Beneath the Surface – the Past always Catches Up with you

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Bill Cosby’s arraignment for “aggravated indecent assault” i.e. multiple rapes and alleged rapes has shocked the nation; especially his long-time fans and admirers.

Cosby represented the all-American family and basic goodness. He made us laugh. He made us smile at our own foibles in parenting.

His story reminds me of a similar one about a former cop who got arrested for child porn and spousal abuse.  Known for protecting others, he couldn’t protect his own or himself.

And what about the neighbor’s husband who ends up in the headlines, after his death, for his reputation as a pervert and philanderer. When the grieving wife settled his affairs, she discovered letters and other evidence of his misdeeds in his desk; confirming what she suspected, but could not prove. She continued to find the tell-tale signs of his indiscretions long after he was gone.

The past always catches up with you. Some people manage to keep the surface of their lives smooth and unfettered, but deep within is a raging sea. What triggers these unexplained blips that appear in an otherwise normal existence?  Is it a controlling environment and too much stress? Or simply a need to indulge a secret and a hidden piece of life that no one else has access to?

My husband and I share an office which I’m discovering is a big mistake. He sits right behind me. While I’m trying to create, he reads his emails and laughs out loud. At other times, he shares his mail or what’s off the top of his head. When my children were young, I learned to continue regardless of the interruptions or noise. But as I’ve grown older, I’m finding the ability to focus is more difficult.

I usually head for my desk when I wish to write or catch up with things. To do this requires concentration and imagination. My husband follows me like a puppy dog into the office. I should feel flattered that he likes my companionship, but my irritation sometimes boils over in unflattering ways.

I go to the office when I want a moment of communion with my higher force and muse. The other day I listened to some Christmas music from “Child of the promise” a musical production written and arranged by Michael & Stormie Omartian in the year 2000.

The solos by Elizabeth and Mary fill me with joy and allow me to worship in a way that is only possible with music. Of course, that brought protests from my husband, who looked upon it as an intrusion  into his space, even though I was there first to be alone. He views the office as his and his alone.

God gifted me as a writer and an artist. So why then did I have a large family and demanding spouses?  Alone time has always been rare and difficult to find.

I had friends who were writers that found a means to create. One put a hair dryer on her head and concocted stories in a whirl of white noise? Another friend locked herself in the bathroom so she could think and pound out her thoughts without being disturbed.

I used to create on my daily walks. My husband would jog ahead and I’d commune with nature and create subject matter. Sometimes I’d use this time to pray and converse with my higher power and muse. Now he no longer jogs, but walks beside me, usually expounding upon some political angst or philosophy. He uses me as his sounding board and silent companion. I end up feeling frustrated for lack of two-way conversation or the “space” I so desperately need.

Sometimes I lose my cool. And sometimes he does, too. When you’re with someone 24/7 you have to make space in order to survive. If you can relate, be sure to define the times and places where you need a quiet spot for down time. If you fail to do this, don’t be surprised if you end up in a screaming match wondering what just happened.

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!

To Touch or Not to Touch That is the Question

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I’m a hugger and a toucher. It goes way back to my Danish/Swedish heritage. In our family we called them “love pats.” As a child, I’d try to dodge those slap-on-the-back taps whenever possible; some could even sting.

Now I’m doing the same thing: thumping my spouse and my friends on the back followed by a big squeeze of adoration. It’s like a bear hug with suffocating pressure. I tell myself to taper back, but when emotion swells my chest, I get carried away.

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How we approach others tells them a lot about us. Sometimes my exuberance puts people off. My welcoming embrace can be overpowering. My enthusiasm may offend the non-touchers and the formal greeters from other countries and cultures. But once people get to know me, they hug me right back, so I guess that’s a plus.

Some people are more touchy-feely than others. Many families are more affectionate. It’s wise to check out the customs of other people before you offend them inadvertently. Manners and acceptable behavior varies around the world.

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When I was in Korea, it is their custom to dine sitting on a floor cushion around a low table. They never use a toothpick or try to dislodge a piece of food from their mouth in public without first covering their mouth with the other hand. Yet, they consider it an affirmation of downright deliciousness to burp after a meal, not just once, but several times in declaration.

An American who was sitting at our table put on lipstick and combed her hair after the meal. The shocked and embarrassed glares told me that this behavior was totally unacceptable in Korea, especially in polite company.

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Never one to give up on people, I look into their eyes while I shake their hand with both of mine. That’s my way of saying “I respect you. I really like you. I’m interested in what you have to say.”

My husband, on the other hand, is Norwegian. As he likes to say, “Norvegian’s look at your shoes and never give eye contact until they get to know ya’.” Actually it’s true. It was more than a few years of marriage before he could talk to me and look me in the eye for more than a few seconds at a time. I cherish looking into his eyes now for lengthy discussions or sharing the day’s trivialities.

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In business there’s a whole “other” set of rules and behavior. People like me who are outgoing and friendly need to be careful that their actions don’t betray them or cause co-workers to misinterpret their actions. Too much eye contact may seem flirtatious. Touching may seem forward or seen as a signal for more provocative behavior.

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You’re usually more at ease in being yourself, but you need to respect the space that others may need and want. Understand that you can’t please everyone. Be genuine and others will feel at ease, too.

The Props we depend on – are they Necessary?

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After work last night, I played the couch potato. Hypnotized, I watched colorful commercials spin their magic only to repeat themselves every 10-15 minutes. One central theme seemed to stand out. If you’re alive and well, you should be on the fast track to success using the latest technology to speed up your dreams and luxuriate in wealth.

We are bombarded with advice to get richer and go faster. We’re riddled with guilt if we don’t. Hurry, hurry, “Run, Forrest, Run!” Between jobs, we chase errands, shop for groceries, and chauffeur the kids to school, day care and a hundred other activities and involvements. We may have several blogs to keep up with including our own. “Run, Forrest, Run!”

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We eat, we sleep, we work, and if we’re lucky we play. When we’re sapped of strength, we veg out in front of a T.V. set or check out text messages while trying to stay abreast of the latest trends on Facebook and Twitter.

Keeping up is as important to a career as staying informed. If we’re not moving forward, we’re sliding backward. Wherever we are, at work or at home, phones are ringing, horns are honking, traffic is rushing, and the urgency of life attacks us on all fronts. Caught up in today, yesterday is a blur.

We worry about lack of sleep, or the forbidden foods we eat as we grab and run. “Go, go,” we urge our children; “We’ll be late!” The clock waits for no one. If we lag, life speeds ahead of us. “Snooze, you lose,” we’re reminded at each turn.

Jump in. Hang on. Cut in. Elbow your way to the front. Before long, assertiveness turns to aggression and we’re off to the races battling other people for our small space, our tiny footprint on the planet. We feel insignificant and overlooked. We’re ready to fight or scream, or come to a screeching halt!

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Moody Blues

What if we did? What if we postponed a meeting? Were late posting on a blog? Slowed down our efforts long enough to notice the people we care about? I can almost guarantee that the world will not notice your feeble efforts at punctuality. And people will not see that your blog is two days late because they’re too busy working on their own.

What if your numbers do slump slightly? What will it matter ten years from now if you lost two followers? What if you refused to work on weekends?

I’ll tell you what will catch the attention of the important people in your life. They’ll see that you’re less on edge. Your children and sweetheart will relax when they feel your tension melt away. Instead of watching them grow apart from you influenced by a web of strangers, they’ll find out how life is supposed to be lived. They’ll learn how to set their own priorities and how to set limits on their appetites and passions just by watching you cope. Instead of rebelling, your children will respond to the new you!

Habitual yelling and anger can be replaced with laughter setting a tone of patience and compassion. No longer will you resent their demands because you’re too busy. You’ll trust in yourself and in your God trusting that “things will work out for your good.” If you do your part, your family will follow. Strength and power come from within. When family members stand together and support one another, the family unit is stronger.

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With These Hands — Love

Remember when Forrest Gump’s leg braces shattered and fell off? He discovered that he didn’t need crutches to live a full and successful life. Once we realize that we can achieve our dreams without relying on the false crutches that society proclaims we need, the faulty support systems of the world explode and fall away. What we are left with is a strong inner core that will see us through any crisis.