Eyes Wide Open (K.Blais)

I turned 39 over the Christmas break. It wasn’t a huge monumental occasion or anything like that, but it did give me a reason to pause for a moment and think about life so far. I’ve learned a lot in my 39 years.  Probably though, I believe that I have learned more in the last 12 than in the previous 27. 

As a child, teenager, and even young adult I believe that I, in some ways, coasted through life a bit oblivious, unaware, and sometimes with my eyes closed. I had a loving and innocent childhood. I led a somewhat sheltered life, but I don’t see anything wrong with being sheltered as a child. As a teen and young adult I attended a great university, obtained three degrees with honours, and got a job in a fulfilling career field. I got married and began a comfortable life with my husband and friend. 

I grew up believing that people are generally good and want to help others. The times in my life where this was proven completely inaccurate (at least by some) were shocking and devastating to me. Betrayals, lies, injustices, and the like shook me to my core in those early days of my ‘awakening’. I quickly came to realize that not all people are good and not all people want to help others. For some this may have been common knowledge, but for me it was as if my eyes were opened wider than they had ever been. 

Twelve years ago, just about the time when I had my son and started a family, I began to realize that not everyone wants what’s best for others. Many want what’s best for them. This was a foreign concept to me in certain ways. I still struggle with understanding it to some degree as I grew up believing that if we want what’s best for everyone then what’s best for us will naturally fall into place. 

Sometimes your childhood beliefs are the hardest ones to adjust. 

In all actuality I haven’t changed that thinking entirely. I still believe that when everyone benefits we all win. I still believe that most people are good and that most people want what’s best for us, at least in my world (I hope) they do. 

But, when we encounter those individuals who are out for number one only, who take and take and take and seldom give back, who chastise and criticize us for their own shortcomings, and who look to hurt rather than to help then maybe it’s time to clean house, to take out the trash, and to burn the bridge. 

I believe in giving everyone a fair chance, but I also believe that there are times when we need to rely on our own common sense and intuition. There are times when we need to use our God-given intelligence and realize when enough is enough. There are times when we need to see those who really love us and those who only love what we do for them.

Unfortunately, it is often in our time of need, when we are at our lowest points, when we look to those individuals that we thought were our closest allies and friends, that we are brought back to reality. Sometimes we are disappointed, perhaps even shocked, by their inability to be there for us. These are the times when we need to have our eyes wide open to the individuals whom we choose to allow (and who we choose to allow to remain) in our lives. We need to ask ourselves whether the people who take the most time, energy, and love from us will actually give the same in return. 

The rest of our lives lie stretched out in front of us like an open road, whether we are 39, 59, or 79. At any age, at any stage, and in any situation maybe it’s time to pause and reflect on what we see in our lives at this point and if who we have in our lives is a positive reflection of who we are and what we hope to achieve. If we have uncertainties about those things and people maybe it’s time to ask questions and to see what the responses are. We may not always like the answers, but the questions will always be worth asking. 

Maybe it’s better to have our eyes wide open sooner, rather than later. 

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The Power Of Words (K.Blais)

Over the past couple of days a very dear friend of mine has been telling me of her struggle with standing up for and protecting a loved one who is largely unable to speak for and defend herself. Today, in our conversation, my dear friend was excited to tell me that her diligent efforts had paid off – her loved one’s care was being investigated and would drastically improve. My friend enthusiastically stated, “The power of words – this just goes to show you how powerful they can be.”

I agreed, hands down. I was also struck for a moment as I pondered her statement about how powerful words are and can be, how I had written a few months ago about my war with words and how damaging or destructive they can be. In this moment though, I realized with the certainty of the example she had just provided, how wonderfully constructive and how powerful in a positive way they can be also.

My dear friend had used her words to advocate and to prove what she needed to. She hadn’t demeaned anyone or degraded them in pleading the case of her loved one, but she had used the necessary words in such a way to express her feelings and how important it was that the situation be investigated properly.

Words are powerful. They can build up and they can tear down. They can prove and they can disprove. Words can lead to belief or disbelief depending on how they are used. They can lead to anger or love. They can allow us to forgive or they can permit us to continue to struggle with our pain.

My friend’s situation also led me to thinking about my own life and the issues therein which I have been struggling with and the peace which I am seeking with them. I realized too that we all need to advocate for ourselves using our words when it is necessary to stand up for or defend what we believe in. We also need to use our words to adequately and clearly explain our thoughts and feelings so that they are properly understood by others, especially when we are hurting or in emotional pain.

Last week I mentioned how therapeutic writing often is for me. Writing has gotten me through some tougher moments in my life, has led me to realize that I need to focus on the positive, and that no matter how hard things can get, there are always blessings and strengths which will see me through.

Writing is about using words to explain our thoughts. (The sweet thing about writing is we can also choose our words more carefully and accurately; there is always the backspace or delete button when things don’t “sound” quite right.) I often prefer written correspondence to verbal in regards to delicate manners especially, as I can select my words with more care and precision, rather than stumbling over the words which sometimes don’t come quickly enough into my brain and elegantly out of my mouth.

When we use our words to say, “This is how I feel. This is what I think,” we are essentially empowering ourselves. We are allowing ourselves the permission to say, “Hey, I’m important enough for this to matter”. Words can give us confidence and assertion to say what we think and feel is going on.

Sometimes we can get it wrong though. We can think one thing, when something entirely different is the reality. We can erect immense walls of hurt feelings that no one could ever climb, especially when we coat them with an icy glaze.

We can use our words in all the right ways and still get it all wrong.

But there is still peace in being wrong. Our words can lead us to finally facing what it is that is troubling us most. Those words can lead us to realizing that while we believed things to be one way, they aren’t necessarily that way at all. Using our words can lead us to putting an end to practicing our pain, to forgiving those who have hurt us, and to embarking on the path to peace.

Words can reopen doors which we once thought were shutting for good. Words can thaw the icy film.

Words can heal when we are just willing to use them and to hear them in return.

I Won’t Be Sending A Boat (K.Blais)

It has been a very interesting week, to say the least. Knowing I needed a pick me up, a special friend sent me this:

(image courtesy of Bing images)

It spoke volumes to me at the time. I had had a series of negative things happen to me, I felt a little out of control of my own world, and I felt like everything I came into contact with was turning snaky. One particular incident was the icing on the cake for me – being told, in so many words, that no matter how hard I had tried to be a good friend in the past my efforts were still in vain. I would be blamed for falling short and yet another one of my apparent shortcomings would be pointed out.

Now don’t go feeling sorry for me – please don’t. I am a girl with big shoulders and, trust me I have heard and dealt with worse. This time, however, the timing was bad, (or good depending on how you look at it.) You see, I realized that I didn’t need anyone in my life that would make me feel like a failure or like a bad friend, and, practicing my own preaching (finally), I decided it was time to let go.

It was time to let go of holding on to something which would never be the same again. It was time to realize that we all make our own decisions in life and there will either be people who will support us in those decisions or people who won’t. More specifically, we may have people in our lives that just can’t support us. They can’t stand by and watch us make decisions which we know aren’t in their best interests. They can’t be a part of a world which will eventually destroy us. So sometimes, as those people, we just need to let go.

Later in the day, my supportive friend sent me another quote, one which I could relate so much to that I eventually shared it on social media.

(image courtesy of Bing images)

It didn’t matter that I was considered an inadequate friend to someone else, what mattered was that I had other people who cared about me enough to make me smile again: Friends who told me that instead of feeling defeated that I should feel “triumphant” because of the life I have and the life I will continue to have regardless of this incident, friends who can tell exactly how I am feeling by how I respond to their texts and won’t believe me when I say “I’m fine” when really I’m not, and friends who know exactly what to say when the days are dark and others seem determined to break me down.

I have to say that sometimes we need those negative people in our lives too because they give us the reality check we may need. We might realize that while we yearn for the way a friendship was in the past we realize through their actions that it most likely will never be the same again and that it may be for the best. We might realize that it is time to move on and to focus our energy on those who value who we are and who appreciate the caring nature we have. We may need to remove ourselves as the doormat of the lives of the negative and focus on helping those who want to be helped. We may need to spend our time being a part of someone’s life who actually wants us in it.

I’ve thought long and hard over the week and I’ve realized that while I have reconstructed this particular bridge so many times, there is no lumber left to build a new one. This time the bridge has burnt and there will be no rebuilding it.

I have also realized another thing:

I won’t be sending a boat.

The Bottom Line According To Me (K.Blais)

This evening I am sitting and thinking about life as I drink a glass of my favourite beer (Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale, in case any of you were wondering). I decided that tonight is a beer night – as I am not feeling classy enough right now to break open the box of wine (haha!). But, in any case, I’m thinking a lot about how the last seven days have gone. I’m pondering over the ups and the downs, the frustrations and the successes, and I keep thinking about a phrase a dear friend used in conversation today: “the bottom line”.

For me, when I think of the bottom line, the underlying or ultimate outcome or criterion (according to Google dictionary), I think of it as kind of my own analysis of the end result of the day. It’s the time when I look in the mirror as I brush my teeth and wash my face before bed that I realize that how my day went really depended on me and my attitude towards it. Crappy things happened and maybe I made them even crappier by my own responses to them. Good things happened (maybe even on a crappy day) and how I reacted to those things also determined their ultimate outcome and perhaps even how they were perceived by others as well.

The reality is always going to be that crappy things can and will happen each day and some things and days are crappier than others. (I am sparing no fancy word choices here as you can tell by my repeated use of the word “crappy”.) There also can be really great days and great things that happen. Sometimes those days and things are even fantastic! The bottom line is all of those days, both good and bad, do happen, making our lives exactly the way they are, taking everything with the good, the bad, and even the ugly.

Our reactions to those “crappy” or fantastic things often make them better or worse when they occur especially when we consider how we react from the way others have treated us. As I have mentioned many times before, I try to live and preach the Golden Rule (treat others the way you would want to be treated), but not everyone shares this point of view. I am reminded of the final analysis quote by Mother Teresa:

The Final Analysis

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
…Forgive them anyway!

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
…Be kind anyway!

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
…Succeed anyway!

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
…Be honest and frank anyway!

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
…Build anyway!

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
…Be happy anyway!

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
…Do good anyway!

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
…Give the world the best you’ve got anyway!

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.    (taken from wowzone.com)

The bottom line is that we need to be who we truly are regardless of the way we are treated by others. If we are generous and giving and we end up being taken advantage of, then we should still be generous anyway. If we are kind and thoughtful and we are criticized for it, then we should still be kind anyway. If we are made to feel that we are not good enough or smart enough, then we should still be the best ‘us’ that we can be anyway. People will forget the good we do, they will criticize us for anything they can, and they will be jealous of our successes and happiness. This will happen, but the bottom line is that we must be true to ourselves and do what we believe is right, regardless of it.

The bottom line indeed is that it is not between us and “them” but that it is between us and God, and us and our own conscience. At the end of the day, we are the ones that have to look in the mirror and face ourselves. We are the ones that have to live with our behaviors and the choices which we have made that day, and every day for that matter. Even if those choices and behaviours make us cringe instead of being proud of them, they are ours to own and to take responsibility for.

The bottom line is that at the end of the day I need to be able to say that I make mistakes, but I will learn from them. That will always be the bottom line to me anyway.

When We Hurt The Ones We Love (K.Blais)

It is said that we are hardest on the ones closest to us. All too often I have seen friends and loved ones hurt by the very same people who are supposed to love them the most. I have, in fact, even been the victim, and, ashamedly, the cause of hurt on my own loved ones as well. So why does this happen?

Careless words, thoughtless actions, and misplaced, well-meaning intentions seem to prevail in society today. There are several reasons as to why we may hurt the ones who mean the most to us.

Deliberate Actions

There are times when hurt is done deliberately. Perhaps we are lashing out or back at someone who has hurt us first. Perhaps it is because we carry resentment, jealousy, or hurt from a past time, maybe even from someone different than the person we are currently hurting. Sadly, but truly, sometimes hurt is intentional and deliberately done.

Obliviousness

Some circumstances find us hurting those we love unconsciously and unknowingly. It can often be a surprise to us when we have hurt the ones we love and we later find out about it. Our intention may not have been to hurt at all. We may have been striding towards our own goals and accomplishments, possibly forgetting about others or, even, stepping on them in the process.

Negligence

Through neglectful consideration of others’ feelings we can hurt and damage our relationships with those around us. Perhaps we forget, ignore, or fail to do something important or meaningful to those who rely on us. We may “drop the ball” so-to-speak and cause pain to others. Once again, it may have nothing to do with intention, but everything to do with human error.

Growth

Sometimes we outgrow our need for people in our lives and so, perhaps intentionally or unintentionally, we pull away from them. They may also remind us of a time when we were weak and when we needed them the most. If we have grown and strengthened ourselves since that time of need, we may find ourselves moving away from our connection with those who have seen us at our worst. It may not make sense to the ones we are hurting, especially if we cannot find the words to explain it to them. Sometimes people can represent bad memories to us and so we want to forget even the positive aspects that the person brought into our lives.

When we hurt the ones we love it can do two things. It can destroy the relationship with the loved ones we have hurt. Trust can deteriorate and the pain of the hurt can be too much to be forgiven. Secondly, it can serve to strengthen the relationship, but only if those involved are willing to work through the hurt and reinforce the positive aspects on which the relationship was built on in the first place. How we react and deal with hurt from our friends and loved ones often challenges our character. It can, however, strengthen us and teach us to persevere, turning the other cheek and continuing to love those who are the hardest on us. When we hurt the ones we love, it does truly hurt, but, in time, we can forgive and be forgiven.

Paying The Pied Piper (K.Blais)

I never really knew the full story of the Pied Piper until I heard a reference to it not long ago. This reference inspired me to do a little research on the Pied Piper and his story. The full legend titled, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, was expanded into a full narrative in the 16th century, in which the “piper” is a rat-catcher hired by the town to lure rats away with his magic pipe. When the citizens refuse to pay the piper for his services, he retaliates by turning his magic on their children and leads them away just as he had the rats. The story further evolved into a fairy tale in later centuries.

The legend of The Pied Piper is actually said to reflect a historical event in which the people of Hamelin, Lower Saxony, Germany lost their children. The character of the Pied Piper has later been referenced as a symbol of the children’s death by plague or catastrophe. Other theories have suggested that the Pied Piper has been likened to a religious leader who lured children away on a disastrous Children’s Crusade (an intention to peacefully convert Muslins in the Holy Land to Christianity resulting in bands of children marching to Italy and children being sold into slavery). (Information courtesy of wikipedia.org)


(image courtesy of tumblr.com)

In any case, the legend of the Pied Piper has resulted in it being widely used metaphorically. Merriam Webster defines the term “Pied Piper” as:

  1. A charismatic person who attracts followers
  2. One that offers strong but delusive enticement
  3. A leader who makes irresponsible promises

We all may know a ‘Pied Piper’ of sorts. (The ‘Pied Piper’ in present day society may be male or female, but following along with the traditional Pied Piper being male, I will continue to refer to him as such.) It’s also important to add that the Pied Piper of the past, and even our current day ones, may have begun with good intentions. The Pied Piper from the legend offered his services and expected to be paid for them. When he was not, the piper took matters into his own hands to obtain revenge. The present day Pied Pipers may have commenced in a similar fashion – with the best of intentions, but with an alternate ending. Perhaps the legend continues itself even today.

The Pied Piper is one who can say the right things to his “followers” or friends in order to rally up support and confidence in his own actions and behaviours. The Pied Piper may even feel that he is entitled to behave in a certain way because he has this support from his friends. This “power trip” of sorts can often lead to more feelings of entitlement including the taking of things to which ownership is not his, as well as bullying others in order to achieve what he desires.

Befriending the Pied Piper can be enticing, alluring, and almost intoxicating. The Pied Piper offers back to his friends the same sort of support, encouragement, and confidence which he manages to acquire from them – the attitude of ‘stick with me and we will conquer the world’. There isn’t much thought or care given to those outside the circle of the Pied Piper. He is able to delusively entice his followers into believing that what they wish and desire to accomplish can and will be done, regardless of who gets hurt or stepped on in the process.

The Pied Piper is also a leader who promises things that may not necessarily be responsible, considerate, or work for the greater good of the greater whole. The Pied Piper’s view is very self-centered – ‘what is best for me and best for my interests and intentions’ are first and foremost his concern. The Pied Piper may also lie in order to cover up false promises or irresponsible, insensitive actions in order to portray a better image of himself to others. The Piper may mislead others into believing certain things or into behaving in certain ways which are contrary to how they might normally conduct themselves.

In politics, we have often heard the term “Pied Piper” being used to criticize political leaders and their decisions. Variations of the term “paying the pied piper” have evolved from the original legend and have often been explained as such: one should not do anything or have anything done unless you are willing to pay the consequences, ill or otherwise. The term “paying the piper” is also used in meaning that one is suffering the consequences of wrongdoing. I guess what this means in terms of the Pied Piper himself is that he should be ready to suffer his own consequences of wrong doing as well.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a blog post nor any amount of lamenting that we can do that will change the fact that the metaphorical Pied Piper exists and will continue to exist. Some of us are only able to see what we need for ourselves and do not consider how it may affect others. Some of us rally up the support of friends in order to feel better about ourselves, to foster our own self-confidence, and to encourage and rationalize our own behaviours, at times to the detriment of those who find themselves outside of our circle. Which leads to the wondering… what happens to those who stop listening to the Pied Piper’s tune?

As is often the case, those who “unfollow” the Pied Piper (their choice or his) find themselves left out in the cold, struggling to find a new place to fit in to the world. The Pied Piper does not have patience for those who no longer care to hear his melody. He moves on to new listeners, new followers, new confidantes, and to those who can help advocate his newest missions. It’s a sad, but true, reality.

I guess the lesson behind the legend of the Pied Piper, and what we can learn from this story even five centuries later, is that for every action there is a successive reaction. For every decision made, there are consequences which result. For all that is dished out, one’s own deserved helping will be received in turn. Even more simply, ‘what goes around comes around’. Perhaps it is possible to believe that the Pied Piper will eventually be enticed by his own tune and find himself lead to his own demise.

(Dear Readers, Once again, thank you so much for your reads, comments, likes, and shares! Please take a minute to check out our Facebook page, Writing For The Love of It, and follow me on Twitter @kim_blais. Your support is truly appreciated! Love, ~ K ~)