My friend’s father died at Christmas. What do you say to someone in that moment when they need you the most? I didn’t say a whole lot – of course I said how deeply sorry I was for her loss. Outside of those few words, I chose to simply show up for her.
Nothing you can say or do will ease the loss of a loved one. Nothing.
As humans, we feel helpless especially when we don’t know what to say or do. The best way to handle that helplessness is to show up.
At his celebration of life service, my friend didn’t have a whole lot of time – obviously – to chat.
But she knew I was there because all I could do was simply show up in life – for her – at that moment.
When You Don’t Know What To Do
I recently read an article by Glennon Doyle about simply showing up in life.
Glennon Doyle is an insightful writer who’s been to hell and back with drug addiction and bulimia and in the process, figured out the secret to life is simply showing up.
The secret of life is not about knowing what to say or do. It’s not about doing love or loss right. Life cannot be handled. The secret is simply to show up. It’s about witnessing it all, even the pain, and letting it touch you and make you not harder, but more tender. Showing up, feeling it all—this is my new kind of prayer.
It took her beloved grandmother living her last moments and her sister giving birth – all on the same day – to change her thinking about what to do when you don’t know what to do.
Can you imagine how you’d make a choice like that?
You don’t. You simply show up in life.
You do your very best to simply show up knowing that it’s painful, it’s heartbreaking, it’s life-altering.
What I’ve Learned About Simply Showing Up In Life
I’ve learned that life is hard. I’ve learned that to have a friend, you have to be a friend. A true friend. I’ve learned that sometimes, saying nothing and just showing up is what matters most.
Knowing that nothing I could say or do would change the situation or make it any easier, I showed up.
Instead of mumbling the standard ‘he’s in a better place’ (which does absolutely nothing I might add) I showed up for my friend and simply said:
Peace and be well.
During those inevitable times when life goes sideways, yes, it will hurt. But kindness makes the bitterness of life easier to handle.
Glennon Doyle went on to say:
I felt like I was getting the inside scoop from life itself, and it was saying, “Yes, Glennon, it’s as hard as you fear. That won’t change. You will lose people. It will hurt badly, and yet…we go on. Tomorrow will be beautiful again—more beautiful than you can imagine.”
I think my head is going to explode. I went to a friend’s house to help out last week and there was clutter, clutter everywhere and no place to put it!
It’s the Christmas season and we’re all shopping like crazy to get the perfect gift on everyone’s list. So, where do you put all the new stuff when your closets are already overflowing?
Why Am I Writing About Clutter?
Yes, I know I’m a certified aromatherapist and what does clutter have to do with aromatherapy? Well, I’m also a holistic life coach and that means I’ve been trained to ask questions and look at situations with fresh eyes. And that’s important information for you to have when reading this post – and thank you for reading!
I visited my friend to help her move “stuff” (read that to mean clutter) around to make room for her Christmas tree. Sheesh!
Listen – how you live is none of my business – ever. But when you stand there and complain that you’re overwhelmed, depressed, frustrated and mad as hell while we’re rearranging a shittonne of junk, then don’t expect me to keep my mouth shut.
To make room for the tree, we had to move some of the clutter into her bedroom which already looked like a warehouse. Bedrooms are for sleeping and sex – NOT for TV watching, eating or as storage units! Period!
I’ve been in minor minimalist mode for the last few years. I say minor because I have no intention of getting rid of everything I own.
But here’s what’s been on my mind lately: What happens if I get run over by a truck today? Then what? Who’s going to take care of all the stuff and clutter that I have everywhere? Just how much stuff sitting around collecting dust do I really need?
I told you that the life coach thing would be important to this blog post. :0)
My Minimalist Approach
Here’s my idea of minimalism:
Have just what I need – maybe a bit more
If I haven’t touched it in 2 years, it’s time to get rid of it
If I haven’t worn it in 2 years, let it go
How much dusting do I really want to do (I hate dusting)
Analyzing why I need more stuff
Physical clutter equates to mental clutter pure and simple. Yet all the commercials we watch brainwash us into thinking we NEED more stuff! Have you noticed how many storage companies there are around your town? Why do think that is?
Listen, I love pretty things and lots of clothes as much as the next guy. I do. BUT – what am I going to do with all this stuff when I get old? All that money spent on needless stuff could have helped my retirement account get a little bigger and make me feel more secure.
Not to mention that we get busy busy busy and don’t take the time to put things away if there’s any room left!
The First Step in De-Cluttering
STOP. JUST STOP. Stop buying stuff you don’t absolutely need for your survival!
At this time of the year, it’s imperative to think outside of the Christmas box. Instead of buying more needless stuff for someone, why not have dinner together? Why not get you and your sister/friend/mom a mani/pedi and spend time together? Or get a series of yoga classes to take together?
How many more toys do your kids and grandkids really need? If they’re into soccer, why not get them a soccer lesson? Or tickets to a big league soccer game and go with them? It’s not things that make memories, it’s people we’ve spent time with.
My second step was to clean out the junk drawer in my kitchen. Then it was a stack of boxes with stuff I hadn’t touched in five years – five years! If you haven’t touched it in that length of time, why do you need to keep it?
What’s your first step toward de-cluttering?
Where To Take Your Clutter
There’s a number of excellent places to donate your items, but one in particular touched my heart. Annie’s Hope Center For Growing And Healing. Annie’s Hope is a certified 501(c)3 non-profit and the Reverend Abby Catoe is the force behind it. Helping women who have endured domestic violence, this labor of love helps them heal and get back on their feet.
Of course, there’s always Goodwill, Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army. You do help change lives when you give to all of these organizations.
If everybody wins, who really wins? I had an eye-opening conversation with a friend recently about this very subject. We were talking about some of the people she works with that don’t do their job because “they don’t want to” and there’s no motivation to do any different.
She went on to say that these particular people are the first generation that got a blue ribbon just for showing up on Field Day. They received everything equally so that nobody’s fragile self esteem was damaged.
Needing to process that statement, I looked at her for a moment and then it hit me.
Everyone of them got a blue ribbon on Field Day at school so that everyone would win something and nobody walked away hurt and disappointed. Everyone is a winner – everybody is a king.
This trend began some years ago because some “authority” told us that children need constant positive feedback to grow into self-confident adults. If someone wins, then someone loses and somebody might feel bad about themselves so let’s just make everybody the same and then everybody feels awesome! My friend’s co-workers are the first generation of “Believe. Achieve. Succeed.”. And it’s been taken one step too far.
I understand the premise behind it, but not the reasoning. Nobody wants to feel the sting of disappointment – especially when you really put forth your best effort.
But if you never learn the agony of defeat in life, then how do you learn to gracefully handle the thrill of victory? If everything is awesome, how can anything be awesome?
I remember the first time my son came home from school sobbing with disappointment because he didn’t win. Everyone in his kindergarten class submitted artwork for a contest at his school. He didn’t win anything at all – not even an honorable mention. The artwork was awesome (of course it was!) so I did what any parent would do, I called his teacher.
I explained the situation and asked who was judging the contest. The teacher told me that an art teacher from the high school was judging the contest – a person who didn’t know any of the children and was objective. Okay – thank you – got it – just wanted to check and make sure.
Then the hard part came – gotta tell my 5 year old that sometimes life just stinks. It’s not because he didn’t do his best, not because he was disliked.
He didn’t win anything because someone else was better at art than he was.
If everybody is a winner at everything, then how do you learn what your gifts and abilities are? How do you discover a passion for something when you get a gold star just for showing up and breathing?
If everybody gets a blue ribbon, does that mean everybody is going to be a doctor? Or lawyer? Or succeed at college life?
See what I’m getting at?
Healthy Self Confidence Instead of Over-Inflated Ego
Michael Sigman, in writing for the Huffington Post, says this everyone-wins-a-trophy mentality simply breeds a false sense of self-confidence:
“Grade inflation promotes ego inflation, the opposite of healthy self-confidence. “We want to encourage effort, especially among young kids,” says Jean M. Twenge, author of The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. “But the ‘everybody gets a trophy’ mentality basically says that you’re going to get rewarded just for showing up. That won’t build true self-esteem; instead, it builds this empty sense of ‘I’m just fantastic, not because I did anything but just because I’m here.’”
By fighting to earn my blue ribbon (or A, or whatever the prize is) I learned good sportsmanship, motivation, self-confidence along with knowing what I was good at and where I was lousy.
I can tell you right now, absolutely NO ONE was concerned about building up my fragile self-esteem. It was all about doing better than you did the day before, studying hard so you didn’t get grounded for bad grades and finding (and fitting in with) friends you enjoyed playing with.
A Learned Sense of Entitlement
Mark Merrill writes about this learned sense of entitlement in a blunt way:
“It seemed to start in the early 90’s. Maybe it was in little league sports, maybe somewhere else. Someone came up with the idea that there would be no losers. Maybe they didn’t want to “damage the children’s self-esteem.” Thus, everyone wins. Everyone gets a trophy. Sure, maybe at a very young age it’s no big deal, but kids are smart cookies. As they get a bit older, they see what’s happening and it de-motivates them. The less talented kids have no reason to do better and the more talented kids have little motivation to excel. On the other hand, it’s also dangerous for our children to think that if you can’t win, you shouldn’t play. That’s a lie too. There is often incredible benefit in being on the basketball team even if you’re not the starter or to sing in the choir even if you’re not the star.”
Even if you’re lousy at something, shouldn’t you experience it just to be a well-rounded human? If you win at everything, does that make you a good kid? If you don’t win, then what?
I love this explanation about raising mentally tough and healthy kids by blogger Anna McAffee:
“We set them up for failure by not giving them realistic expectations. We do not prepare them for healthy criticism, nor do we allow them to determine their gifts and abilities. By telling them that they can do whatever they want, they never have the chance to figure out what they are good at and what they are not good at. Working to develop well-rounded and confident children is not a bad thing. The problem arises when we tell our children that they are going to be the very best at everything they set out to do.”
While I think it’s good to let children know they can attempt anything at all, we also need to temper this with teaching them to look for and hone their gifts and abilities instead of just expecting to be patted on the back for simply showing up.
How This Turned Into The Law Of Attraction
While this mentality of “you can have, be and do anything you set your mind to” is great in theory for motivation, it stinks in reality. I think this whole entitlement mentality paved the way for the huge “law of attraction” explosion.
The Law Of Attraction basically says whatever you want, all you have to do is dream it, think positive thoughts and it’s yours. Whether that’s a million bucks, a fabulous job, the prettiest spouse in town – whatever. You want it, you got it because with the law of attraction, nobody loses and everybody wins!
So what happens when the dream doesn’t happen? How do you handle bitter disappointment when you’ve never known loss or defeat because, you know, everyone’s a winner? There’s this false sense of reality because the law of attractions says I’ll succeed at everything I try!
When it doesn’t happen, then what? If you’ve always gotten the blue ribbon for just showing up, then you really don’t know what failure and disappointment is.
What happens the first time your boss criticizes you because you could’ve done a better job on that project or you need to start showing up on time? If you don’t know any different, how do you handle that criticism?
There’s a real shock! My friend said people quit their job at her company because they just didn’t feel like doing the job they’re being paid for! When they were criticized for not stepping up, it made them so mad, they quit.
I swear my eyes are rolling right out of the back of my head. Jeez…
Healthy Self Esteem and Self Worth
We all need to receive positive feedback – especially as a child. I get that. And yes, if you work hard enough, you’ll probably get what you want or some semblance thereof. Maybe. But if you’re tying your self esteem and self worth to winning and losing, you’re screwed from the start.
Healthy self esteem and self worth comes from the inside. You’ve got to know in you’re own heart that no matter what people think or say, YOU are a worthy person. Not because you got a blue ribbon for showing up on field day, but because you’re a human being worthy of taking up space on the planet.
Some things, you just have to learn on your own – including disappointment and criticism. Or with the help of an awesome and compassionate holistic life coach. :0) Fill out this short contact form and let’s talk about this today!
To have faith doesn’t mean you get any less frustrated when you don’t do your best, but you know that it’s not life and death. Take what you’re given, and when you continue to work hard, you will see results. That will give you the confidence you need to keep going. Tom Lehman
Sometimes, it’s hard to keep the faith. Every once in a while, the world just keeps coming at you with no end in sight. I hope I’m not the only one who feels like throwing in the towel upon occasion.
It’s impossible to count just how many times I have felt that way. Do you ever feel that way? Feel like enough is enough? Feel like you’ve pushed so hard to make something happen and it fell flat – yet another time?
You’ve had a really tough day; seems like everything has gone to hell in a hand basket and it ain’t over yet. Not nearly enough aspirin – or red wine – to fix that headache.
That’s exactly when you need to keep the faith.
There’s a way to get back on track when life seems so overwhelming, it seems like it’s always something and you’re asking yourself: will it ever end already?
Somehow, somewhere, some way – there’s a gift in here. (Sigh…)
The Gift of Perseverance
I went through a really bad time some years ago where Murphy’s Law was in full effect. If it could go wrong, it did. Everything I said, everything I did, every single decision I made – all backfired in some form or fashion.
The fallout was devastating – I’ve said that before. I completely lost my faith and anything else that went along with it. You want to know the truth? I’m not sure I’ve fully recovered from that chapter of my life. Or do I mean healed?
All I can say is some of the things I’ve been through are what make me a very gifted and empathetic aromatherapist and life coach. These very events have shaped my character, my integrity and my heart.
But, I managed through the gift of perseverance. And guts. And grit. Real life ain’t for sissies, you know.
Focusing on your breath gives your brain a much needed break and gives you a moment to think about nothing. Breathing this deeply helps bring fresh energy to your cells and is very calming.
Yoga is one of those practices that I didn’t understand until recently. You have to think about each pose while you’re doing them. Yoga isn’t hard and can be modified for all body types and levels of agility. When you practice yoga, you’re practicing deep breathing techniques.
Yoga (and deep breathing) are highly beneficial during times of stress – especially when you’re struggling with life events (and keeping your faith). I can tell you from experience, it works!
Mediating for Five Seconds
One of the things I’ve tried to do – and I’m not good at – is sitting still long enough to meditate for a few minutes. Sheesh! That monkey mind of mine goes off the deep end the moment I sit down. I’ve learned that full-blown meditation is not for me, but I can manage for a few seconds at a time.
It goes back to focusing on your breath. If you don’t care to meditate, but really need a break, just sit down and think about your breath for five seconds. That’s it – five seconds! All you have to do is pay attention to what it feels like when you take a deep breath and then let it out. How do your lungs feel when you breath deeply? What happens to your belly when you breath deeply?
By the way, while you’re thinking about your breath, make sure they are big, deep belly breaths. Meditating like this puts fresh oxygen in your system.
Okay, so maybe it’s not meditating, but it works for me.
I wish I would’ve known about aromatherapy a few years ago. I believe with all my heart that it makes such a huge difference in your life, especially during times of stress.
Using aromatherapy can be the catalyst that gives you the motivation, inspiration and strength you need to keep the faith.
Here’s my favorite blend that quickly helps when you need to find peace and tranquility, to find inner stillness and harmony and to move blocked or stagnant energy.
10 mL Glass Roller Ball
10 mL Jojoba Wax
10 drops Frankincense
7 drops Myrrh
7 drops Oppopanax
Combine all ingredients into roller ball, cap tightly and shake well. Use 4 times daily by applying to chest and inner wrists.
We all need a helping hand when life goes sideways. I want to help you keep your faith, get through the trying times and come out on the other side a much stronger and wiser human being.
Remember, faith is believing in something when there is no real proof of your belief. Faith comes from your heart and your guts (also known as your intuition).
People are what you make them. A scornful look turns into a complete fool a man of average intelligence. A contemptuous indifference turns into an enemy a woman who, well treated, might have been an angel. Andre Maurois
When’s the last time you thought about an angel in disguise? I am a fan of motivational quotes. They always seem to trip a trigger in my brain. Lately, I’ve worked to keep my eyes open to all the “serendipities” of life and when thinking about this week’s entry, the above quote jumped out on my screen.
And it got me to thinking…
People walk around hoping to present to the world how they see themselves, but often we see them through the lens of our life experiences and judgments. I believe we make those harsh judgments of others based on our own personal notion of “normal.”
Normal? Relative to what? What is normal anyway?
Maybe what I see as “normal” is ridiculously boring and absolutely out of the question for you. Maybe I’m the really weird one in the world and everyone else is sane. Maybe your coworker or best friend is fighting a demon or struggling with a problem and it comes across to you as a snarky comment or contemptuous indifference.
It’s the contemptuous indifference that just absolutely makes me crazy. All of this to say: Kindness.
We all have problems and we want them solved. We go looking for answers and – OMG – what if YOU are the answer to someone’s problem that day? What if just by showing up and being kind, you made them feel less alone and more “normal?”
Because of kindness, what if you give somebody a big smile in spite of the bitchy comment they just threw out? You become the angel in disguise because instead of biting back, you empathized with someone who might look and act completely different than you. You cleaned up someone else’s screw-up without telling the whole world and they know there really is good in the world.
Years ago, I lived in this tiny rent house in a cul de sac just off a very busy highway. One summer day, I was home alone as my son was playing at his friend’s house. Since I didn’t have air conditioning, the windows and doors were wide open.
I can’t remember what I was doing – just putzing around the house on a Saturday afternoon. An older man – who had seen much better days – knocked on my screen door and asked for a glass of water. I brought a glass of water to the door and he sucked it down and asked for another. I brought another glass of water and he quickly drank that, too. He asked for a third and so I went to the kitchen and poured the water, but when I got back to the front door, he was gone.
He disappeared into thin air.
I have no idea what happened to him. He was old and dirty and I didn’t have a clue who he was or where he came from. No one in the other neighborhood houses even saw him.
Was he an angel in disguise waiting to see what I would do? I don’t know. When I told my mother about the experience, she freaked out and started screaming that I could have been killed and what was I thinking and how could I have been so stupid?
All I did was give a glass of water to a thirsty man. I didn’t feel stupid and I didn’t feel threatened at the time that this event took place. Someone was thirsty so I solved a problem (albeit for the short term) and helped another human being.
I simply treated him with kindness instead of cold indifference or even worse — apathy. I don’t know if I really have a guardian angel but, in that instance, some force was watching over me very closely. Call it what you want – guardian angels or serendipity – it all comes down to the same thing – angels in disguise.
My Own Angel In Disguise
One time I dropped a box of business cards all over a downtown street corner. I was late, frustrated and near tears picking up a thousand business cards when a kind soul said “May I help you?” In my frustration I simply said a terse “no thank you” and kept picking up the cards. She said “are you sure?” and I uttered no thanks – then I looked up.
Here was a young woman with studs coming out of her nose, lips, eyebrows, tongue – you name it! She wore odd clothes and had really different hair – I will never forget her.
I wished now I would have said “yes, thank you so much for your help.” But I didn’t – I simply gave her a terse “no thank you.”
I still feel ashamed when I think back on that incident – what if she were struggling that day and by extending a hand of kindness to a stranger, she was trying to reach out as all “normal” human beings do?
Instead of letting her help me, my angel in disguise was promptly rebuffed. I was so uncomfortable allowing (and receiving) help that I couldn’t even say yes, thank you.
Jeez – what an impression I left that day. At best, I was rude and at worst, I was insensitive to another human being who was simply being kind. Boy, do my wings ever need adjusting…
You never know what serendipity will bring when you least expect it so I’m keeping my eyes open for an angel in disguise. What about you? I would love to hear about your angel in disguise. Were you the angel? Or were you on the receiving end of an angel in disguise? Please leave a comment below and tell me your story – I’d love to know about your lovely coincidences.
As always, I would certainly appreciate a like on Facebook or a tweet on Twitter. It helps the Google fairies find Scented Balance and makes you an angel in disguise! ;o)