Less is Sometimes More, and More is sometimes Letting Go

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blending-in-carol-allen-anfinsen

“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.

First Daffodil

“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!

Living in the Present and Letting Go of the Past

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Sea Swirls

“Sea Swirls” acrylic on 24×18 canvas

Today is all you have. If you’re future focused, you may miss out on the blessings right under your nose. If you dwell on the past, you may end up with a heart full of regrets and sadness. No matter how much you would like to go back, the past is out of your control. You can’t change it. Ever!

Tomorrow is not yours, either. Predictions are foolish. Wishes are senseless, unless they’re backed up with action. Concentrate on today’s duties and obligations. There may be pain. There is often unhappiness; but if you’re honest, there are also priceless moments of joy: sunlight coming through the window and landing on a sparkling glass; the smell of peanut butter; birdsong in the quiet of afternoon; drawing a warm bath; a church bell in the distance, slipping tired feet into fuzzy slippers. You just have to watch for these mini-miracles. Savor the few and let the rest go.

Sea Breeze

“Sea Breeze” acrylic on 30×24 canvas

My mother used to say “If you want to retain your sense of humor – read the funny papers!” She was right. Even online jokes and funny stories can change your day. I received one that gave me a huge belly laugh when I finished reading it. What if I’d skipped that email, thinking I was too busy and had no time to waste? I’d have stayed down in the dumps and perhaps been impossible to live with for the remainder of the day. Don’t miss out on a chance to laugh!

Turn up the music and dance. Never wait until you’re in the mood. Do it now! It’s good exercise. If you stop feeling sorry for yourself, you may end up casting those bad feelings aside in a whirl or a jiggle. It’s hard to keep frowning when you’re jiving to the rhythm or swaying with a child in your arms. Go on – gyrate! Get those feet tapping to the music.

Connect with someone. Loneliness hurts! Pick up the phone. If nothing else, turn on the T.V. and listen to other people’s complaints. Hold your pet. Hug someone! Get out of the house and do something. The more you nurse your aloneness, the more alone you’ll feel. Stay connected until you feel better. People need people. You may still feel alone unless you share your grief with someone else. Sharing makes others feel better, too.

Sea Nymph

“Sea Nymph” acrylic on 24×18 canvas

Go for a walk. Yes, I know, you don’t feel like it; but do it anyway!  I walked ten miles one day and still didn’t feel any better than when I started, but I managed to sleep well that night. If that’s all you get out of your walk, at least you may feel better in the morning. Walking gets your blood moving. Sometimes depression may be as simple as lack of adequate blood flow to the brain. A sedentary person ages faster because the muscles and bones are starving for the life blood that stimulates and feeds them. On your walk, count the number of people you pass. Try to remember their faces. The next time you see them, greet them with a smile and a friendly hello.

If you earnestly try to do the above and you still feel like you’re stuck in a deep dark pit, get help! After my divorce, I was confused, lost and completely alone. My former friends had disappeared. My neighbors turned their heads when I passed. New friends were mostly users who took advantage of my vulnerability. I sought out help. A psychologist prescribed Prozac and I began to feel like a new person. I could think clearly, gauge my surroundings more realistically, and I regained my usual optimistic personality. Never try to go it alone. Give yourself every opportunity to get well!

broken-hearted-carol-allen-anfinsen

“Broken Hearted” pastel on 11×14 Bristol; matted and ready to frame

Concentrate on your own needs for a change. You’re having trouble helping yourself. This isn’t the time to change the world. Focus on you. Don’t worry about the past. Quit fretting about the future. Take one day at a time, one step at a time. Get help from a professional, and by all means, follow your doctor’s advice. If he or she says “Don’t drink” that’s what they mean (alcohol and medications don’t mix). If they say you should stay away from negative friends who pull you downward, follow their advice.

Whether you sink or swim, the job of wellness is yours. If you continue to thumb your nose at those who offer help and disregard sound advice, you will be playing the “poor me” game for the rest of your life.

Yes, you can do it! You were made for joy and happiness. Quit comparing yourself to others and start noticing your own progress. Rejoice in simple achievements. Don’t allow others to take you back to that dark place. If that means leaving certain people behind, do it! You are on a journey of health and wellness. You have a right to be happy. You are “divinely and beautifully made.” Reach for what your own heart cries out and yearns for. Don’t look back!

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“First Daffodil” mixed media on canvas

When Life is Cut Short, we’re never Prepared

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Sand Crane Dreams

Sand Crane Dreams

I attended a funeral this week. From the moment I walked through the doors, I knew I would not be able to walk by the casket or hug the widow. The funeral of my sister who died last year from M.S. flooded my mind and I could hardly breathe.

Solemn is the only way I can describe it. The air was heavy with grief. The throng that attended testified to the love that was felt for the soul at rest. White flowers were everywhere signifying that a holy ritual was taking place.

Rites of passage and momentous ceremonies are important to our lives. The repetition engraves them on our hearts and makes them sweeter through the passing years. Rituals secure familial ties and bring us full circle from birth to death.

My Sister Jean

My Sister Jean

Not all was somber and sad. There was time for celebration as family members shared funny stories and a musical slide presentation of happy events. People wiped tears of laughter and pain from their eyes.

Some things are constant like love, loyalty and devotion. Death does not diminish what was cherished in life. We rejoice that suffering is ended, but we long to hold on to what was. Letting go is difficult. Grief is like peeling layers of self from an open wound. The soul bleeds internal tears that leave us fragile, exposed and spent.

A fatal ongoing illness does not prepare us for the final ending anymore than an abrupt and sudden death prevents us from wrestling with denial. We are never ready for a treasured life to end. The shock rattles us to the core. Our faith is tested. Without faith there is no hope for reconciliation. The void is there in either case like a black empty hole.

We all have different coping skills. At such a time as this, we find out how strong ours are. Do we turn to our friends and family for strength? Are we sustained by faith in God? Do we crumble in despair and turn to temporary substitutes that do not sustain and may harm us?

Quinn's first child

Quinn’s first child

Who we are in the end is all we have. Has our life of living turned us into an empty shell, dependent on the goodness of others or the high of a new fix, or has our daily choices instilled us with courage, determination and hope?

Death comes to all of us. We are not immune to its grisly affects. Peace eventually rescues us from our abysmal fall and reminds us that death is not the end, but the beginning of our soul’s eternal journey.