When I see myself naked in the mirror, that voice points out my flaws with a magnifying glass. "Ugh! Look at that fat belly! You need to lose weight", is what I hear in my head. It needs to be replaced with a voice that says, "Remember how beautiful your belly was when you were pregnant? It was a miracle watching your babies turn flips and stretch their tiny limbs in your belly. So what if it's not toned anymore? You were lucky enough to bring not one, but two lives into the world."

For the next 37 days my aim is to replace negative self-talk with a positive memory, a positive action (i.e., hit the gym or eat a salad), a statement of what I'm thankful for, or refocus onto something I like about myself.

Snipping Threads

I sew a lot. Creating new things from raw materials is what I live for. I also crochet, paint, do paper arts, make soap, and anything else that tickles my fancy, but working with fibers is my favorite. There's nothing like taking a piece of fabric and giving it a whole new life and purpose. Anyone that sews will inevitably end up with loose threads all over the place, whether it's from pieces of fabric that unravel or ends that need to be clipped off. Those little threads cling to everything and it's a constant battle to keep them corralled.

I also like to read my horoscope (I'm an Aquarius). It's just for fun and not because I plan my life around it or anything, but sometimes it offers a good piece of advice or something very insightful that makes me think. This was one from a few days ago that I've been chewing on all week:

"A period of emotional adjustment is coming to a close. You may have been struggling or resisting a needed change, and you are now willing to let things go. Once you truly surrender to what is, what can be has a chance to manifest. You will soon start to see the light at the end if the tunnel."

I've been asking myself for several days the questions, "what do I need to let go of?", and "what have I been resisting?"  There are several answers that could go in multiple directions. However, what stands out most in my mind is my feelings of inadequacy. I feel like that is the main thread holding me back at this moment.

My entire life has been spent feeling as though I could never measure up to others- at my thinnest I wasn't thin enough; if I made good grades, I still wasn't smart enough; if I worked out at the gym, I still wasn't strong enough; if I gave myself a makeover, I still wasn't pretty enough; and on and on and on. I envy people who seem to have a lot of self-confidence, because that's the one thing I've always lacked. It hasn't been for a lack of trying though- Even though I was smart and made good grades, I still needed money to pay for college so I joined ROTC. It challenged me mentally and physically in ways I never could on my own, but I never felt that I was tough enough, strong enough, fast enough to be really great at it. I took piano lessons for 9 years and playing piano has often been my joy, as well as my bread and butter, but no matter how many compliments I get, I still feel that I'm not talented enough. Don't even get me started on body image. No matter how much weight I lose, it will never seem to be enough.

My marriage only perpetuated those feelings of inadequacy. Maybe he talked to me like I was stupid because I wasn't smart enough. Maybe he ignored me because I wasn't interesting enough. Maybe he stopped taking me out because I got too fat. It's hard to turn off that voice in my head, even now. It's that negative voice I hear telling me, "That cute guy won't give you the time of day; he'd rather talk to that skinny pretty girl"; "You're not going to get that new job because surely people are talking bad about you behind your back"; "You shouldn't bother taking pictures of yourself because you'll look hideous in them anyway".

Those are the threads that are holding me back and need to be snipped. That negative voice is one thread that needs to be clipped, corralled and swept away.  "Once you surrender to what is, what can be has a chance to truly manifest". What that means is that I need to stop looking in the mirror and wishing I saw someone else's reflection. I need to celebrate the things I like about myself and works towards improving those things that need tweaking.

There are things that I like about myself. I like that I'm compassionate and generous to a fault. I like that I'm exceedingly creative and my mind never stops coming up with new ideas. I like that I have a love of growing things and that I'm very patient. I like that I can find beauty where others can't and that when the moment calls for strength and courage in a crisis, I'm there with a level head. I like that I'm an eternal optimist and can always find humor in any situation. In comparison the things I don't like seem superficial. Will I ever look like the sexy models on TV? Nope. But I can be disciplined and diligent about my health. Will I ever be a Rhodes scholar? Nope. But I can resolve to never stop learning. Will I ever be a stand out athlete? Nope. But I can continue to push myself harder and harder, not for anyone else's benefit, but for my own. Will that cute guy suddenly find me irresistible? Doubtful. But that shouldn't stop me from putting myself out there anyway.
Those negative voices are the little threads that cling to everything. It's time to get out the scissors and start snipping those threads and sweeping them away so that what can be has a chance to truly manifest.

Under Construction

This was my horoscope today, which got me thinking:

"A major opportunity to improve your home becomes apparent right now. You'll be considering new home improvements, renovations and upgrades. What you may not realize at first is that some things have to be torn down before they can be rebuilt. It's a big job."

The next to last line, "some things have to be torn down before they can be rebuilt", especially spoke to my heart. My life is undergoing major renovations right now. When I walked away from a toxic marriage, it was like knocking down interior walls. The outside walls are still intact, but big changes are going on inside. There's still a lot of work to be done before the exterior walls of my heart can come down; what was demolished inside first has to be repaired.

There's a lot of healing and forgiveness that still needs to take place to repair the wounds to my heart. There are deep seated fears that need to be conquered and trust issues that need to be resolved. Just like with a major home improvement project, things take time and there are always hiccups along the way; hidden problems that don't become apparent until another layer is removed.
In the end though, when everything is said and done, my life will be something of beauty and fortitude. Just pardon my dust though- I'm under construction.

What is the 37 Days of Positive Thinking Project?

The 37 Days Project came about because I realized I needed to change my way of thinking. I am going through the final stages of a divorce and had lived with anger and bitterness in my heart for far too long. I spent many months thinking about the things that brought me the most pain during my nine-year marriage and letting go of those negative feelings, and then sat back and realized that I now needed to fill my heart back up with positivity.

The idea for this project was inspired by Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter, in which people typically give up a vice or a bad habit in order to be reminded of the meaning of sacrifice. This year I took that concept in a totally new direction and decided to give up negative thought patterns.
I, like many people, have depression and anxiety, so my thoughts tend to lean toward the negative and then get out of control, even though generally speaking I consider myself an optimist. So, I made a conscious effort to accentuate the positive every day for 37 days, turning negative thoughts, memories and situations into something positive.

Consciously changing my thought patterns made a huge difference in my entire outlook! So much so, that I've decided to keep going with it and change my focus every 37 days. By doing so, I hope to create a new life filled with enough joy, peace and happiness to sustain me through the bad times.
I dare you to try it for yourself, in whatever way works for you, and discuss your trials and successes. Let's learn from each other, and build each other up. Why? Because personally I feel the world could use a lot more positive thinking.