Leave your Baggage and Unresolved Issues Outside, Please!

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Expectations can lead to disappointment, dissatisfaction and unhappiness; especially when they collide with reality. Yet without this lofty perspective, you may rob yourself of the motivation you need to complete your goals and dreams. If you are forever pigeon-holing yourself into the lower-rungs of failure through negative thoughts, how can you expect to succeed?

I’ve always thought of myself as a realist. For awhile at least, I was afraid to hope for anything better. In order to deal with the many challenges life placed in my path, I decided never to assume anything and to expect even less. By lowering my expectations I was less likely to be disappointed or hurt.

I had no pre-conceived notions. I was simply grateful for what little I received and chose not to complain, but my spirit wilted into a bottomless pit. I quit feeling altogether. I became a zombie, but without the makeup. The real me began to disappear. I spent many hours on my knees praying for patience and for ways to improve my role in life. Essentially, rather than fighting back, I continued to fall through the cracks until one day, I hit rock bottom.

I knew I had to make a change in my life or die trying. Through the grace of God I met a friend who had perhaps seen me fade into non-existence. She invited me to a painting class. Me paint, I can’t even draw? Another woman gave me an assignment to write something for a church group – a skit that the youth would perform. Me? Write? I hadn’t written since high school.

I found myself learning new things. The Public Library was my teacher. My art friends and a unique and professional art instructor introduced me to a magic world where I lost myself in a rainbow of color and creation. For those few hours each week, I was able to forget the pain and release that part of me that had all but vanished.

I grew stronger. I began to laugh again. I made new friends and made plans. I started getting excited about life. My family noticed a different person emerge; a happier woman who glowed with anticipation. For awhile, they didn’t recognize me. My now ex-husband seemed even more withdrawn and morose. I sadly noticed that he was happiest when I was down, and when I seemed happy, he threw out more sarcasm and barbs. Jealousy? Resentment? Since we rarely communicated, I had no way of knowing.

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When two people marry, each brings into the marriage their own expectations and point of view about what a marriage should be like. According to couple counselors, differing expectations not discussed beforehand usually cause unresolved issues and arguments.

If the two lovebirds don’t correct these attitudes and beliefs, it is the beginning of the end. Instead of allowing their love to bring them closer, they draw a line in the sand in a power stand-off. If one party backs down before the problems are discussed and resolved, they will be viewed as the weaker party, the one who constantly makes concessions.

If this passive behavior is exploited by the more aggressive partner, an escalation of power and abuse begins a pattern of controlling behavior that continues throughout the marriage. Constant belittling, disrespect, and outright verbal assaults teardown self-esteem and destroy intimacy.

Couple’s counseling may help, but in many instances the ruts couples get themselves into are very difficult to break. If people would only lay the groundwork ahead of time. One young bride found herself in just such a power struggle. Her husband had pulled out the “junk drawer” in anger as he searched for a tool. The drawer fell to the floor in a clatter, further scattering some of the items.

The husband went off to work leaving the mess behind. What were his expectations? “A wife cleans up the house. It is her job to take care of things at home.”  The surprise on his face when he got home, told him that something was wrong with this scenario.

His wife had her own expectations. “I’m not going to pick up after him like his mother did. He’s a grown man and can pick up his own messes. If I clean up this drawer, I will be forever picking up after him, and he will treat me like a maid instead of a wife.”

A power struggle went on for almost a month. Both parties stepped around the drawer and high-stepped over the mess surrounding it. They fixed dinner, did the dishes together, all while tip-toeing around the drawer and each other. The tension was almost visible.

Finally at the end of the month, the husband cleaned up his mess and put the drawer away. The smart wife said not a word. She didn’t rub his face in it. She didn’t say “I won!” They both had learned something about respect and how to treat the person they loved and had committed their lives to.

If these little squabbles aren’t resolved in the beginning, the grooves of habit get so entrenched that it’s almost impossible to think and behave in new ways. Make up the rules of your marriage together. Find out what each of you hope for and want from your relationship. Whether you believe it or not, prayer does help. If your partner refuses or does not want to pray together, do it yourself. One praying partner is better than none.

The joys of a close and intimate relationship equal a lifetime of blessed memories.

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Less is Sometimes More, and More is sometimes Letting Go

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“Blending In” 11 x 14 acrylic in barn wood frame (see how the feathers replicate the petals?)

I’ve always been a recluse. Even when forced into the outside world by opportunity and obligation, I always returned quickly to the comforts and safety of home.

Of course, in order to write and paint adequate space and uninterrupted quiet are required, and that’s not always easy to find.  Most of us deal with what we have, whether it’s a house full of kids, a noisy or talkative husband, or the constant ringing of the telephone. Today, robocalls burst our imaginative bubbles with irritating pauses, eager politicians, scammers or thick-headed salesmen.

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“First Daffodil” acrylic on canvas

There’s never going to be a perfect time or place. Deal with it! You either ignore the phone, unplug it, insist on solitude, at least some of the time, and get off your rear end and create that novel or masterpiece.

I’ve spent my whole life catering to other people’s needs; and yet I still feel selfish, even now, when I do the things I love or want to do. I shame myself into believing:

  • I’m too old
  • It’s a waste of time
  • I’m not Van Gogh or Renoir
  • I should be cleaning my house
  • I should cook more often
  • Why can’t I be like “other women?”
  • Why do I always have to create something?
  • I’m getting a hump from sitting at my computer
  • My fingers are starting to cramp
  • I can barely hold a paint brush
  • By the time I finish my chores, I’m too tired to create

And on and on we go, making excuses, putting ourselves down, and blaming others for not being able to fulfill our own needs. Whine, whine, and whine! We all do it. Every day!

"With These Hands -- Wonder" oil on canvas

“With These Hands — Wonder” oil on canvas

Recently I heard a T.V. commentator repeat what Dr. Phil had once said: “Why do you always settle for less?”

Indeed! Why do you think you’re not worth success? Why do you either marry or choose friends who are ill suited for you and who don’t live up to your expectations? Some may even go so far as to say: “friends who are beneath you, at least in compatibility.”

Don’t get me wrong, all people are of value, at least in God’s eyes. But that doesn’t mean you have to date them or marry them. How many times in the past have you “settled for less” when you could have had more?

Prisons and mental institutions are filled with people who have low self-esteems. Sad people who believe that this is all they deserve. And, of course, that’s all that they get.

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“Beach Buddies” acrylic on canvas

Perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board. The adage: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question that can be asked over and over again. As long as we have breath to ask the question, we should keep adjusting our goals and our dreams for as long as we live.

Too often we end up focusing on the end of our life and see time running out. Wake up, my friend! “Life is eternal.” You do not close your eyes in death and “go out” like a burnt out flame. You do not cease to exist. Once you realize this, the possibilities are endless.

The essence of what you are is inside of you. Everything you need to live fully and richly resides within your mind and heart. Your job is to find it and hold onto it with every fiber of your being. You are magnificent. Once you discover your divine potential nothing can stop you!