Do you find yourself searching for something new from time to time? Something that will spark a positive change in your life? I do. When life was horrible and I found myself stuck in a series of bad relationships, I got to the point where I had to do something different. Change things, change my attitude, change my life.
So I began with my attitude. I knew my attitude needed help because I was so sad and depressed. This was not the real me, I am not a sad or depressed person. I began keeping a daily gratitude journal. You may be rolling your eyes right now and thinking, whatever Tanya, I've read this crap before and I hate the word journal! Besides, how can writing things down reverse sadness and depression?
Trust me, it does. I needed help and a blank piece of paper did not motivate me. However, I am a task oriented kind of person so I found a gratitude journal at my favorite bookstore. This large bookstore has all kinds of journals! Start by shopping for your own style, something that speaks to you.
The journal I chose had colors I like, and open ended questions to answer each day, and it was simple. It allowed me to look at my day, my relationships, my work and my world! I wasn't focusing on the negative. For at least ten minutes a day I was not thinking about the crap. I began seeing all that was good. I began recognizing what I could do vs what I could not do. I started liking myself again, I started sleeping better and my headaches and body aches, due to stress, left me for good! This simple journal that no one else knew about helped me. This was an important vehicle for me to express how I was feeling, and allowed me to get in touch with who I am.
Listen, I lived through really tough relationships that were emotionally abusive, verbally and even physically abusive. I heard every day that I was not good enough. (for for over 30 years) It takes time to reverse the lies I was fed. I call them lies because that is exactly what they are!
But as I broke away, each day, one day at a time, I was able to see the good in the world, the good in others and the good in me! This is a very empowering exercise if you can simply begin with the first day. What do you have to lose? Horrible lies told to you each day? I think keeping a journal is worth it. It's not a complete fix though. Remember I said this was my first step. Continuing to heal by changing years of negative messages is a lifelong journey. We really need to learn to love ourselves, and if you haven't been loved before, that's a tough thing to do. So I get it. The first step is so hard! But you are worth it. And you are loved! Please know that.
Our attitude is seen by everyone. It can first be seen in the way we walk. Victims tend to walk with their heads down. Like a child after being scolded, they hang their head ready to cry. If we are put down every day our heads will hang, our steps will be slower, our response to others will be more negative and certainly mistrusting. So our whole body shows what kind of attitude we carry each day. Make a decision today to change the negative language in your mind and to change the negative language that comes out of your mouth. Don't let that happen anymore. Change the tape-recording going on inside your head! Those are not your words. Step two, change your language about yourself.
Another way to change your attitude is to write positive notes and post them around your dwelling. Post a positive message on your bathroom mirror, put a note in your wallet or purse. Post a note of love and forgiveness on the refrigerator. Soon you will graduate to notes of courage and strength, wisdom, kindness, peace etc.. As your attitude changes so does your life. Start with; "you are loved", or "you are worthy", or my favorite, "you have enough, you do enough and your are enough."
I kept a one year gratitude journal, then moved into a daily journal with scripture (that is what I need daily). Then I noticed that because my thoughts were positive and not self-demeaning, I did not need to journal as often. Sometimes I journal daily for a while, several weeks, then I put it down. I find it to be a good process to work through different stages in my life. A new job, a life change, grandchildren, death of my parents, difficulties with family or friends. All things that need my attention. Keeping a journal helps me process all these things. I relate better to others when I process in healthy ways.
For the athletes out there, I'm sure that physical activity clears a lot out of your head. Physical activity is the second thing I found I needed. I am no athlete. But a good, long walk sure clears out the bugs. Maybe you like to sit in nature, hike, ride a bike, or swim. Do it. Get out and do it. Do it for yourself not for anyone else. That is loving yourself. Eat well, the third step. Again, I am no health nut and I do eat junk from time to time. But if I want to feel good, I need to eat healthy. Sugar, caffeine and fried foods are the worst things for my attitude.
So there it is. Find what your body and mind needs and be kind by doing those things for yourself. I also needed therapy. Step four, admitting that I couldn't heal on my own was a tough step but one I needed to take. If we all took care of our mental health like we take care of our homes, car, clothes and hair, we would be a happier people! Imagine if there was no stereotype regarding mental health care. Wow would our society look different! We will also choose healthier people to be around when our mind and body are in sync.
Step five, get rid of people who bring you down or keep you from growing. You can't fix them, it's not your job, you are not God. Get off the cross, we need the wood!
Seriously, I was a fixer. My bad attitude about myself lead me to those who had even worse attitudes. In some twisted way I felt better about myself if I was with others who were "worse" than me. It kept me from looking at myself. Avoidance of the truth only kept me stuck and miserable.
Disclaimer; (I did not intend to write "steps" as a formula for anyone but myself, so please do not take this as a formula for you or anyone else. I am simply sharing what worked for me. These are all hard steps by the way. There is no easy route, but it is worth every movement forward.)
Richard Rohr says in his book, Spirituality And The Two Halves of Life; "If we are not growing spiritually three things will happen when we reach the second half of life. (ages 50-60) You will become either a silly old fool, a bitter (angry) old fool or a holy beggar."
We are more spiritual than what we realize. I find that if I am not growing spiritually, I am moving backwards. We don't simply stagnate, we move backwards. When I taught middle school and high school religious education I would share with the students that we choose to do two things in life, we either move toward God or we move away from God. I have to make the choice each day, in all that I do, to move forward. No one is going to do that for me. Also, I make mistakes. I judge, I am impatient, and I still battle depression from time to time. Being aware of these things I can still make the daily decision to not allow them to control me.
Take a few moments to think about ways you move toward God.
Take a few moments to think about ways you move away from God.
I believe what Richard Rohr was referring to (totally paraphrasing his beautiful words here) is this; The silly old fool is someone who doesn't want to accept the aging process. If we have a family, spouse kids etc.. those years go by quickly and for some we can miss the good stuff. We put most of our energy into career, making money, making big purchases, climbing the ladder so to speak. The silly old fool will wake up one day with kids gone, spouse aged and wonder where it all went! The silly old fool wants it back. A do over, if you will. Maybe the SOF can't accept aging and wants the young spouse, little kids and dumps the existing life for a new package. The SOF is not growing spiritually. Probably did not pay attention to the process of aging and the graces that come with it.
The angry or bitter old fool; BOF is living with about half a life time of past regrets. BOF is not happy and is bitter about past life choices. Maybe the BOF never had a family or had a family but lost that family due to life choices. BOF possibly turned away from doors that would have lead to fulfillment but choose money or some other earthly promise as happiness. The BOF is not growing spiritually, probably because the BOF didn't believe spirituality would provide any worth in life. Maybe the BOF had no belief system at all.
The Holy Old Beggar; my favorite! The HOB is a person who grows into his/her age gracefully and because the HOB continues to grow and nurture their faith is able to sit back and joyfully watch the next generation take on the role of adult in the family. The HOB supports the younger generation by being present to the family, not in a controlling way but as a wisdom figure. The HOB loves to watch the growth of his/her adult children, grand kids, maybe even great-grand kids and becomes the supporter of the family. The HOB accepts the aging process as a grace and an opportunity to reflect on the wonder years. The HOB continues to grow spiritually and is willing to give everything away, knowing that this life is temporary and material things are not of great importance to them. I hope to become this..
Do you see yourself in any of these roles?
Can you ask God to guide you through life in order to embrace the Holy Old Beggar? Do you believe you are called to become a HOB?
Ongoing step # six: Pay attention to daily spiritual needs.
I began a meditation practice several years ago. I do this daily. Actually several times a day (as needed). Quieting myself to begin the day helps me focus on the positive. It grounds me in what is important and what is not. The things that are not important I do not let in. Sound simple? It's not, it takes practice, daily practice! But I find that the more I do practice silence, the more I crave it. I can't describe the amount of peace I feel through all areas of my life sense beginning this practice. It helps with anxiety, keeps me patient, I sleep very well, and I don't judge people like I used to. I don't allow "busyness" to take over my day, and that is not an easy task in today's world.
Well, this is a long enough read. I didn't intend to go on like this, but I truly am passionate about sharing with you ways in which you can change your life for the better. Practice peace, practice love and practice becoming a Holy Old Beggar.
Tanya is a facilitator of divorce recovery groups in her community. Tanya is also a spiritual director, who's passion is to be present to those who seek a deeper connection with God. She also speaks about healing from divorce and teaches others to become healers in the divorce recovery field. Tanya enjoys being a wife, mother and grandmother, and resides in a small farming community in Wisconsin where she can keep bees and tend to her flowers and plants.