It’s the middle of February and Life seems to be moving at mach speed

Life seems to pass along so quickly any more.  There never seems to be enough time.  At least, that’s what I hear others say.

Earlier this month, I wrote a piece called “Out of sight, out of mind” ( click on the link to read) and noted that we do not pay much attention to those around us. I have to wonder just how much can be attributed to the fast pace by which we make our choices.

I also wonder why we want to include others in our lives, yet do not seem to have the time to do so.

The question remains:  Do we REALLY want them or do we simply feel obligated to say so?

Life continues to move day-by-day.  One day, it will come to an end for each of us.  But time will continue to move on for those who remain.  Are we ready to deal with the consequences of having so little time for those we say we care about?

Time is ticking away at record speed. Quality time spent is so important, that we must make some decisions to forego the things that rob us of joy, and seek out those moments where we do not settle. Time will not wait for us.

 

 

Living with Intention or Wandering?

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There seems to have been a grand movement toward the “living with intention” ideology. Of course, every generation believes that they are the first ones to think of it. Some use traditional philosophies or religious teachings to take the step toward living intentionally. Others reject the traditional, as it feels stifling and rigid with “should” or “don’t” around ever corner, guilt and shame being the motivator.

Some struggle for a lifetime, unable to see the joys of life through the challenges faced, often going to their graves feeling that their lives had no meaning or purpose, as defined by others’ definitions. Others accept their plights, taking on martyrdom as their sole purpose so others will not have to suffer the same unpleasantness and can live happily.

Then there seems to be those who have it all, exempt from the tragedies that have befallen others. They are born with societal standards of beauty, health, and success. If (when) they do find themselves in tough times, it is often hidden and rarely shared for fear of judgement by others or tarnishing the image they have worked so hard to maintain in their attempts to protect the status that they enjoy.

Each and everyone of us struggles. We humans are the ones who decide (and define) who are more deserving of those struggles.

Because we are bombarded by the definitions that others have piled upon us, it is often difficult to know what living intentionally means to us, as individuals. We are too busy trying to follow others’ acceptable versions of those intentions.

Some will choose a different path altogether, one that is seen as a wanderer or “dancing to the beat of a different drummer.” They are often rejected by family, friends, and society for being an  embarrassment. Years or decades later, they are still talked about behind their backs, and discussed as pitiful creatures who have not found their way.

The trouble with this is that the basis of these discussions is on very old perception, based on limited knowledge. It is often accompanied by an active refusal to seek new knowledge and understanding.

For the person who finds him- or herself as the wanderer, living without the intention that others think is acceptable, it is rather easy to fall into a habit of feeling unworthy or lost. It can be a challenge to find the meaning and purpose.  Perhaps, it is not in finding it; rather, in recognizing it when it shows up.

In the last few days, I have experienced some of those recognizable moments, which are evidence that I am, indeed, living with intention.  I will share more of this in my next post.

Until then, please remember J.R.R. Tolkein’s words describing Aragon…

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
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Reference:

 Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), “Strider”, ISBN 0-395-08254-4

Photo credits:  Public domain photos via Pixabay

Copyright:  Author, Coral Levang, 2016. All rights reserved. May be used with permission and proper citation.

 

 

 

Funk(ing) the Dumb Stuff on an Anniversary

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The longer we live, the more apt we are to have days that remind us of life’s events.

Anniversaries of things we would like to remember, or wish we could forget, will stick with us.  Some of us are better at remembering those dates than others.  Anniversary dates of birthdays, weddings, divorces, being hired or being fired, accidents, other days that simply have some sort of impact on us and our lives, both big and small, become a month, weekly, and (dare I say?) daily occurrences, especially as we approach our golden years.

Some of these days coincide with normal holiday seasons and, if the event has been particularly challenging or painful, we never look at the holiday or month or season quite the same. As we anticipate the anniversary of the event, the grey clouds of doom and gloom seem to hover over us, and we can dread the very act of waking up to face the days ahead.

We can get caught in a funk.

If this funk were the music of the band, Tower of Power (ToP), then it would be a lot more fun. But this is the kind of funk that sucks the very life out of you.

I have been approaching this funk for about six weeks now, as I foolishly continue to recall or ruminate on the dates, and remember situations and stories that take me back to April to July of 2012.

Today, I asked my sister, Sonja, if she knew what today was. She remembered, yet I proceeded to mention that this was the date four years ago that I was informed of stage 4 diagnosis with neuroendocrine tumors (NETs)/carcinoid cancer. He said the prognosis was “six months to a year, two if lucky.”

I cannot even begin to articulate what it is like to hear those words. It changes the world, as you know it. There are a few days where you are in a complete state of shock, trying to wrap your head around the knowledge, most of the time in disbelief. Then you have to move forward somehow. I did not know how I was going to make that happen, and nearly made a decision where there would be no moving forward.

But I did move forward and have now come to this four-year mark after diagnosis.

But have I truly moved forward?

My sister may not realize it, but she kicked me in the ass today.  We all need it from time-to-time.  She held a verbal mirror in front of me, and I had to take a hard look at myself.

“Yes sis”…she knew what day it was.

“I don’t focus on that though.” 

And then she knocked me over.

“You showed me to let go and never look back, to keep moving forward because that is where our future resides…You taught me to never fear the moment…”

At that moment, all I could think of is, “I did?” 

Inside, I felt like a fraud.

Presenting the image of having it all together…

…and asking others to see beyond their own challenges is certainly much easier than going through the pain of moving forward.  Even if others do not know it, because I can talk a good game, I know it. And the couple of people whom I let in to see the pain, and fear, also know it.

Thankfully, they will call me on it, when I need it. They do it with love, but just as directly and compassionately as I do it with my clients and students…and with them.

Yes, today is an anniversary. It has been four years since I hear some bad news that changed my life. The events leading up to it were painful, scary, and confusing. The months following were challenging on many levels, including my choice to stand up to a doctor that I did not believe had my best interest at heart.

But, I must let go of the internal hold these dates have on me, because I am holding on to the fear, anger, and pain of those days, weeks and months from four years ago. It has been insidious; so much so that I did not realize it.

I am alive. I live with neuroendocrine tumors. I have had surgeries, and more CT scans, MRIs, monthly injections, and blood work than I can count.

BUT…I am ALIVE…and my future lies in moving forward.

In the words of my sister:  

“…it’s easier to preach what we know to be true…, but difficult to apply to our own lives…Logic and emotion collide and we…are paralyzed to apply it…We feel empowered (however) to help others…”

I do not know when I ever taught her any of the lessons she taught me today. But she does understand me, and we are very much alike.

Today, I move forward into my fifth year after diagnosis. The future. And I am eternally grateful for those who have stood by me, understood me, and loved me every step along the way.

As far as the “funk”…I think I will take a lesson from (ToP), and “funk the dumb stuff” from now on…

© Coral Levang 2016

 

 

Mirror, Mirror…

pretty-woman-635258_640I remember a wise person in my lifetime who said, “When you have an extreme reaction to or dislike for a person, where you find it necessary to let others know how much you despise him or her, it usually means that you see something in that person that reminds you of yourself.”

When I first heard those words in my early adult years, I vehemently denied that to be true. Truth be told, I had a few choice words about the one I now consider to be a sage, decades later.

I saw this person as “full of self,” and showed my righteous indignation with my relentless “How DARE (fill-in-the-blank)?” I continued to tell my story of how I was wronged to anyone who would listen. Of course, it was always from my perspective, as I pointed out each and every flaw of my nemesis.

It was my own ego that kept me telling this story–and others like it as I saw myself as a victim–over-and-over again.

As I continue to learn and have shared this similar lesson with others, I admit that I can now better appreciate the wisdom shared with me decades ago, and wish that I had been willing to get to know this person. I would have spared myself many other uncomfortable life’s lessons, if only I had been willing to seek to truly understand more.

There will always be times when we will hear words that seem harsh to us, especially when challenged to take an honest look at a situation. Of course, we all come to these moments from a perception that has been framed by our own individual experiences in life…just as others do.

But just as we look at others with the judgment we can so quickly dole out, we must be willing to look in the mirror and concern ourselves with what it is in the reflection that is so similar to what we say we dislike in another.

Once we can look in that mirror without the anger, and begin to own what we see and learn to be kinder to ourselves, we may find that there are more opportunities to learn and grow from others who are much like us.

When Thanksgiving Day Changes

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We all have expectations of what the Thanksgiving holidays are meant to be.

Media has certainly played a big part in creating what the “perfect ” day is supposed to be.  So, when the situations in life are less than Hallmark-perfect, the feelings of loss or being “less than” can eat away at the very core of what we have come to believe is normal.

I have had many share with me over the years that they feel that “the joy of holidays has disappeared.” I am convinced that this is not uncommon. There are simply those who retreat for a few days, allowing others to believe that they are busy and happy.

Things change. Family dynamics change. People struggle to change with them, not knowing how to do things differently. They are thrown into a tailspin and nothing resembles what was or what is “supposed” to be.

I have had many years of Thanksgivings to learn to do things differently. Many of them have been fun, and filled with much love and peace. Yet, I still have not learned how to manage them well.

Life has changed drastically for family members and friends that they are learning to deal with their own expectations of what holidays and life truly mean. I suppose that I had talked myself into believing that some situations would go back to what they once were long ago. But that is my own version of what I was taught to believe today should bring.

Today, I will not host a Thanksgiving dinner. There are no definitive holiday plans or invitations to join any one else in a celebration of the holiday, or to help them in hosting such an event. Today will be like any other day.

There is not a moment where we are not surrounded with the commercial visions of sugarplums and Santa and Norman Rockwell-inspired visions of family gatherings.

Wait!  Sugarplums and Santa?  Aren’t we still talking about Thanksgiving? I am confused. Halloween to New Years becomes such a blur when Christmas decorations are being sold in October.

Anyone of us can fall into a pit melancholy, hurt and pain. We can feel slighted for not getting invitations. We may feel discarded by those who “should” (fill-in-the-blank).

I admit that I have fallen into that pit a time or two over the years.

Yet, I have learned that every day can be a day of thanksgiving, whether or not it is filled with turkey and stuffing, and pumpkin pie while watching football games with people you may see once a year.

But who is to say that you cannot stuff a turkey with bread, or bake a pumpkin pie in July, if you wanted?

Has Thanksgiving been reduced to simply a turkey, cranberries, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows?  Is this what it has become because we have all bought into unrealistic expectations that have been shoved down our throats by society, media, and (dare I say) dysfunctional family?

Each day we wake up, there is an opportunity to give thanks for whatever we have. Is that not what the words represent?  Thanks giving?

I do not know if I will eat turkey or pumpkin pie today. I might just have pancakes and eggs at my local Denny’s.

On Saturday I am meeting a group of people for a traditional dinner and game night, if I need my tryptophan-fix.

Yet, today I will reflect on many things for which I am thankful:

  • LIFE itself
  • People who have remained by my side to care for me since my 2012 diagnosis
  • Living in a place where I am safe
  • The few dear friends and family members who continue to make it a point to let me know they love me by picking up a telephone or sending me something in the mail to surprise me
  • Having enough
  • Opportunities presented to me when I trust in the process, others and myself
  • A new life born on Tuesday–my grand niece, Rosie, at 9 lbs. 6 oz.
  • Being enough

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For those of you who celebrate today, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with much joy and love and peace that you so deserve on this day and always.

And for those of you who are sitting at home alone, maybe you will join me for those pancakes at Denny’s.

 

For what things are you thankful for today?

Three months comes to an end

This past several months have been filled with a whirlwind of events, as it is for us all nowadays. I have come to the point in my life that I do not want to continually “multi-task,” nor do I wish to be ever-vigilant, making sure that everything is compartmentalized, living by the “never-let-them-see-you-sweat” rule. Even when life gets hectic, it is nice to be able to step back and take a breather.

I have done just that. Taken some time off.

Taking a break

I work part-time as a contract trainer, though doing the work I do with our clientele, 25 hours can feel like an 80-hour work week. I think it is due to the nature of the job, always being in front of an audience. Always being “on.” Maybe it is due to how I do my job and my personality.

This is not a complaint! It is one of the things I love most about the job. I give it 110% of my heart, soul, and energy when I am there.  Even after I leave work, I am not one who can easily leave the people–my workshop participants–and forget about them.

After my last day of training on July 20th, I looked forward to “some time off.” I asked not to be put on the August schedule. Six weeks to simply not worry about others. Of course, it takes time to get used to letting that go.

By mid-August, I realized that there were going to be some “heavy” situations involving family and friends. I wanted to be of support to them, giving them the 110% of my heart, soul and energy while I was needed.  I did not want to have to split that part of me between the two parts of my life.

So, I asked for September’s schedule off so I could commit my time to my family.  I was not on the schedule until the last two weeks in September, so coverage was able to be found.  I am also happy to say that the crises moments have passed, and others are beginning to move beyond them, as life continues on.

Time and change can be frightening

I was not on October’s schedule until the 20th, so it meant that I would be off from any work for a total three months.  That scared me a bit, as I have come to rely on the income from two to four workshops a month over the last six years. That part has not been easy, but I am grateful for what I have that has allowed me the breather.

I have also wondered whether or not, after three months, I could walk back in and train with the same fervor–at the 110% level–as I have for nearly seven years. I know the material. I easily adapt to the audience. But will I be a bit rusty?

New opportunities and loyalties

Several days ago, I was contacted by a friend who has her own consulting firm, wondering if I might be interested in a short-term contract as part of a training team. We have known one another for six years, having attended the same training week upon hire.

After hearing the details of the contract, it is one that sounds exciting and gives me an opportunity that is unlike any other I have had. As well, I was able to recommend and refer another great trainer for the same opportunity, and she has agreed to be part of the team on this project. I am excited to be working with this woman–my friend and sister.

Both of us have commitments to other employment situations, but when opportunity knocks, it is hard to not answer the door. We each have talked to our prospective employers/project team lead and asked for the time to work on this special project.  Each will accommodate the schedule, accordingly. It is nice to know that there are employers and managers who understand and are willing to work things out with people that they value.

What is in store

So, it looks like I will be traveling to Texas for the last two weeks of October with the possibility of an extension, if needed.  I am not on schedule with my other gig until November 17th, so it works out from the time perspective.

We never know what life has in store for us when we are willing to step back, and allow ourselves some time to breathe. It gives us opportunity to view the world, ourselves, and the situations in our lives from a different perspective, when we are accustomed to running on “automatic.”

I am grateful for the relationships I have made with people who are supportive of me, and see value in me that I do not always see in myself. I am also glad to have come to a point in my life where I fear less and trust more.  

It starts with trusting in oneself to make the right decisions…for oneself, at any given moment in time.  I am glad to have had three months to give me the chance to breathe and allow myself some clarity and more perspective.

Enslaved to Fear

fear-617132_640This weekend I rented the movie 12 Years a Slave, based on an autobiographical account of Solomon Northrup, a free man who was sold into slavery and kept as a slave on the plantations of Louisiana.

Other than being a profoundly well-acted and directed film, which took Oscar’s 2013 Best Picture, Supporting Actress, and Screen Play awards, it was one of the most thought-provoking films I have ever seen.

I appreciate films that make me think and ask more questions.  This film did just that.  It made me wonder about the fear that is in all of us and how we can become the epitome of that which we fear the most.

Of course, it goes back to the age-old notion of the thin line between courage and cowardice, strength and weakness, or sanity and madness, and when I asked this question at my other blog earlier this morning:  Is Fear Your Master?

Fear is often used to manipulate us in order to control us.  We do it to ourselves, and it is often done to us.  Is there a reason for such fear, if it holds us back from experiencing life, as it is intended to be?

These are the many things that are on my mind today.

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© 2015 Coral Levang

 

The Cycle of Life and Family

On such a beautiful spring morning, when the skies are blue and the birds are singing, and I am preparing to go out and celebrate a birthday moment with my daughter for her Dad, I am ever-reminded of the cycle of life.

When I was 20, I thought I knew it all and did not need, what I saw as, the craziness of family. Yet, I wanted connection. I made some terrible mistakes, as we all do, in how I dealt with them.

When I was 40, I realized how I did not know it all.  In fact, I did not know who I could trust in this world, starting with myself. I began another two-decade journey to begin to figure these things out. I recognized how much I wanted connection with a family that did not always make sense, but I did not know how.

Now, as I am facing 60 in a few months, I realize that time is what it takes to understand that there is nothing really new that happens in the cycle of life, or in self-awareness, or in families. We are all so similar. The challenges we face may be a bit unique to us, but humans are not perfect, nor are the families in which we are raised.

Even in the most difficult of families, there comes a time when people rally around to help through the most troublesome times. We must take care not to use or abuse them, nor do we need to fall to the victim role or feeling beholden to them. It may not always be ideal or pleasant but, in their own unique ways, family members love us in only the way they know how.

Learning to love and forgive ourselves and our families will make much more sense, as we continue on this journey of life. Some things we just have to give time.

(Author’s note:  This post was prompted by another article —When Family Rallies Around Us.  In it I shared a bit more of my own journey in relationship to my mother and daughter. )

© 2015 Coral Levang

Happiness or Unhappiness: Is it choice?

I recently read an article claiming that some habits and personality traits can ensure unhappiness in others regardless of who or where they are.  The writer cited a habit of “being negative and complaining loudly…all the time.”

She continued, “They enjoy being miserable and want the world to know about it…find(ing) faults with everything and everyone,” and adds that unhappiness is also spawned when certain people “…think that everyone is against you or is [sic] life is constantly hatching some conspiracies to bring you down.”

Having grown up in the 1960s in a hyper-critical family, going to church with followers who admonished those with problems for “not believing/trusting enough,” and then joining the military to find a place that I believed would be more “fair,” I had a distorted view of life and what it “should” be.

Of course, television shows like Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver left me to compare my experiences with that of the families I saw on the screen.  These were replaced with more “realistic” versions of family and the patri- and matriarchs of the 1970s and 80s–Archie and Edith Bunker of All in the Family and Dr. Cliff and Mrs. Clair Huxtable of The Cosby Show.

None of these were the reality “shows” of today, when people air their dirty laundry in front of a viewing audience on television or on social media like Facebook. Instead of using humor to soften the blows that life deals, some make it their platform to deliver rapid fire attacks to destroy others.  Often times, it is to wage a war against someone they claim to love.

Sometimes, we all need to vent, and the emotions of anger, sorrow, disappointment, fear, and the many others that flood us with questions, such as “Why me?” or “When does this end?” are at the forefront of our minds.  We do not know how we can take much more. But it is something else all together when we wallow in what has been, and then try to justify our own bad behavior.

Though it may be understandable on some levels, constant complaining and negativity in all encounters is draining on everyone. If we want to be in relationship to others in business, friendship, family, etc., then we have to choose our words and attitude toward situations.  We must ask ourselves if it is worth jumping on the negativity bandwagon or if it is better to go a different direction.

There are some people who will also choose to look at life as an opportunity to seek out and destroy others who have denied them that which they insist is theirs to control. I think this goes beyond these people being unhappy, but that there is something deliberately vindictive, malicious,  and evil about them, which screams loudly through their veiled rhetoric of justice and fairness. There is a noticeable darkness and air of superiority in their delivery, and in their humor. These are people in a category all by themselves; psychologists may have special diagnostic labels, as well.

There will always be times when we are sad, upset, and feeling like we will turn the corner to once again face loss or other things that throw us into a tailspin. But we can choose to move beyond these situations and see the good in any situation. That is not always an easy thing to do.

I certainly do not suggest that we view life from beyond a yellow smiley face mask, but rather that we step back to view a situation and see it for all that that it is or can be, as we try to make sense of anything we may encounter.

Or we can continue to make life so miserable by choosing behavior that will leave us standing alone with no one willing to listen to us any longer.

We are all in the same war, and that war is called, ‘Life.” Only our battles are different.

© 2015 Coral Levang

Source:  How to ensure unhappiness in life by Dawnwriter, Persona Paper

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intuitive Painting Is Much More than Art

Getting through the pain and ugliness that comes with life so that we can get to a point where we might come to understand and feel peace is not an easy journey.  Far too often, we stay stuck in old patterns of behavior or struggle with new ways of thinking.

If we continue to challenge ourselves, we can find moments of peacefulness, but only if we allow ourselves an opportunity to trust. Simply trust.

Trust others. Trust ourselves.

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It requires such vulnerability and we often do not know how we can ever open ourselves up to others.  Sometimes, we do not see it coming and we are in the throws of it, before we know it.

We allow someone to see the crack in our armor.  Before we know it, they ask a question that touches the open wound and it begins to seep.

And then we bleed.

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Oh, so carefully, that someone begins to dress our wounds, offers us a tissue or a shoulder as we cry, and allows us to be human in a space where we are safe to do so.  Where we feel safe to be ourselves.

It is in these moments that we begin to experience love, connection, and peace. But we must be willing to let go of part of the pain and anguish that life has not just offered us, but dumped on us.

And  we start anew.

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We focus on something different.  Something that might bring us some joy. We see the possibilities of what can be by letting go, even for just a moment.

Then we share our laughter, the gifts of new-found friendship and a bit more peace that when we begin.  And we begin to realize what it is

…to have some fun.

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If you would like to “awaken your creativity, empower your life, (and) come play,” read below!

Credits:  All photographs and artwork shared above are owned by the author, created on 11/15/2014 at an Intuitive Painting workshop at Artful Dreamers Studio in Tacoma, Washington offered by Creative Coach Nadine Hamil.

To learn more about Nadine, Artful Dreamers Studio and the Intuitive Painting workshops and other creative classes offered,  or to signup for a workshop, check out the following links: