Full Life Reflections

Striving for happiness, peace, and fulfillment in a chaotic world

As this is the holiday season, I gave some thought as to what might be an appropriate post for “The Healing Project.” While for many people, this is a joyous time of year, for countless others, it’s a time of stress and despair. As I am not a particularly religious person (I always call myself “spiritual but not religious”), I have had to give some consideration as to what this time of year represents to me. In this post, I share some of my personal insights on Christmas and the holiday season and what I consider to be the greatest lesson for this time of year.

As Christmas approaches, we start to see the holiday decorations in the stores and television and newspaper ads for gift suggestions and sales. We are told to show our love for those in our lives by buying them the “perfect gift,” often at a premium price. Since many people are already strapped for cash in the midst of the recession, the stress induced by the pressure to buy is higher than ever. We wrestle with questions of who to buy for, what to buy and how much to spend. We rush out to crowded shopping malls and comb the packed aisles and racks in search of a gift which will either serve to express our love or fulfill an obligation. Most of us don’t stop to wonder, “Is this what Christmas is all about?” Religious or not, we can probably all agree that Christmas has been distilled down to a shopping and buying related event in this country for many people. If we think about it, we may consider it a sad reality, but a reality nonetheless.

Do you have trouble making decisions? Is a decision as simple as what to eat for dinner or which movie to see enough to send your head spinning? Do you second-guess your decisions immediately after you make them and wish you could turn back the clock and do something different?

Indecisiveness is a common problem and one I’ve suffered from tremendously over the years. I have driven myself crazy when wrestling with all types of decisions, from the large to the seemingly insignificant. I have wasted countless hours in weighing pros and cons and wracking my brain to make the “right decision,” and I have lost out on things I’ve wanted by taking too long to make up my mind.

I recently listened to a broadcast of Dennis Prager’s Happiness Hour on the topic of indecision. Both Dennis and his callers presented some powerful points on this important topic which have made a difference in the way I approach decisions in my life. This post highlights some of these key points and I hope it will help you to combat the perils of indecision.

Have you ever heard of the term, “Debbie Downer”? This term, based upon a fictional “Saturday Night Live” character, refers to a person who is frequently negative and complaining, thus bringing down the mood of everyone around her. Sadly, I have to admit that I can be this person at times, and since my name is Debbie, that makes it even worse!

I don’t mean to complain a lot, but there are times when I catch myself spouting out all kinds of negativity. At least I catch myself more often these days, but I am still dismayed when I realize I am whining and complaining. My husband gets the worst of it, and this normally very tolerant man has been known to lose his patience with me on occasion. Yesterday was one of those times, which is what has prompted me to write this post. I will look at why we complain, when it’s okay, and how to reform our tendency to gripe and moan.

Are you a critical person? Do you have a tendency to look at others – and life – with a “glass half empty” attitude? Are you someone who is never happy because you always find things to fault about the people and situations in your life, including yourself?

How do you feel about anger? Are you someone who readily expresses your anger and sometimes has a hard time controlling it? Or are you someone who is very uncomfortable with anger, such that you can’t really remember being angry at anyone? Do you confine your angry feelings only toward yourself because that feels more safe and comfortable?

I recently completed the exercises in Chapter 5 of the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book.” This chapter is titled, “Critical Thinking” and explores the tendency we all have to be judgmental and critical toward others and ourselves. The exercises focus on our beliefs and practices related to critical thoughts and the acknowledgment and expression of emotions, including the often controversial feeling of anger.

I’ve decided to focus this week’s post on the topics of criticism and anger. I will share some of Louise Hay’s thoughts on these topics, as well as my reactions and insights from the Chapter 5 exercises.

“We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

I have always wanted to make a difference in the world. Over the years, my vision for how I would do this has shifted, but I have maintained my desire to help others. Lately, I have questioned how much of a contribution I’ve been making and have increasingly felt that what I do is not good enough. A recent experience vividly illustrated the powerful truth in Mother Teresa’s simple quote. The focus of this week’s post is on that experience, what it taught me, and how I will proceed in life based upon what I learned.

The following is a journal entry which I made on August 31, 2009. I titled this passage simply, “The Decision,” and have been carrying it in my purse now for over a year. Although I didn’t start my “healing project” until February 2010, I consider “The Decision” to have been the start of my turning my life around. It was when I decided to change my attitude from negative to positive and to take charge of my life.

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I made an important decision today which I know will be life-changing. It happened while on my elliptical machine reading a book which I’ve had for a year but only recently started to read. The book is called “The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die.” I was so excited when I bought this book last September, but I was too busy to read it until now, or maybe I wasn’t ready until now…

I turned 43 a few weeks ago, so statistically that puts me right at midlife. Of course, I have no way of knowing if I have 40 or 50 more years to live or only a few months. But even if I assume that I will live until 80 or 90 or more, do I want to live my life in the way I have been living it?

Earlier today, I had to call the phone company about an error they had made regarding changes to my service plan. I dread making these types of calls because I invariably end up being transferred to multiple service reps before my issues are resolved. I find myself becoming angry and frustrated at how long these calls take and how inefficiently the company handles what should be a very easy and straight-forward request.

Today’s call was far worse than any other such call I’ve made in recent memory. I was transferred to no fewer than five service representatives and was on the phone for close to an hour. It didn’t take long before I felt my heart racing and my blood pressure rising. I ended up losing my cool during this call and expressing my anger and frustration toward the person on the other end of the phone.

When I got off the phone, I felt shaky and uncomfortable. I wasn’t proud of the way I had behaved during the call. While it’s perfectly reasonable to get upset at inefficiencies and wasted time, I didn’t feel good at how angry I had become. I allowed myself to get “rattled” by what had transpired and I had let these events disrupt my well-being.

I had a lot of trouble sleeping last night. I was awakened around 2:00 am by extreme discomfort in my neck. I tossed and turned for quite a while, but was unable to get comfortable enough to fall back to sleep. Sadly, this wasn’t the first time I had suffered from such neck pain at night, but it was the worst time. Since sleep was not forthcoming, I decided to get up for a while to stretch my neck and calm my mind.

To call my problem a stiff neck would be an understatement. A little over a year ago, I started to experience aches and stiffness in the front of my neck. The discomfort would come and go, and chiropractic care was not effective in relieving my pain. I mentioned the issue to several doctors and other health professionals, but they were as puzzled about this development as I was. Internet searches haven’t yielded any meaningful answers, either. There are a few serious conditions which include frontal neck pain as a major symptom, but if I had one of those ailments, I’d likely be much worse off than I am by this time.

Since the teachings of Louise Hay are an integral part of my healing project, I used my time of sleeplessness to revisit what she has to say about neck pain. Louise states that the neck represents flexibility and the ability to see what’s “back there.” Neck problems signify stubbornness, inflexibility and a refusal to see other sides of a question or situation. A stiff neck is a mark of unbending bullheadedness.

A few years ago, I became highly “accident prone.” I broke three toes in three separate incidents, one of which necessitated a fairly involved surgery with a lengthy recovery time. I repeatedly bumped into things and hit my head on at least ten different occasions. After one of my head bumps led to an emergency room visit and a CAT scan, I decided I needed to look more closely at what was going on with all of my accidents.

I came to the conclusion that a large part of the problem had to do with not paying attention to what I was doing. My mind was always on what I had to do next, not on what I was doing in the moment. I frequently rushed around and felt frantic about getting everything done in a timely fashion. I was always running late to appointments and often drove too fast and somewhat recklessly trying to reach my destination on time. Needless to say, I was not living my life in a relaxed fashion!

A little over a year ago, I decided to allow myself more time to get things done and to be more mindful about my actions. This one simple decision made a significant impact on my life. Not only did I stop bumping my head, arms, and toes every few days, I also found myself feeling much more calm and peaceful. I began paying more attention to what I was doing in each moment instead of living for the future, whether it be two minutes or two years later. Without really intending to start being present as a spiritual practice, I experienced strong benefits in that realm. I started to become more of the person I wanted to be – happy, peaceful, calm, and joyous.

“Fears are merely thoughts, and thoughts can be released.” – Louise L. Hay

The quote above begins Chapter 4 of the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book,” the chapter which focuses on fearful emotions. Although I have been diligently working through all of the exercises in this book, I have decided to only post on those that are most impactful to me and which I feel will be most relevant to my readers. In this post, I share some of the exercises and my responses from Chapter 4, as well as some insights for you to use in your own journey to facing and overcoming fear.
The Price of Fear

Fear impacts all of us. We let fear stop us from pursuing our dreams, speaking our minds, sharing our love, and fully living our lives. We experience fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of change, fear of the future, fear of intimacy, and even fear of success. Some of us literally become paralyzed by our fears.