DIS—EASE

There is a natural connection between the way we live and the diseases that come our way.  Science is just beginning to discover the linkages between specific negative emotions and specific physical disorders, but already many of these connections can be made. 

Negative emotions damage the body. When we perceive a situation to be dangerous, adrenaline and cortisol are released by our bodies to facilitate “flight or fight” responses.  The problem is that most of the “dangers” that cause stress cannot be resolved by fighting or running away! I have tried both and neither ever worked. 

Modern life is characterized by a tsunami of stressful events and daily pressures coming at people from every conceivable direction. And yet the real culprit isn’t the situations which surround us – it is the emotional reactions to these events.

Emotions are not confined just to the mind or heart, but they are often translated into chemical reactions which occur at both the organ level and the cellular level! Apparently, the “most damaging” emotions are feelings of un-forgiveness, anger, worry, fear, resentment, and frustration.  Clearly, no one with an emotional life is immune to the danger, particularly FEAR (FALSE EVENTS APPEARING REAL!)

These negative emotions which place so much stress on our bodies come in two forms: those that arise out of present situations and those that are embedded in our deepest memories. These unhealed memories are actually concealed as false beliefs and negative images in our mind, formed as destructive remembrances.  Our immune system is the primary healing source in our bodies. Stress is the one thing things that diminishes the immune system.  Healing these memories is the only way to allow the immune system to do its job.

Reducing the emotional symptoms of stress starts with reducing the sources of stress in your life. There are a variety of stress-reducing techniques.You have to find the ones that work for you in providing relief, but they don’t eliminate the reasons for your stress.

  1. Physical activities such as running, jogging, and aerobics are a great way to relieve stress and tension.
  2. Relaxing physical activities such as yoga or tai chi can help to work your body while relaxing your mind. 
  3. Mindfulness techniques such as contemplative meditation and prayer can strengthen your emotional responses to stress.
  4. Reducing stress in a particular area of your life can help to lessen your exposure to chronic stressors.
  5. I use some mobile apps, such as Calm, that engage my mind through guided conversation which helps me manage stress and anxiety.

Over time, you may find that your resolve against stress becomes stronger and that your symptoms improve.  However, if you find that you’re still struggling to handle the emotional aspects of everyday or chronic stress, it may be best to reach out to a mental health professional. You cannot allow these techniques to mask the underlying problem.

Learning how to recognize sources of stress in your life is the first step in managing them.  Everyone has different stress triggers, but work stress tops the list for most people.

Causes of work stress include:

  1. Being unhappy in your job
  2. Having a heavy workload or too much responsibility
  3. Working long hours
  4. Having poor management, unclear expectations of your work, or no say in the decision-making process
  5. Working under dangerous conditions
  6. Being insecure about your chance for advancement or risk of termination
  7. Having to give speeches in front of colleagues
  8. Facing discrimination or harassment at work, especially if your company isn’t supportive.

Everyday life and personal relationships also have a big impact.

  1. The death of a loved one
  2. Divorce
  3. Loss of a job
  4. Increase in financial obligations
  5. Getting married
  6. Moving to a new home
  7. Chronic illness or injury
  8. Emotional problems
  9. Taking care of an elderly or sick family member
  10. Traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, theft, rape, or violence against you or a loved one.

Sometimes the stress comes from inside, rather than outside. You can create stress just by worrying about things. All of these factors can lead to stress:

  1. Fear and uncertainty. When you regularly hear about the threat of terrorist attacks, global warming, and toxic chemicals on the news, it can cause you to feel stressed, especially because you feel like you have no control over those events.  Also, major fears develop over money issues and paying the bills, particularly when an unexpected bill arises and the budget is thrown off. Shit happens.
  • Attitudes and perceptions. How you view the world or a situation can determine whether it causes stress. For example, if your television set is stolen and you take the attitude that’s why we have insurance you’ll be far less stressed than if you think the robbers are coming back to hurt you. Similarly, people who feel like they’re doing a good job at work will be less stressed than those who worry that they are incompetent.
  • Unrealistic expectations. No one is perfect. If you expect to do everything right all the time, you’re destined to feel stressed when things don’t go as expected.
  • Change. Any major life change can be stressful — even a happy event like a wedding or a job promotion. More unpleasant events, such as a divorce, major financial setback, or death in the family can be significant sources of stress.

Your stress level will differ based on your personality and how you respond to situations. Some people let everything roll off their back. To them, work stresses and life stresses are just minor bumps in the road. Others literally worry themselves sick.

FORGIVENESS

FORGIVENESS

Forgiving someone or an entity of some sort is a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you. It makes no difference whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. The action of forgiving brings peace of mind and frees you from corrosive anger. True forgiveness does not require positive feelings toward the offender, but at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal and move on with your life.

When you forgive, don’t gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you or release them from legal accountability. Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for improved health and peace of mind.

Forgiveness can lead to:

  1. healthier relationships.
  2. Improved mental health
  3. Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  4. Lower blood pressure
  5. Fewer symptoms of depression
  6. A stronger immune system
  7. Improved heart health

We can appreciate the benefits, but letting go is not so easy, or everyone would do it. There are a few folks that are just naturally forgiving. Being hurt by someone, particularly a relationship partner or someone you love, can cause anger, sadness and confusion. If you dwell on hurtful situations, feelings filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root. Resentment is a killer and is particularly difficult to deal with. If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you will find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness.

If you’re unforgiving, you might:

  1. Bring anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience
  2. Become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present
  3. Become depressed or anxious
  4. Feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you’re at odds with your spiritual beliefs
  5. Lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others

Forgiveness is a commitment to a personalized process of change. To move from suffering to forgiveness, you can:

  1. Decide that forgiveness may improve your own life.
  2. When you feel resentment enter your thinking, look carefully at the circumstances and see if you had a role in the situation.
  3. Identify what needs healing and who needs to be forgiven and for what. If you had a role in the situation, even a slight bit, make sure to enter your apology as a part of your forgiveness.
  4. Acknowledge your emotions about the harm done to you and how they affect your behavior, and work to release them.
  5. Choose to forgive the person who’s offended you.
  6. Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life.
  7. In many cases, the person that harmed you may not realize what they have done and they have been renting space in your head for free.

As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.

Forgiveness can be challenging, especially if the person who’s hurt you doesn’t admit wrong. If you find yourself stuck:

Practice empathy. Try seeing the situation from the other person’s point of view. Ask yourself why he or she would behave in such a way.

  1. Perhaps you would have reacted similarly if you faced the same situation.
  2. Reflect on times you’ve hurt others and on those who’ve forgiven you.
  3. Pray or use guided meditation — or talk with a person you’ve found to be wise and compassionate, such as a spiritual leader, a mental health provider, or an impartial loved one or friend.
  4. Be aware that forgiveness is a process and the other person doesn’t really have to accept your action.  The healing is for YOU. Accept their feeling and let it go.

It is important to remember that you cannot change another person.  People have to changes themselves.  Forcing another person to change his or her actions, behavior or words isn’t the point of forgiveness. Think of forgiveness more about how it can change your life — to bring you peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing. Forgiveness can take away the power the other person through the elimination of your resentment.

What happens when I have a role in creating a resentment or I have offended someone? The first step is to honestly assess and acknowledge the wrongs you’ve done and how they have affected others. With this knowledge of harms done, admit it to those you’ve harmed. Tell them you were wrong and speak of your sincere sorrow or regret and ask for forgiveness — without making excuses.

You can’t force someone to forgive you. Others need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever happens, commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.

Men seem to have more trouble with forgiveness. The difficulty really lies in cultural attitudes about forgiveness and masculinity, and men have to do some extra work. A forgiveness program for guys might include contemplating examples of powerful, forgiving men, or reflecting on how forgiveness is actually a form of strength and courage.  Admitting you were wrong is a difficult thing for a man, even though most of us have had ample practice at being wrong.

“I am so very, very sorry sweetheart! I was wrong.”

“Yes, you were! Why do you do stuff like that?”

“I honestly don’t know, but I am going to work on it!”

The guy is clueless—he doesn’t know what he did, why he did it, or what to do about it. Not the best situation but better than silence.

In the meantime, both men and women who are suffering from an unforgiven wrong they committed may benefit from forgiving themselves. If you had known that your action would cause pain to others or yourself, you probably wouldn’t have done it. And even if you knew that you were causing damage at the time, you had no idea how much you would regret it in the future. Seeing ourselves as imperfect is difficult at best. So, we try to avoid mistakes at all costs, and when we do make a misstep, our first impulse is to ignore it.

In order to forgive ourselves, we first have to admit to ourselves that we were wrong. We have to acknowledge the wrong—which feels almost counter to our sense of well-being. Mistakes, failures, and even incredibly stupid acts are part of being human. It’s how we learn and grow.  It is hard to be human and not do something stupid every so often.

Forgiving others is the better way!

HAIR

WHAT IS SO IMPORTANT ABOUT HAIR?

A LOVE AFFAIR!

Men and women love their hair and both genders spend money and time making sure it is a proper a reflection of their identity. This deep personal relationship between hair and self-esteem is evident throughout history, philosophy and even religion. Hair is often a direct representation of our public persona.

History shows that hair is a symbol of femininity. There is little wonder why women feel like their hair is a “crowning glory,” since this phrase dates to Biblical times. According to 1 Corinthians 11: 15, “but for a woman, if her hair is abundant, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.” As shown in 1 Corinthians 11: 5, “and every woman, who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered, dishonors her head; for she is on a level with her whose head is shaven.”

Lady Godiva’s naked ride through the streets has made her a heroine to the common people of Coventry. Her image of riding a horse with her body covered with only her long hair has become a symbol of civic freedom and beauty. The negative implication of a woman with bad hair is apparent in throughout history.

Men also believe they are judged by how much hair they have on their heads. The fear of baldness is palpable given all the various treatments available to grow and sustain thick hair. Most men consider their hair a reflection of their personal style, and as something that helps them look both masculine and professional. The chatter surrounding male grooming has become a hot topic recently, with an increased awareness and availability of specialty beauty products for men. 

THE COST OF HAIR

Hair and beauty are a multibillion-dollar industry, and the average woman spends approximately $50,000 on her hair over her lifetime and almost two hours a week washing and styling it. This is not just because many believe that appearances are important, but also because hair represents personality, thoughts and beliefs. For centuries, women have been able to play different roles by creating different hairstyles, and from their stories, we can see that hair contributes greatly to women’s self-esteem, actions, and motives.

The women of Brandon Oaks (my retirement community) have beautiful hair that is often styled to perfection.  Some have regular appointments with a hairdresser/stylist outside our community, but others use our in-house stylists and are thrilled with the results. Apparently, we have wonderful stylists who are quite good with hair and I know from first-hand experience they are very, very funny— hilarious actually.

I enjoy watching our women have their hair rolled into curls and sit under a hair

dryer.  Most read a magazine while sitting very still and allowing the contraption to do its job.   They look so serene and peaceful and they know the positive comments will flow as their peers recognize the new hairdo.

The average male spends about $25 a month on hair care and other “beauty” products. However, the under 30 crowd spends a lot more.  Moisturizers and hair gels are used a lot as are body washes and specialty shampoos.  You have to look as good in a selfie as you do in real life.  Watch out for specialized make-up for men.

BALD

Something women don’t have to worry about is baldness. The primary cause of male pattern baldness is having a family history of baldness. In other words, genetics. Male pattern baldness is associated with male sex hormones called androgens. The androgens have many functions, including regulating hair growth. Each hair on your head has a growth cycle. With male pattern baldness, this growth cycle begins to weaken and the hair follicle shrinks, producing shorter and finer strands of hair. Eventually, the growth cycle for each hair ends and no new hair grows in its place.

Male pattern baldness can begin in the teenage years, but it more commonly occurs in adult men, with the likelihood increasing with age. Genetics plays a big role particularly when the bald relatives are on the maternal side of the family.

Medical treatment isn’t necessary if other health conditions aren’t a cause.

However, treatments and techniques are available for men who are unhappy with the way they look and would like the appearance of a fuller head of hair. I am not bald and so I have no skin in this game.  BUT, I hate the comb-over solution and have never seen an attractive toupee, wig or weave on a man. For me, I would use Rogaine to see if it helps. If not, I would shave my head for the completely bald look. This has become a very attractive alternative for men.

When push comes to shove, there’s no known way to prevent male pattern baldness. A theory is that stress may cause hair loss by increasing the production levels of sex hormones in the body.  We blame everything else on stress, so why not baldness.  Anyway, a shaved head is much more “manly” than a bun on top.

REINFORCEMENT

Hair is so much more than a look. It can be a reflection and reinforcement of who you are.  Many women choose an abbreviated hairstyle when they reach middle age. This change in length is cultural, seeming to signify a graceful slip into life’s third act. After a certain age, women often want to hide, rather than glide, through the world, and the shorter style is part of that.

There are three types of aging women according to hair professionals. The ones who cut their hair off out of fatigue—the ‘get this stuff off my head’ types. Then there are the ones who do it because of a facial sag so they want to go short to enhance their best features. And then there are those women who fight it all the way, who stay long forever. And there is a wisdom among these women that stay with it and it can be incredibly glamorous.

A friend of mine gets her hair done every Wednesday by the same hairdresser no matter what unless there is a meeting of the Athenian ladies.  Her hair is always beautiful. When I go to the barber shop, I always take the first available person.  I am more interested in the time allotment and my thinking is that they must be oaky if they have a job. That would be heresy for most and stupid by conventional standards. Most women seem to prefer the same hairdresser even among those in our own salon. Men are becoming more selective and are slowly abandoning “barber” shops that provide only the “high and tight” look. One of my friends has his hair cut every two weeks on the dot by the same person

Hairdressing is a customer service-oriented business. The way you feel about the person performing the service is almost as important as the quality of their work. You sit in a stylist’s chair and tell her what you want, and she makes you feel like she genuinely wants to help you look your very best. Many folks quickly develop pseudo-friendships with their hairdresser. While they may never see the stylist outside the salon, they feel like the person is a genuine friend and therefore give them far more leeway in situations where they are dissatisfied than they would another service professional.

Choosing a stylist requires of a lot of searching, or the stylist may be a referral from a close friend or family member, all of which adds a great deal of pressure to the situation: pressure for the relationship to work. And when the stylist is an actual friend who has gotten his or her cosmetology training, then the impetus to keep the relationship stable gets even more strident.
 
Then you add the fact that esthetic appeal is subjective. What one person likes, another may not. In some cases (especially those where there is a connection apart from hairdresser/client) the taste of the stylist and client may mesh more readily. In other cases, the hairdresser may feel that a strong sharp-edged style flatters the face and makes a statement, but the client may favor softer looks and a subtler appearance.  Older women tend to have strong feelings about their hair and don’t like change. At least, that has been my observation!  I certainly expect to hear about this observation.

COLOR OR NOT

Then there is the problem of color.  My own hair has turned to gray as I have aged. There are lots of women with gray hair—gray is cool. But a number of men and women want the gray gone. The main ingredient in our hair is a protein called keratin, the same substance of our fingernails. Keratin is colorless and is arranged in overlapping scales in a hair strand, which makes it flexible. The cortex is the middle part of the hair strand, which contains moisture and melanin (pigment that gives your hair its color!) The cuticle is the protective outer layer of the hair strand, which determines how healthy your hair looks! If the cuticle is smooth, your hair looks silky and shiny. If the cuticle is raised, your hair looks dry and damaged.

Eumelanin is the dark pigment which gives black and brown hair color, and phaeomelanin is a lighter pigment that gives hair red, orange, and golden blonde colors. The mix of these two varieties of melanin gives your hair its unique shade.  Lack of pigment results in white or grey hair.

When permanent hair dye is applied to the hair, ammonia causes the cuticle to ‘open up’ and let the dye in. Then, peroxide is used to penetrate the hair cortex and remove your existing hair color (melanin). Once that happens, the new color is left in your hair cortex. Conditioner is used to close the cuticle to seal in the new color.

This is also the process used when bleaching or lightening your hair, except the melanin is extracted until you get the lightened shade that you decide (and your natural hair color cannot be replaced until it grows back in!).

Hair coloring is quite the process! If you do decide to color your hair, of course, you should discuss permanent coloring versus semi-permanent coloring. Permanent hair dyes are the most harmful, and if used too often, can result in damaged and dry hair. Although conditioners do help seal the cuticle after the coloring process is finished, the hair strand will not revert to the original condition without your help. Make sure to keep it moisturized, avoid using hot tools as much as possible, and use hair products designed specifically for colored hair.

Unless you’re an expert behind the science of hair coloring, I would have my hair colored by a professional! There are many factors that affect how hair coloring works, such as your current hair shade, hair type, and condition. Since these factors can greatly affect the outcome of your hair color, it’s best to trust a professional to achieve your look.

STILL LEARNING

I learned something new today at the community lunch table.  There are shampoos that will whiten your hair if you choose to have gray or white hair.  In fact, as I cruised the internet, I found over 30 brand names and most are available at Sally Beauty Supply, Walmart, or Amazon. I decided to investigate a modestly priced product called Klorane Shampoo with Centuary.  It uses a cornflower extract which is a natural blue pigment. Apparently, this pigment enhances your silver highlights and neutralizes yellow tones.  Also, there are whitening shampoos for dogs. Does Helen Mirren color her hair?

MY OWN HAIR!

I decided to try an outside hairdresser.  One our stylists has been cutting my hair over the past few years and has done an excellent job.  But a friend convinced me that she had the best and most entertaining hairdresser in all of Roanoke. So, I made an appointment with Yvonne and went for a cut.

First, let me be clear, I received a great haircut.  She asked if I liked it long and I answered in the affirmative.  She explained exactly how she would proceed by shortening it a bit in the back then layering it up my head. She trimmed a bit on the side—maybe an inch and took a smidge off the top. Terrific.

After the three minutes of hair talk our conversation began.  She told me about her former husband, her very interesting children and the places she had lived. I told her some things about my family.

She played golf earlier in her life.  She used pink golf balls.  On one hole she hit a good shot but started talking to a member of her foursome and did not follow the ball.  She knew she hit straight, but the ball was nowhere to be found.  Her friend told her to look in the cup.  Guess what? There was the ball.  She had a hole-in-one with a beautiful pink ball.

Yvonne is a painter.  It seems a resident of Brandon Oaks, a wonderful artist in her own right, was having her hair done. Yvonne said she would like to paint and was told to take lessons and she did. She doesn’t display her work in her shop because people give their views as to how she should have done the painting. She doesn’t like that at all.

She was a horsewoman when her daughter became interested in riding.  She loves horses, but no longer rides.

Of course, in between all this activity, she became a hairstylist, colorist and mother. She has been in business for 31 years.

I mentioned that I knew an Yvonne in high school.

“Oh, yes. You must have gone to Jefferson High School.  I have heard a lot about her.  She was a cheerleader and very pretty according to some.  When I had my shop at Promenade on 419, a man called and asked if an Yvonne worked there and was told yes. He said he would drop by in a few days to make an appointment. He didn’t want to do it over the phone.  A few days later, a man arrived at the shop with a huge bouquet of flowers.  He asked for Yvonne.  I was in the storeroom and someone came for me.  As I walked out of the room, the man got a funny look on his face and asked me if I was Yvonne. I said yes.  My eyes went to the bouquet and then to his eyes which were wide like he was scared.  He asked if I had gone to Jefferson High and when I said I had not, he sighed with great relief. He then turned and walked out with the bouquet.”  She smiled and giggled a little.

I found Yvonne to be an excellent hairdresser and someone who had a personality that was delightful.  She is first rate!

Many women feel that a bad hair day equals a bad day: when a woman’s hair is too fine, too frizzy, too dry, turning grey or falling out, her self-esteem is seriously affected. I am finding this applies to men as well.

EGO and HUMILITY

“I may not be much, but I’m all I think about”! Most of our thoughts center around job, possessions, money, or other things we have accumulated. If we tell someone about this and believe this is our true self, we will be told about our ego problems.  Ego is often considered a liability.  Yet we must have ego in order to function as humans. The ego is the compass that helps guide us in the determination of right from wrong. It helps us make decisions in life.

Where do we go wrong with ego? People with huge egos are generally considered those who have an insatiable desire to demonstrate their own self-importance.  Boastfulness is not an admirable trait, regardless of one’s status in life. “Conceited,” “boastful,” “prideful,” “self-centered,” “arrogant,” are all ways that egocentrics are often described by others. When in conversation, egocentrics will almost always try to redirect the conversation back to themselves, and talk about their supposed successes, accomplishments, and achievements.  Simply put, they need to look good – and they feed off other people’s validation. They are self -centered and lack empathy for others. An unhealthy egocentric doesn’t see past their own needs and desires.

Characteristics of a person with an exaggerated ego:

  1. They are always right—at least in their own minds. The person who suffers from a huge ego sees their opinion as the only one that matters. They are driven by what they believe, and facts have little importance to them.
  2. A person suffering from an inflated ego is never satisfied. They are addicted to the high they get from reaching goals and achievement dictates their behavior. They do not live in the now, but know they need more of everything.  In the words of Queen— “I want it all and I want it now.” If a neighbor gets a new sports car, they want a more expensive sports car just to show them they are better.
  3. Huge egos do not accept loss. They must be number one in everything they go after. These folks will do just about anything to succeed, even if it means hurting another person. They manipulate the system for their benefit, are disloyal, disrespectful and obnoxious. They expect the world to revolve around their universe.
  4. The egocentric has given herself a grandiose sense of self-importance and expects others to see this at all times. They will exaggerate any talents and achievements in the course of their lives. They will tell and retell stories of past events to acquire recognition and admiration. They will embellish their unlimited success, worth, and beauty so that others see their perfection.
  5. These folks suffer from lack of interpersonal relationships. They do not understand what it is to support another with their dreams, ideas, or emotions.  They are only concerned with what anyone can do for them.  Empathy doesn’t exist for the egotistical person. They are not able to accept compassion or show empathy.

How do folks develop these massive egos? Are some humans born with oversized egos? As you delve deeper into your true identity, as you strip away every false layer of your old self, you will find a smaller ego that is the right-size for decisions. Before you can do this, you must look at the reasons for this oversized ego.   The preponderance of egocentrics do not have a very positive self-image. They recognize their insecurities and attempt to camouflage these insecurities by wearing a mask– one of competence and confidence – in a desperate attempt to conceal their real state of mind. Low self-esteem can be problematic; it is a leading cause of anxiety, depression, and a number of other psychological disorders. Egocentrics are fearful of failing and do not recognize that failure has some of life’s best lessons.

Having high expectations of oneself is a healthy and productive frame of mind. However, spending most of your waking hours thinking about your achievements far exceeding anything conceivably realistic is not healthy or beneficial.  Egocentrics often have these illusions of grandeur.

If an egocentric perceives their life’s progress as inadequate – a common characteristic of such people – they’ll embellish anything and everything in order to make up for this “gap.” Should someone call them out, they’ll frequently overreact in a desperate attempt to get people to buy whatever they’re selling.

Egocentrics have a compulsive need to “match” someone else’s perceived qualities. These folks are often highly accomplished individuals; yet, their unquenchable desire to supersede anyone else remains evident. This extreme need for validation is apparent in their conversations with others. When the topic of conversation does not involve them, an egocentric cannot help but intercede in a desperate attempt to redirect the spotlight.  She becomes a 10-year-old girl, although she won’t agree with that assessment.  A conversation that doesn’t revolve around them is not worth having.

An egocentric truly believes that their way is the best way – and the only way. If an egocentric detects a loss of control – often perceived as an act of disrespect – they’re quick to become angry and defensive. Such attitudes and behaviors are most apparent in a group setting.  I can remember in 2003 sitting in a meeting of about twenty colleagues, sitting on the edge of my chair, pounding the table for emphasis regarding a marketing plan some wanted to implement.  I believed we should provide more money for direct sales in our branches and was opposed to “soft” marketing.  It was a good thing that my sales group was number one in the company, because otherwise I would have been asked to leave.

So, I have a huge ego and don’t like it. What to do?  If you can, sit comfortably and quietly in a darkened room and just ask yourself “Who am I?” Allow your thoughts and feelings to come to the surface, and don’t judge them. Just observe what comes up. Do not berate yourself but try to find the YOU that you want to be.  Then you can focus on who you are and where you want to take yourself.

The Ego will gain some power as you contemplate your True Self and attach those thoughts to your identity. Take a step to get away from this tendency. Volunteer or just lend a helping hand to others, forget about your Self for a while, and instead shift your attention outward to your fellow humans in need. Release your obsession with “I” and instead focus on “We.” Offering your hands and heart to others will help contain your ego.

My worst habit was talking more than I listened. I still struggle with listening. The ego always wants to be heard and can’t stand when others have the floor. The false self wants all the limelight and praise and finds it difficult to let others have attention for any length of time. One way to overcome this is to develop a new habit: listening more than you talk. Allow others to fully finish what they have to say before you respond or bring up a new topic; this way, you will learn to have a balanced relationship with others rather than one solely built on an out-of-control ego. This will also help you relax and go with the flow rather than always having to control a situation and overtake the conversation.

“Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” Folks with large egos always want to have the last word, and they can’t deal with being wrong. They won’t let go until others see it their way. It is hard to remember that others will always have different opinions than you. The realization that their opinions don’t invalidate your own is a big step; others just see things from a different point of view, and they’re entitled to that. Once you can allow others to express themselves and be themselves without feeling offended, you have made a marked step on the path to diminishing the ego. Choose to be happy.

I have been told on several occasions that if you have a need to talk about humility, you don’t have it.  Humility is often regarded as weakness.  It is often confused with humiliation.  It is hard to come to grips with a humble attitude. When we fail at something that is important to us—a job or a relationship, for example—our self-esteem plummets because we tied our self-worth to those things. All of a sudden, we become bad or unworthy people.

A humble person is able to withstand failure or criticism. These folks sense their intrinsic value of being human rather than letting the world make that judgement for them. When they fail at a task or don’t live up to expectations, they try to learn from the situation, but never consider that there is something wrong with them.

A healthy emotional bond formed with others, usually our childhood caregivers, provides unconditional acceptance and love which can serve as a buffer against the effects of criticism or failure. A lot of us did not experience secure attachment when we were children. But we can compensate through healthy adult relationships, such as friends, romantic partners, or even with a higher power, which has been important for me.

Humble people have an accurate picture of themselves—both their defects of character and their gifts—which helps them to see what must be done to change.  There is no judgement here, just acceptance. This acceptance allows me to see where these defects are limiting my growth. Use a feather rather than a bat to beat up on yourself.  Kindness and compassion make your change easier. Transformation comes from positive action.

Gratitude can make us less self-focused and more focused on those around us—a hallmark of humble people. Expressing gratitude can induce humility in us, and humble people have a greater capacity for conveying gratitude. I am a believer in making gratitude lists. Gratitude reinforces humility. BE GRATEFUL FOR WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU CAN BE.

AN AGING HIPSTER

AGING HIPSTER

In the year 2016, I wrote a book called OLD AND QUIRKY.  It was about the place that I live. I renamed this wonderful place SILC (Senior Independent Living Community.) In the real world, the name is Brandon Oaks Independent Living and Life Care Community. It is a wonderful place and I love living here. But mostly, I love the people.  They are pleasant, interesting and intelligent and they are all past the 65-year mark as earthly beings. I am aware that I’m growing older, but I can’t tell if I’m becoming quirkier or everyone around me is doing so.  This matter of quirkiness deserves another look.

I have decided that I gave my daughter’s entirely too much credit for my decision to move to this fabulous place.  Even though I was young (70) by some standards, I was no longer a hipster and truly didn’t want to be. Some people suggest that age is just a state of mind. At least it can seem so until you try to squeeze into ridiculously tight jeans you rocked when you were 50. But unfortunately, aging is just as unavoidable for hipsters as it is for everyone else. And the bitter reality suggests that when you reach the age of 70, it’s easy to be regarded as a cultural imbecile. There’s no fountain of youth to gulp down. And strategically placing copies of the New Yorker and Wire on your coffee table isn’t going to erase the signs of aging from your increasingly wrinkled face or your silver hair.

The fact of the matter is that there are limits to how hip you can be when you reach a certain age. There are, of course, tips and tricks to make the transformation more graceful, but the challenges for the aging hipster are many – especially when most aspects of relevant popular culture are primarily aimed at people in their teens and twenties. The stresses of staying up to date with everything can easily become oppressive, and growing frustration can lead even the most dedicated hipster into the dreaded mainstream middle. I simply cannot text with my thumbs. Plus, it’s more important to put together a nutritious, well balanced dinner than to text your grandchildren to see what they are doing.  Or, in our case, find your way to the dining room.

An exact timeline for the decline of the hipster is hard to define. Some already start to lose their grip around 40, while others hold themselves in top form long after the 50-year mark. However, here are ten clear indicators that the ball is probably rolling:

1. Your biggest musical influences have all hobbled around on embarrassing reunion tours.

2. You wear long-sleeved shirts because you are afraid of pre-cancer lesions.

3. You can’t relate to any of the characters on Stranger Things.

4. All your friends have grandchildren.

5. You have a great snapback hat collection. 

6. You have a gym membership and use it with admirable regularity.

7. You wear ear plugs at symphony concerts and object to loud restaurants. 

8. You go to bed before the news at least six nights a week.

9. You turned in your sleek BMW and now drive a Prius. 

10. You use Facebook to keep in touch with your family.

You could view “the aging hipster” as something of a paradox. But that need not be the case. You could just project your actual age instead of pretending that you’re still part of the younger generation. In other words, stop dressing like you’re 30 immediately. Be sure to keep yourself in decent shape. Few people manage to look good long-term on a steady diet of bacon and Ben & Jerry’s. Aging hipsters should also avoid overly daring and eye-catching outfits. The line between clairvoyance and bad taste tends to blur the older you get. Muted colors and more tasteful paraphernalia are always a plus. Even your choice of hair style plays a big role. Mohawks, ponytails and the messy layers get the ax. Short and well-groomed are key concepts. My hair is way too long by mature standards. Most people tell me I look younger when my hair is short. The truth is I am lazy and don’t like going to the barber shop.

But more important is your de facto relationship to popular culture and art. In this respect, never let yourself get lazy. Older hipsters gladly prioritize family and career over scanning for exciting current cultural expressions and phenomena. Instead of making the effort, they satisfy themselves with the lowest common denominator. Don’t. Do. It.

Since I no-longer wanted to be the hipster, it was evident to me that Brandon Oaks was the place to be.  The decision between buying a house and moving here was simplified when I considered grass cutting and snow shoveling.  End of story!

PRAYER

Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray to God my soul to take.
If I should live for other days,
I pray the Lord to guide my ways.

Father, unto thee I pray,
Thou hast guarded me all day;
Safe I am while in thy sight,
Safely let me sleep tonight.
Bless my friends, the whole world bless;
Help me to learn helpfulness;
Keep me ever in thy sight;
So to all I say good night.               

There is a fair amount of consternation about why we should pray. Most of us know about the foxhole payer where we ask God to get us out of a particular mess and we will agree to do heavy penance.  Our intentions are good, albeit short-lived. And many of us have presented a shopping list to God hoping that it will be fulfilled. Then we shake our heads and tell ourselves that prayer doesn’t work. Prayer is not merely making supplications before God for our needs. Prayer is the connection between humans and God, communicating with each other.

Thankfully, there is no one way of praying and those who have the need for prayer find their own way. Prayer is definitely a conversation with God. Since my thinking is often my source of chaos, I always ask God to direct my thinking. It works for me, but I have to be attentive. I also engage in Centering Prayer, whereby I attempt to empty my mind of distraction and hopefully gain direction from the Divine. Action is a necessary part of prayer; helping those in need, getting on with our daily work, and putting every moment into the presence of God. Singing, playing an instrument, saying a prayer aloud in groups, public worship, or simply silence are all part of connecting with the Divine.

Prayer is a way of relating to God, to ourselves, to those around us. In opening our hearts and minds and souls to God we are challenged to grow, change, and to love. Just as we make time to spend with those we love, so in making time to pray we are seeking to grow in our relationship with the Divine.

Prayer is being in the moment, being present, being open to new ways. It is a way of learning to become our TRUE SELVEs and to be comfortable in the presence of God. Since GOD is a presence that infuses every moment and every space, prayer focuses our attention in order to encounter the Divine.

I want to know the way of the Divine so that I can change; be open to transformation, to becoming more loving, peaceful, gracious, compassionate. It’s not an easy path and being open in prayer can often be a painful experience as we find and confront those parts of ourselves which we might not be keen on seeing. 

You can pray anytime and anywhere. The freedom to pray anywhere, though, often leads to praying nowhere. We should absolutely pray spontaneously whenever and wherever prayers arise in our hearts — during a break at work, before a test, in line with our groceries. But our lives are fueled by prayer, so we shouldn’t leave it up to spontaneity.  Pick a time and a place to be silent and pray on a consistent basis.

For some people, setting aside time to be alone with God is intimidating. In fact, for many today, any time alone at all — no friends, no television, no phones — is unnerving. After all, we are speaking to almighty God here. He already knows everything we need and everything we are going to say. One important thing to learn early on about prayer is that it truly is a conversation. God is truly listening when we pray.

If we’re honest, many of us lack courage and imagination in our prayer lives. We have a tiny little box of routine things we’re willing to ask God for, and we take on everything else — our questions, our frustrations, our dreams — on our own. We assume God’s not interested in or doesn’t have time for the small details of our day. And we can’t even imagine him conquering a global crisis, so we settle for middle-of-the-road mediocre requests. We wait to pray about something until it becomes “serious enough” for God to care about. Accordingly, we deprive ourselves of his mercy and power in massive areas of our life and world.

Prayer is powerful.

Visit My BLOG @ http://www.weaver1888@gmail.com

t. michael smith

THREE RECIPES

Jambalaya

Slow Cooker Jambalaya with andouille sausage, chicken and shrimp cooked low and slow with bold spices and vegetables with just 10 minutes of prep.

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts skinless, boneless, cut into chunks
  • 1pound andouille sausage links sliced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes 28 ounces
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery thinly sliced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1pound shrimp 13-15 count

Preparation

  1. Add all the ingredients except the shrimp into the slow cooker and stir.
  2. Cook on low for 7-8 hours (high for 3-4 hours), in the last 15 minutes add in the shrimp.
  3. Serve over rice.
So GOOD!!

Three Bean Rice Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked wild rice blend or brown rice cooled
  • 15 oz kidney beans rinsed and drained
  • 15 oz black beans rinsed and drained
  • 15 oz garbanzo beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno diced

Dressing Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Combine dressing ingredients in a mason jar and shake until thoroughly combined.
  3. Toss dressing with salad.
  4. Refrigerate for an hour for best flavor
Truly Delicious!!

Banana Pudding

Ingredients

  • 2 boxes Vanilla Wafers
  • 6 to 8 bananas, sliced
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 (5 oz.) box French Vanilla pudding
  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
  • 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12 oz.) container frozen whipped topping thawed, or equal amount sweetened whipped cream

Preparation

  1. Line the bottom of a 13×9-inch dish with 1 bag of cookies and layer bananas on top.
  2. In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix and blend well using a handheld electric mixer.
  3. Using another bowl, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk together and mix until smooth.
  4. Fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture.
  5. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding mixture and stir until well blended.
  6. Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and cover with the remaining cookies.
  7. Refrigerate until ready to serve!

Prep Time:30 minutesYield:12 servings

MY FAVORITE!!

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TRUE SELF

TRUE SELF

How often do you feel that a friend, colleague, or a spouse reveals their true self to you?  The real person?  Maybe you get glimpses at times when you think someone’s actions represent who they actually are. I wager that you have lots of beliefs about yourself and other people. You use these beliefs to indicate why people act in a certain way. If someone yells at you, you may forgive them because you know their life isn’t going so well. Or, you mistrust them because you feel they are angry about something you have done. Or, you might even think that their true self reflects their anger about everything, and you should have no contact with them. Accordingly, there are times when you believe that a person’s actions reflect the situation they are in or their current mental state.

I have trouble discerning the true self of others.  This is an area that is part of the “I don’t know” category for me most of the time.  There are plenty of times when I first meet someone that I decide we don’t connect, we are not on the same page, and I don’t spot anything about them that I like.  There are times when I decide to dislike someone before I meet them.  Then after a time, I grow to like them. I need the willingness to give them and me a period of adjustment, a pause if you will.

Human beings possess a host of qualities that are similar, but it is their unique combination that creates the individual and their singular true self.  Mystics are not the only ones that can be in touch with their true self. Most believe that the true self is moral and good. It is the notion that everyone is born with instincts that differentiate the good from the evil. So, when people make changes in their behavior, we are more inclined to believe it reflects their true self when they change from doing something bad to something good than vice versa. When someone has been self-serving for a long period, but realizes that serving others is the better course, we believe they have gotten in touch with their true self.

We all have gifts that guide the true self: a zest for life; a rational way of thinking; a certain amount of creativity; freedom from the bonds of self; gut feelings that are based on proper discernment of right and wrong; a spiritual path; and the ability to love and be loved. Our nature is determined by our usage of these gifts. Your choice and my choice can be to allow these gifts to grow and prosper; to engage in actions that feed, protect and care for them. Or, we can allow them to lie fallow.  It is amazing that these qualities often remain dormant and we function below our potential as a human being. But our gifts remain, simply waiting for an awakening.

Do I want a life filled with meaningful opportunities or do I want to be left with an unfulfilled yearning for something better?  The choice seems obvious, so why do so many choose the latter path?

I once was a partner in a firm that was incredibly profitable and prosperous.  We didn’t know why that was the case.  Some believed we had the uncanny ability to find good people in all the towns and cities where we had offices.  Some thought it was the vibrant southeastern marketplace which was our home. Others of our more egocentric brethren wondered if our abilities might be greater that we assumed.  Many believed in luck—we were just uncommonly lucky.  Once or twice, it was suggested that we do a thorough review of our business to find the elements of our success.  Our executive committee, of which I was part, voted 5-0 in the negative. We were afraid of what me might find or we would change our luck if that turned out to be the reason.

Why do folks allow their gifts to remain hidden and unused? FEAR most of the time. We are afraid of what we might find. Fear is a dominant emotion for a good may folks. Other common emotions include surprise, happiness, joy, sadness and anger. Do you feel open and willing to express all of your emotions with zeal during your daily activities? Or do you fear what others might think of you? What if I told you that other’s thoughts about you are none of your business?

I wanted to know how my emotions were dominating my life and how the chaos (my executive committee–squirrels) going on in my head was ruining my life.  I read about Thomas Merton and his struggles to find his true self. I wondered if a true self existed for me. I talked to priests and ministers, psychologists, smart women, smart men, and I read Emmett Fox, Carl Jung, William James, and the COURSE in Miracles. Finally, I looked at me. I could not go forward without knowing who I was and what I was.  I had to look at people who angered or damaged me, at businesses and relationships that had deprived me of my just rewards, and at what scared me.

As you probably surmise, this accounting did not go in my favor. I had harmed far more people than had harmed me, mostly those for whom I expressed love and affection. The failure of my business and the anticipated membership on the New York Exchange (life-long dream) was of my own making. And fears centered on my inability to acknowledge mistakes and learn from failure. My outsized ego and my sense of self importance created anger that would not go away.  It blocked joy and happiness and my relationship with God.

Luckily my way of thinking began to change.  My understanding of life and progress through it were inhibited by my usage of certain emotions and my blockage of others.  I could easily access fear, anger, and sadness in the extreme. But happiness and joy were absent. And I hated to be surprised. I had to make different choices and I needed help to do it.

I realized that I wasn’t connected to the Source. I wanted the power to transform my life and found that empowerment by connecting to God via a spiritual path. Centering prayer, solitude and silence were critical. I made a pilgrimage to the Abbey of Gethsemane, was silent for five days, went to services three times a day, and walked in Merton’s shoes.  I reshaped myself and my life. I began to take risks and embrace new possibilities.  I was generating happiness and joy from within rather than accepting external formulations of it. I freed my self from my self and made my relationship with God central to my life.

Things occur in life over which we have no control.  Many will attribute these things to fate, randomness, nature, physical reality, or coincidence. There are no coincidences. It is the Spirit that provides the answers for us in all things.  We find the Spirit when we discover and actively engage our True Self.

Love is the highest human function and where we put our True Self to its greatest use. St Francis tells us that it is better to love than be loved    That would deny the intrinsic social nature that humans have to be loved and love another. By trusting another to know one’s own self through their eyes, we free our self to union–to love and be loved.  Loving connections convey the ultimate expression of our True self.