The Big Difference (K.Blais)

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Awful things happen to us or to the people we love and care about. Terrible things occur continuously in our daily lives. We make decisions which end up being disastrous, although they may have seemed like the best option at the time, and in other cases choices are made for us without our having any say in them at all. Sometimes we hold the power in the decision-making process, and other times we are completely powerless.

Through it all though we strive to stand up and not to sink. We do our best not to let the floods drown us or to pull us down into the depths of despair, even though they may threaten to.

It isn’t always easy. And it doesn’t always work for all of us.

It is essential to remind ourselves that eventually the waters will recede. It’s tricky to remember that sometimes though and, by no means, do we ever intend to make light of the terrible things that happen, but it remains extremely important to attempt to search for the positive amidst the negative.

Out of every horrendous situation is there always a positive to be found? Depending on individual perspectives the answers may vary: maybe, maybe not… and maybe not right away. But, if we search hard enough there is always a bit of light, a small glimmer of hope, a tiny piece of dry land that we can place our feet on, even if it’s just a tiptoe to start. Maybe sometimes the negative just requires a different perspective.

A very close person to me, my dear friend Tracy, has struggled with some health issues over the past couple of years. She one day found herself with mobility issues, needed surgery to repair her knee injury, had a health scare with a dangerous item on the job site, and was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after that (all issues completely unrelated to one another). Add to that other issues which she has dealt with throughout her life, the scope of her tribulations was immense. To be perfectly honest, her world was bleak and dark and at some very low points. With so many negatives piling up on her, there were days when getting out of bed was too much for her to think about.

The floods threatened to close in on her on more than one occasion, but through it all she always searched for that tiny aspect of hope, that glimmer of light, that small piece of land on which she could attempt to stand. Her faith led her to the belief that her cancer was a blessing because having gone through what she had, she was able to be a support system to others battling with cancer. Her journey led her to new friendships which she may have otherwise not have made. Her struggles allowed her to realize the love that so many people had for her. The darkness has allowed her to appreciate the light all that much more. All the negatives that have happened to her have led to so many more positives in her life because she chose to see past them.

Some of us battle with physical or mental health issues, or have loved ones which are battling, which have affected our (and their) quality of life. Frustration, powerlessness, and a feeling of incompetency may overwhelm us. It can be hard to find the positive when we feel so awful. Sometimes we have to realize the negative for what it is. Sometimes we need to surf the waves when we cannot stop them.

Financially or materially we may be experiencing damage or loss. There may be days when our situation seems so bleak that there seems to be no place to go. It is hard to find the positive when the negatives are reflected in everything we have, even our bank accounts.

We may have lost a loved one or loved ones. We all know someone who has experienced the immense grief of losing a person very close to them. It’s extremely hard to see the positive in death and loss, especially when we are in mourning. Sometimes though death can bring us closer to those who remain in our lives. Sometimes death brings a new appreciation for all that we had and all that we have shared with that person, and it may encourage us to cherish and hold dear the time we have with the loved ones left with us. A belief that we will be reunited with our loved one one day can offer peace. Sometimes death can lead us back to life: to living each moment to the fullest and with a deeper appreciation, and may even lead us to taking nothing, even the little things, for granted.

Perhaps relationships have dissolved, friendships and partners have been lost, and life as we knew it has become an illusion. It is difficult to see the negative when everything around us in our personal life seems in a disarray. Sometimes it is difficult to understand how things can fall apart so easily… and perhaps we neglect to see that sometimes things need to fall apart so better things can come together.

Being positive does not mean to ignore the negative. There is no need to put blinders on and pretend that the negative does not exist. Being positive, and living a life which chooses to focus on the positive, can simply mean to live by overcoming the negative. That’s the big difference.

Damned If You Do (K.Blais)

How many times have we felt this way – like we are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t? How often has life dealt us hands or placed us in situations in which there is no way possible that we can win?

Life can be like a series of no-win situations and since interactions with others are part of life it is no wonder that our relationships often follow life’s example. Sometimes no matter how hard we try, we will never win. No matter how determined we are to be kind, to attempt to please others, to be thoughtful and/or diplomatic in and about our dealings with others, we will never do enough, be enough, or please anyone, including ourselves.

It may seem that there will be no satisfying anyone because there are some who can only see the negative. There are those who seem programmed to pick out the flaws, faults, and errors which others make. For some, I suppose, it supplies an element of satisfaction to point out these shortcomings because, perhaps, it makes them feel better about themselves and their own inadequacies. It’s a fair-from-perfect strategy though – the one in which we tear someone else down in order to build ourselves up. This only becomes another no-win situation that will always result in a pattern of events which will continue to prove hurtful to everyone in the end.

When we seem determined to be “right”, to be the one who proves others wrong, or to be he who acts as a mirror to us in order to portray where we have gone wrong, we place ourselves in a position where others may begin to resent us. Few of us believe that we are perfect, most believe themselves to be far from it. Having our mistakes, however innocent, continuously pointed out to us only adds to this feeling. But, if that’s the goal of some, to keep us feeling inferior and less than adequate, then mission accomplished I suppose. When we constantly feel like we will never live up to another’s expectations, some of us will stop trying and this is when resentment builds and communication breaks down.

If you are the mirror, the finger pointer, the one who is always right and points to the always wrong, please take a moment and ask yourself why you are doing this. Is it because you feel badly about some elements in your own life that you are determined to make these things seem better by proving someone else is worse off? Or is it because you simply have a strong dislike for those you are determined to prove at fault?

If you are the reflection, on the receiving end of the pointing, the one who seems to be always wrong or at fault, please also take a moment and ask yourself why you continue to put up with this kind of treatment. Is it because you are and have always been the peacemaker and you are determined to make peace even with this? Or is it because you truly want to finally have the respect of those who are determined to prove you at fault?

People can only change when they truly want to change. Patterns and habits can be broken, but only with determination and a true desire to break them. The first step is acknowledging that there is indeed something to modify in our behaviour and the next one is admitting that we have been experiencing or causing others pain and sadness through these actions. Communication needs to happen, but everyone has to be willing to communicate compassionately and respectfully.

Hopefully there are still enough of us who like to think of the glass as half-full, but there will always be times where no matter how hard we try, we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. The important thing is to acknowledge those life situations and relationships in which we can never win and to make a decision to move toward putting our time, energy, and positivity into the ones in which all parties feel equal, respected, and loved.

Fabulous Things That I Forget (K.Blais)

I decided this month would begin as a fresh start. 2015 came in with a thump for me and it took me the entire month of January to realize that I need to make a brand new beginning to 2015.

I have compiled a list of fabulous things (in no particular order) that I forget to do and I am going to focus for the month of February on remembering to do them.

1. Take a bubble bath (or soak in the hot tub). Yes it’s true. I have 1500 L of hot water always waiting for me just a few steps out my back door, a majestic view to admire, and I have been neglecting to take the time to use it! I also have a jet tub in which I could soak much of the stress and strain of the day away, but once again, I don’t take even 10 minutes to soak in it. Sad, isn’t it?

2. Read. I forget how important it is to submerge myself in someone else’s writing. I forget how soothing it can be to lose myself in another world, even for just a few moments. Also, it’s a fact that reading makes one a better writer. I need to remember to read because I love reading!

3. Write. I need to take more time to write because it is something that I truly enjoy doing. I love to write – blogs, fiction, anything. I have to take the time to write more and to pursue my writing goals. Writing more will make me a better writer too.

4. Pray. So often I let my worries consume me. My fears and anxiety gets the best of me. I forget to lean on my beliefs and to simply trust. I need to pray more and I need to remember to do my best and to let God handle the rest!

5. Exercise. I truly find perspective when I take the time to walk and exercise properly. A walk through the woods is sometimes all I need to see the world in a new light, to find a renewed perspective, and to reestablish my faith that my life is exactly how God planned it to be.

6. Abolish the ANTs (all negative thoughts). This one is a hard one. I often say that no one needs to criticize me because I am the most critical of myself anyway. This is going to be one fabulous thing that will always be a work in progress for me…

7. Talks and Hugs. Seems hard to believe that I would forget to talk, if you know me at all. The one thing I do forget to do is to reach out and vent at the times when I need to the most. I’m often afraid that I’m “whining” or claiming that “my life is so hard”. I’m going to try to remember that we were put on earth to help one another and that communication and relationships with other human beings will often bring us comfort. My friends and loved ones are always a great support to me (better than the most comfortable bra, ever!). I need to remember to reach out to them. In every really good conversation comes a hug of some sort too. So much comfort can come out of such a small gesture.

8. Rest. With a very busy family schedule and many volunteer responsibilities I forget the importance of resting. Usually when I find myself with some down time at home I feel the need to clean, catch up on laundry, and try to organize. What I forget is that my body and my mind need rest from those things too. The dust and dog hair will still be there tomorrow and one day I’ll finally get to the bottom of the laundry pile as well.

9. Play music. I play the piano and the organ for my church. I also enjoy listening to music in the car. I need to remember how much peace music can bring me and how it can add another element of perspective to my day as well.

10. Breathe. Deep breaths, in and out. One moment at a time. The simplest of things to remember to do, yet perhaps one of the most important.

Here’s to a month of fabulous things and remembering to do them!

Handle With Care: Marked With Regret (K.Blais)

At one point in my life I made the following statement,

“I choose to live without regrets. Each and every choice which I have made, or chose not to make, was the best decision that I could make at the time.”

Such a bold statement, isn’t it? Doesn’t it just ooze immense self confidence and self assurance?

It’s also a sham and pretty much an absolute lie.

I don’t really remember what stage I was at in my life when I uttered these words, all I know is that I was very naïve to think that I could live my life without feeling an ounce of regret over something I did, something I didn’t do, words which I have said, or even words which I didn’t say. To be honest, I am not even sure that I believed the words when I said them myself, but they sounded clever, brilliant, and I may have even impressed a few people momentarily. I may have tried to make the best decision I could make at the time and I could attempt to live without regrets with the best of intentions, but that wouldn’t necessarily be the way my life would end up.

Ideally, we may hope to live a life without regret. We may hope that each decision we have made throughout our lives has been well intentioned and will not one day lead to regret, but really that’s all it is – an idealistic hope. It is hard, maybe even impossible, to say that at least one decision we may make will not lead to some aspect of regret in the future. The truth is we all have life stories of regret in one form or another. We may have even started the New Year off making resolutions which we may end regretting not keeping (or we may possibly end up regretting the resolutions themselves). There are also those situations where we may not have made a choice at all, maybe a choice wasn’t even ours to make, but our lack of choice, our lack of decision or the opportunity to decide, may lead to intense regret. If only I had done something differently. If only I hadn’t said that. If only I had seen it coming. If only, if only, if only…

Regret can wreak havoc on our minds. It can inhibit and imprison us, crippling us with guilt and remorse. Regret can hold us back and keep us from doing what we might dare or dream to do because of what “may happen”, or because of what the past has dictated “will happen”. Regret can hold its own power over us, eating away at our conscience, and robbing us of sleep at night. Often times, we find ourselves holding it close, using it as a crutch, a justification to stay in our comfort zone and to not venture out. Regret can offer an element of comfort in our life. It can become easy to slip over us, like a second skin. It can offer a false sense of protection and a feigned veil of security. At least if I am regretting, I am doing something about a situation which I can no longer control.

While regret can creep into our heads and stay there like an unwelcome houseguest, if we choose to understand our regret and whether or not the regret really stems from anything in our control to begin with, it may also work to help us to examine ourselves and our behavior. Some choices are patterns in our lives which we repeat over and over expecting different results. Some decisions we have made may have hurt others and we may need their forgiveness to move on. Some choices were never ours to make and we need to give ourselves permission to admit that and to forgive ourselves. I may regret doing/not doing a million things, but how many of those things did I actually have control over? If I have given up on dreams, was it because I chose to or was the decision made for me? If I have lost friends or loved ones, was the loss anything which was ever in my control to begin with? If something terrible has happened to me, is it really so hard to believe that I did nothing to deserve it?

Regret may lead to making better choices in the future, helping to steer us in a better direction with our lives, possibly even breaking a pattern of behavior which we may find ourselves caught up in. Regretting our behavior or actions while being intoxicated may serve to remind us not to drink so much next Friday night. Regretting not paying our credit card bill and being declined making a purchase may remind us to be more responsible with our finances. Regret may encourage clarity of thought and aid in our decision making when we find ourselves in similar situations in the future.

How we handle regret is truly what’s most important. When those memories, those embarrassing, remorseful, I-just-want-to-forget-that-ever-happened moments creep back into our heads at the most inopportune times causing us to groan, cringe, or do whatever is necessary to try to shove the memory back into the furthest corner of our minds, how we deal with regret is what matters most. We need to learn from our mistakes and move forward making sure to keep the positive things in our lives our primary focus. If our regret isn’t about our mistakes but someone else’s actions on our lives, it may help to release the responsibility of that situation from ourselves. If we can understand that control over the situation or the decision was never in our hands, we may find peace.

We can’t let regret incapacitate us. Regret cannot cripple us. Regret should not win. If we look at life as a series of lessons, we need to keep moving forward as a willing student one step at a time. Regret does not need to be our constant companion like a shadow on a sunny day nor does it need to be our bedfellow, pinching and keeping us awake at night. If we confront regret, handle it with care, acknowledge it and then let it go, we can move towards a new day. Perhaps the regret can even turn into something positive, if we let it. We may even find peace and the strength to forgive ourselves and those who have hurt us.

I’ve come up with a new statement to replace my brash, naïve, and, as it turns out, not-so-clever statement of old,

“Life is about living, with joy and with regrets. We all make mistakes; things happen to us and, sometimes, because of us. What is most important is that we learn and grow from our experiences.”

We don’t have to spend our lives marked with regret. Each experience we have had has shaped us in some way. Every regret has made us who we are right now, has lead us in the direction we were meant to take, and will make each one of us a stronger person in the end.

 

Attitude Is Everything! (K. Blais)

Let’s face it. Some days our attitudes may leave a lot to be desired.

Reality: Some days are better than others and some days (months?) it’s not so easy to see the positive and to respond positively (revisit last week’s blog post I Am Who I Am and you’ll see what I mean!). Sometimes it’s all too easy to fall into the negativity trap, especially when the world is delivering some pretty hard knocks.

We all may know and have heard the saying that someone was “born with a bad attitude”. But, I mean really, how many newborn babies can you honestly say have done something to really offend you? (Ok, other than maybe peeing on you when you change their diaper and that’s cute, really, but only if it’s a baby.)

So, where in the world does a negative inclination come from? Should we attribute negativity to the teenage years when hormones begin to rage, personalities shift from childhood into emerging adulthood, and dispositions become less sweet? But what happens when the negative attitude continues into adulthood? What then? How do we respond to negativity while some days we are blindly searching for positivity ourselves?

Martha Washington said, “I am still determined to be cheerful and to be happy in whatever situation I may be, for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions and not upon our circumstances.”

We surely all don’t live according to Martha’s words, although some of us may strive to. So, what can we do to portray a positive attitude and be determined and happy in whatever situation we may find ourselves in?

I think the first step in having a positive attitude is realizing that we, as well as everyone else in the world, are NOT perfect. We are human and, therefore, we are bound to make mistakes. Accepting our own flaws is one thing, accepting another person’s is another. We set high expectations for ourselves, and sometimes even higher ones for those around us. Once we acknowledge that others will make mistakes and will need our understanding about them, we may be more graceful with our reactions and attitudes towards them.

We need to cultivate a forgiving heart. People are going to make mistakes whether it is out of ignorance, negligence, insecurity, or laziness. Mistakes will happen even with the best of intentions. Having an antagonistic attitude towards others will not help most situations. Yes, life is unfair and can deal some pretty big blows, but those are circumstances. Circumstances we cannot always change, but we can control how we react to them.

Striving to look for the positive, not simply dwelling on the negative, will help as well. When we look for the positives out of a negative situation, we are able to see the efforts that have been made and possibly understand where things have gone wrong. Sure, mistakes may have occurred, and things may have turned out completely different from the way we expected them to, but if we can acknowledge the efforts instead of the results, we may realize that it can’t be all bad. Our attitude does not need to be adverse when dealing with strife and conflict: when life gives you lemons – make lemonade! Remember, after the rain the sun will shine, and you may even find a rainbow.

Offer suggestions, if possible and applicable, and if not, then say only what is needed and move on. Fixation on an issue, especially if we feel negative about it, will not help our attitude towards the given situation. Moving on and moving forward will allow us to maintain a positive outlook and focus on something else in order to avoid cynicism.

In dealing with others who show us undesirable attitudes (you may know some Negative Nellies), let’s try to remember that their demeanor may not have much, if anything, to do with us to begin with. Some individuals are unhappy for reasons within themselves and may be having a difficult time dealing with issues which are deeply rooted personally. Remember: It’s not all about you – and I mean that in a good way! It took me a long time to realize (and I’m still working on it!) that someone else’s attitude is not a reflection of, nor does it necessarily need to affect, me.

True story:

There once was a girl, (she was a lovely sort of girl), who loved to write. She wrote and she wrote and she wrote. She wrote so that her home was filled with the delightful sound of clicking keys and moments of “Aha! That’s a great idea!” as she delved into her inner self to bring her thoughts to life. The girl believed her ideas were clever, she wasn’t sure that others would agree, but still she wrote.

As time wore on, life continued to toss the lovely girl around on its sea of “perpetuality”: perpetual demands, responsibilities, expectations, letdowns, and even betrayals. The girl was troubled. She began to feel unenthusiastic, pessimistic, and even cynical about her life, her dream, and her goals. She tried to stay positive, but it grew increasingly difficult. She began to question herself and she let doubt creep in. She worried and she worried and she worried. She began (read: continued) to compare herself to others. She placed her value on what others said or thought.

One day, something happened to the girl. It wasn’t a huge something but it was big enough to make her think. Something clicked in her mind and she realized that she had been letting her attitude dictate her responses to a lot of things. It wasn’t that the world was continually trying to knock her down – it was that she was ALLOWING her attitude to be affected by them. She decided then and there that she would set forth to alter her outlook. She knew that it wouldn’t be easy. She would strive to respond with kindness and positivity when she felt like an emotional punching bag for others. She would stand up for herself and her loved ones the best way she knew how to: with love. She would let her positive attitude permeate throughout her life. She would, in a sense, kill the negative naysayers with kindness.

AND, she would keep writing and pursuing her dream because that was EXACTLY who she was and what she needed to do.

To be continued… ❤

(Dear Readers – a continued thank you for your support! May you find your positive perspective and hold it close! Please like our facebook page, Writing For The Love of It, and come follow me on Twitter @kim_blais. I’d love to hear from you! Love and positivity, ~ K ~)