When Reality Does Not Match Idyllic Expectations

20181008_073059

Crow on a foggy morning Photo by M.A.D.

The shiny crow

One nature’s note

The lovely sound

Of Autumn’s song.

 

We start to dream when we are children. We imagine fantastic worlds, magical places, dream  of toys, and in general, anything seems possible and attainable. As we grow up, we learn that things are not always as we imagined or hoped. We learn disappointment when we don’t get the toy we expected, or pain and sadness when a beloved pet dies. Other children learn these lessons on a more somber note, the death of a parent or friend, hunger, or abuse. Every person experiences life in a different way at a different level. However, we manage to keep on dreaming throughout adulthood, and many, up to the time of death.

We have idyllic expectations in life, and many times we are lucky enough to live many of those dreams. Sometimes what we have imagined, what we have carefully crafted in our minds, does not match the accomplished/realized dream. It is a total let down, another disappointment in life, and almost as if we never learned those childhood lessons. It is the theme of many stories. Writers experience disappointment when books do not sell as well as expected or hoped. In anything in life there are ups and downs, and those are necessary for growth, to take us to the next level through a natural flow. It is called living.

When I moved from New Jersey to Virginia (USA), I moved from the city to the country. I had idyllic expectations of what country living would be like, romanticized ideas as well – green pastures, grazing cows, rolling hills, fresh air, cozy winters … I can go on and on. Little did I know that the first year I would encounter a cloud of migrating lady bugs look-alike japanese beetles in our area, landing everywhere and looking for shelter before winter. These would arrive in waves throughout the day for weeks. At the same time, a large amount of alien bugs (alien to me that is) known as stink bugs was trying to do the same, look for shelter before winter. Autumn, my favorite time of the year had turned into a nightmare. I was not used to these insects nor was I used to these clouds in number, or any other type, as I had lived pretty much insect free for most of my life, being bugged by an ocassional spider or a lonely wasp. Mosquitoes were my only nuisance as I lived near the water. I was afraid to go outside during the “arrivals” and soon I learned to time their peak hours. Luckily their presence lasted less than a month, that is, until next season. Winter became my favorite time of the year. Cold weather meant no bugs. Spring became a bug fest as well, and for the first time I realized that there were so many, oh so many, insects I had never seen. Never did I experience so many types of wasps flying at once. Soon my closest neighbors became used to my screaming fits, and the occasional sight of a mad woman running through the field being followed by a giant wasp.

The idyllic expectations about country living gave way to reality. I told my friend that living in the country seemed to be more work than living in the city. Awareness became important as well. The other day I was heading out the back door to pick up my mail, and as I stepped down only two steps, a leaping deer crossed in front of me followed by another one, a very close call. Farm dogs were running after them, and being terrified, they were flying for their lives. I was so lucky; one more step and there would have been an unfortunate encounter with nature. I have seen the damage deer can cause to cars. On another occasion what I thought was a piece of black rubber left behind was a black snake.

The point to all this rambling is that at one point, when reality does not match idyllic expectations, we get to decide how we are going to set our focus, and that will determine the degree of “happiness or disappointment” as well as our next step in life. Do we focus on the less  than perfect image or do we start seeing the rest of the picture? So many other beautiful and interesting things can be found in it. I am starting to enjoy Autumn once more. Every day I see something different, from colorful and weird mushrooms to even four-leaf clovers. I have found four so far.

I always try to relate every blog post to the topic of writing. Maybe books are not selling as expected, and you are thinking about quitting writing, even when you love it so much. You are a story-teller and writing is like the air you breathe. Maybe you can adjust your focus away from profitability or recognition, and see the beauty in finding words to tell a story that has been sleeping in your imagination. The story that will be shared with the world, whether it makes you money or not. After all, if you love telling stories so much, and these stories have become alive inside the pages of a book, it only takes one reader to make them real. The purpose has been met. When reality does not match idyllic expectations move your eyes away and place them back on another spot.

 

Everything I Thought I Wanted

Dreams, goals, pursuits, wins and loses, it all starts with a want. As early as we can distinguish between us and the outside world. Our basic needs give way to more elaborated desires. Childhood, youth, and years beyond, all full of dreams and the pursuit of those.

When I was six years old, I saw what I thought was the most beautiful coin bank at our town’s store; it was on display at the main window. It was a ceramic yellow dog with two puppies attached by a golden chain. It was the kind that you couldn’t take the money out once inside because there was no hole at the bottom of it. I remember that instance as being one of my strongest desires, and I had to have it. I remember working on all kind of home chores, and saving every penny so I could buy that coin bank (ironic). Once I had enough money, I told my grandmother to take me to the store. During that time, I was worried that someone would buy it before I could get my hands on it. My grandmother took me to the store, and I became the proud owner of the most beautiful doggy bank I had ever seen. I remember the joy and the feeling of satisfaction that day, a feeling I learned to recognized later on in life. After I admired and played with it, my goal became to fill it with coins until I could not fit one more coin inside. Again, I saved every penny, and asked my two aunts for chores, so I could earn money faster. I remember charging five dollars to wash white sneakers on one occasion. During that time, one thought haunted me – how could I get the coins out without breaking my beloved doggy bank? I loved it as much as the first day I saw it at the store. I agonized over the thought of having to break it.

The dreaded day came when I could not fit one more coin in it. Even when trying to push a coin down the opening, half of it stuck out. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was full of hesitation, anxiety, doubt, and courage. I remember taking an old towel and placing the coin bank on top, on the floor. I grabbed my grandfather’s hammer and I froze for a few minutes, unsure of my next step. I looked at the two puppies; they appeared sad. How could I be so cruel? I knew I had to make a painful decision, and I did. The curiosity of finding out how much money was inside the coin bank was stronger than my love for it. I took the hammer and smashed it against the yellow mama dog. Coins and ceramic pieces spilled on the towel, and a five dollar bill. I looked at the money; I looked at the broken dog, and finally, I looked at the puppies, now tied to an empty golden chain. I remember the silence, the feelings of guilt, and regret. There was only one way to end it all. It seemed fair. I took the hammer and smashed the ceramic puppies. Somehow, I felt better.

The odd thing about all this is that I can vividly remember and relive the moment, but I cannot remember how much money there was in the coin bank or how I spent it later on. I have broken a few coin banks throughout the years, metaphorically speaking. Today, I remember this moment as a bittersweet one, and I smile. Almost a rite of passage. What I thought I wanted, wasn’t at all.

A New Season

Seasons change, and so do people. It is part of our human nature. We change views, places, appearance, and sometimes, beliefs. To be human is to be in constant change, and whether we realize it or not, we are in constant movement along with the universe. It is so simple, yet so profound.

I have changed throughout the years. I am not the same person I was as a child, or as a teenager, or as a young adult. A combination of factors in living produces a new me until the time of death, as far as earth time living goes.

Going through the many seasons of life is necessary, if not essential to our spiritual growth, and our humanity as well. Many times we are hard on ourselves, for many reasons; whether we miss a goal, fail at something or think we did, forgetting our many efforts at trying, and dismissing the trial and error time as of neither value nor purpose. Instead we label ourselves as failures, hopeless, or whatever label seems appropriate to our restless mind at the time. We forget the road traveled, and erase all our footprints, many times wandering in our minds and souls, and feeling a void, spiritually lost. “Not all who wander are lost,” said Tolkien, and that rings true today as at any time.

Many times, we feel that our guts, efforts, experience, resources, our timing, and everything around us is misaligned and does not suffice to attain whatever we felt was important then. The whole universe has conspired against us, we think; when in reality we have been part of that same universe that we label as outside ourselves. “All I have is me!”  we scream in anger, despair, and disappointment. “Me” as a sole proprietor of this body and mind, with disregard of the universal bond that unites all. Our human nature blinds us, and many times renders us paralyzed, fearful, broken. The same human nature that we count on to succeed beyond our wildest dreams. We grab positive thinking books, one after the other, in an attempt to fix what is “wrong with me” and light up the skies once more. We don’t realize that the darkness we feel and label as an outside-in source that is there to harm us, is our dismissal of the light we carry in us. It is dark; I forgot to turn the light on.

It is a new season, full of labels, but a new season indeed. It is always a new season.

Life Mapping

If you are a goal-setter you might like the idea of life-mapping. Life-mapping can be done in many ways. It represents the big picture of your many goals and dreams and what you would like to carry out in the long run. It is a healthy exercise as long as you use it as an inspiration to enrich your life, and it does not become an obsession, meaning that one might focus on it solely and not live fully because things are not happening the way one intended them to happen. Many times, especially if you believe in Divine intervention, things might not work out the way we want or plan, but in the end, it was all for a greater good – a better ending.

I have practiced life-mapping for some time. I have used time lines, picture boards, and even a treasure map style to highlight long-term dreams and goals. One thing I can say is that a lot works out as planned, but many other things do not, despite putting the work and walking the path. However, I still like the idea of life-mapping and practice it to keep me inspired and on track. Right now, I am using a different style that I thought about, and is easy to post anywhere and is more portable than a picture board. You can carry it on your planner, and it gives you an overall glance of your dreams and goals. I believe that you are never too old to do life-mapping. It is never too late to enrich your life and enjoy it more, so in my eyes, this practice stops at your death-bed.

The idea was inspired by my icon to-do-list. It is life-mapping by using icons that represent what you want, and you can do this as a time-line or as a step by step map to guide you. Here is the life-map I came up with, and I can share it here because the icons mean something to me, and not necessarily mean anything to anyone else, so in a way it is still somewhat private. A picture or an icon can have as many meanings as you give it. The meaning is up to you. This life-map was done using Microsoft Publisher. I started using footprints and changed to cat prints because after all, our family includes 6 cats, so they are in the journey as well. In addition, I left empty fields at the end to fill as needed, and these are represented by a potted plant with an interrogation sign. I used two pages for mine, but you can make your icons smaller and fit them on one page, or use as many pages as you would like. You can also use only a few icons to represent the important points only, and not necessarily every detail. It is a good idea for visual people. You may also do it in 3-5-10 … year increments or overall. Other ideas include drawing your icons if you are artistic, or painting them. In addition, if you want to make it more detailed you can dedicate a journal or planner just for life-mapping. Mine is just a more general approach. Life-mapping is ever changing, but it serves as visual inspiration, and it can be adjusted as necessary.

Life-Mapping

Life-Mapping

009

I hope you enjoy this idea.

 

 

 

The Pursuit of a Simple Life is Not Simple

It may seem as a contradiction but it has been my experience. Maybe, I over think stuff, maybe I am over-committed to stuff (and I don’t mean material stuff), but for many, the pursue of a simple life has started by abandoning all that is, and starting fresh; not my case. I love to hear stories about people who have made radical changes and quickly left their jobs, old life, material ties, and abandoned themselves to the pursuit of a meaningful and simple life, whether traveling the world, or doing something totally different – careers … Yes, I love those stories and deep inside, I wish I could do the same.

However, when I started the pursuit of a simple life, life got in the way of it. How it happens? To each its own, and circumstances are individual, that is the only explanation I have. It has taken work, time, and effort to start this pursuit – it almost takes all the fun out of it, right?

For me, the simple life goes beyond the abandonment of the current – it has taken the path of learning a new lifestyle, of changing career, understanding spirituality, and the attempt of moving physical locations, along with the systematic purging of the material, and the fulfillment of some material commitments as well. All that takes time, and it will take as much time as you are deep in it. Somehow, the simple becomes slow, systematic, complicated … far.

As long as there is an understanding of this reality, the pursuit of a simple life becomes a dream, a goal, an aspiration. You learn to ditch, you learn to do, you learn, and you learn, and at one point you get tired of learning and doing, and you want to learn to ditch more, but life becomes reality, and simplicity becomes a place down the road, and the wheels suffer wear and tear. It makes you think of the one who have jumped in the pursuit with no regrets and no second thoughts of what is behind – have they? I will never know – to each, its own.

One thing is for sure, the simple life does require other than a simplistic approach, at least, in my understanding. I have ditched, learned to do things different, to wait for the right time to be able to change physical locations, to change careers and to learn all needed to do that in the process, to deal with the close-minded, to deal with consequences, learned to accept time, and learned to let go of what doesn’t suit the simple life anymore – whether material, spiritual, or human.  In the meantime, I hope that time does not morph into lassitude, and pray that I don’t end up with broken wings.

monarch wings

I Think, Therefore I Am – Not!

English: Picture of the super starbrust galaxy...

English: Picture of the super starbrust galaxy. The green and red splotch in this image is the most active star-making galaxy in the very distant universe. Nicknamed “Baby Boom,” the galaxy is churning out an average of up to 4,000 stars per year, more than 100 times the number produced in our own Milky Way galaxy. It was spotted 12.3 billion light-years away by a suite of telescopes, including NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The French Philosopher Renee Descartes gave us a lot to think about when he said, “I think, therefore I am.”  I used to ponder a lot on this phrase, and although it seems to explain a lot of our behavior, somehow, it always felt incomplete to me.  Why?  Well, lets take this example, and this happens to me a lot.  My husband jokes, “Oh, she’s thinking about it, soon I’ll see it.”  And this is true for me, when I start thinking a lot about something, I end up doing it, and the ball starts rolling, unless I stop myself somehow, usually for a good reason.  But I think that Descartes phrase applies to emotion as well, if I think that I am upset, unhappy … I end up feeling that way.  However, this is where the phrase feels incomplete to me – in the “doing” part.  For the thinking to pass the threshold into reality, an action is required.

Creativity is in our nature, implanted in our right side of the brain; too bad that we have not developed it fully.  For me to think of something and make it real, the act of creation, of doing, must follow.  Rene Descartes phrase tells us of the great capacity of imagination and wonder that we have; our whole existence is based on ideas that came to reality, inventions that came to be, and gave birth to other technologies, but for all that to happen, one of us had to have an idea, imagine it, designed it, dream of it – Think of it.  The threads of reality vibrate when we think about this miracle – all you see around you, was an idea in someones’ mind at one point in time.  The computer in front of you, the cup of coffee next to you, the pen, the paper, the little knickknacks sitting on your desk… That reality came to be only, and only, after someone imagine it, and later it was created.

The magnificence of that realization, is so deep and beautiful that it only tells us that nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible – it just hasn’t been imagined yet, created.  Science, technologies, ideas, dreams, hopes … all of it swirls in a dance of creation, and in the end, it comes to be – it materializes and joins what we call “reality.”  Think about this, how profound … it spells no limits!  Reality comes after thought, after creativity, after creation – not before.  Many times, technologies have to be in place first, and this is where its beauty and amazement starts – we depend on each other to imagine, so we can create.  And we create because it is our nature, as we are part of creation itself, one source to it all.  Reality exists when one idea meets another and another and another … We are creators of reality and that is how we come to be – I THINK, IMAGINE, I CREATE, THEREFORE I AM!

Weed Out the Dead Stuff – It is all a Death Trap

“This is a great idea!” – we have thought at one point or another.  It may be a good idea, but good ideas are sometimes, not well received or are ahead of their time.  Pride in what we do is great; however, pride should not block our vision, stalling our future.  Simply put, “try it, give it some time, and if it doesn’t work, weed it out.”  This is something that I’ve learned with time.  The problem is when we are so emotionally and intellectually attached to our work/idea that we forget to evaluate its performance and choose to ignore the fact that it is not yielding the results we expected.  You may spend years pushing a project, to find out that it was time to let it go, years back.  Just because a good idea is not ready for the now, doesn’t mean that it is rendered obsolete or useless.  It may have a good reception in the future.  An idea or project may be ahead of its time, so if you have given a good and honest try to something and it is not working out for you, put it aside, and revisit it in the future, or not.

Weeding out all the dead stuff is a way of opening room for new ideas and opportunities.  It hurts to let go of a project, especially when we spend a lot of time, energy, money, commitment, and emotional interest in it; however, not weeding out the dead stuff might end up crushing your spirit, impeding growth as an artist and as a human being.  This is a death trap for the soul.

For many of us, letting go of a project or putting it aside is synonym of failure.  I disagree; on the contrary, recognizing the need to move and rearrange ideas and projects will lead to success.  Success is defined by how you feel about the results, and not by what society tells you success is – which is usually money or status.  We are so conditioned to “the persevere-never quit mentality” that we fail to recognize when things are not working out.  If you are passionate about something, pursue it, but keep your gardening gloves on, and weed out everything that is not contributing to that dream’s growth; only then, it can flourish.  In the garden of your dreams, time is precious, don’t waste it trying to revive dead roses; instead, plant new ones.  (Could not resist ending this post with that cheesy line).

Finding Your Own Paradigm

Truth!

Image via Wikipedia

The American Heritage Dictionary defines paradigm as:  an example or a model.

We follow paradigms all our lives (voluntary or involuntary), since the time we are born, till the time of our departure.  Standards are set, ideals, models of behavior, social patterns that we follow throughout our lives, sometimes, without questioning their validity.  We accept these models as truth, but sometimes these models fail us.  When this happens, it is time to reevaluate the standards and ideals on which we have put our faith.

Finding your own paradigm, creating your own system, is necessary if you want to accomplish what you have set out to achieve in your life.  Following predetermined systems, other people’s ideas of “what works” – blindly – guarantees many broken dreams, and tons of wasted precious time.

There are set models and standards that have been established to help the better functioning of society.  Our job as responsible individuals is to weigh those systems and take what is useful, apply it to our lives, and improve on it.  By learning to get in touch with our dreams, goals, inner desires, skills, and core beliefs, we give form to our own system – what works for us.

While creating your own system, you can expect to make waves, to raise eyebrows, and to get the unsolicited truth from “the know it all.”  You will have to endure the comments coming from your loved ones (the ones that hurt the most), as they cannot see pass beyond their reality and the label that they have assigned you through the years.  Their opinion is sometimes clouded by the expectations by which they live, and these by the paradigms that they have themselves accepted as true.  Many times, influenced by titles, society labels, and the general belief of the masses, that follow as blind cattle.  So what if you are the only one proud of what you do for a living?  What if it is taking longer for you to hit the “I made it” label?  The growth is slowly, many times, and each person is different.  This is the price to pay for following your truth.  “As you believe so shall become,” we have heard this adage before, simple but true.  The law of attraction says that what we think, believe, and visualize, becomes our reality.   The Bible, and many other uplifting philosophies reinforce the same premise.  Many turned into paradigms, many twisted by society, history, political powers … and so on.

My question to you is whose reality?

 

 

Turning Point

LesCorsetsLeFuretParis18cutB

Image via Wikipedia

It took some time to master the courage to follow my dream of writing – and going through many jobs as well.  There are three things that I love – Writing, Real Estate, and Art – of this I am sure.  Writing is me, Real Estate is pure beauty, and Art is an outlet.

When I decided to write, my goal was to write my first novel.  I am happy to say that I did that and I started my second novel.  During that time, I got distracted doing other assignments – all related to my love of writing –  however, this has taken me away from my dream of becoming a novelist and it has taken all my time, leaving me with little time to write my next novel.

It dawned on me that  I had deviated from my dream and that I was at a turning point – I realized that I had to turn back.  Many times, we set sail on the right path to later discover that we have deviated from it doing something similar to what we were set out to do in the beginning.  Once more, we find ourselves mustering the courage to turn back, and setting up the sails to a different wind.