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The psychology behind selfies is fascinating to me.  A woman took a picture of herself grinning widely, almost maniacally, and in the background was noted primatologist, Jane Goodall, looking at her curiously.

I wonder what Goodall would say about this primate’s behavior, posturing as if to say, Look! I discovered Jane Goodall. I hereby claim her accomplishments as my own.

Then there’s the phenomenon of photobombs, illustrated by the Fiji Water Girl, the model paid to promote the product by inserting herself into pictures of celebrities at the Golden Globe Awards. Younger commenters think what she did was cute, but older ones (like me) see it as crass.

Normally, I enjoy a funny meme, but I see this as being in poor taste.  There’s no denying we live in different worlds based on how we look at the world.

Why do people do what they do? Most aren’t doing these things to annoy anyone else, but to enjoy life in their own way. It does seem that everyone is looking into a camera instead of living in the moment. Is it more important to prove to others that you had fun than to actually have fun? What’s wrong with this picture?

Maybe it’s not up to me to figure out what’s wrong with this picture. All I can do is to find what’s right with the picture that I hold of the world. In the meantime, if I see a photobomb or Fiji girl coming at me, I’ll look the other way and keep going.

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Would you rather:

🔲Take a lawn chair and sit by a landfill.

Or

✅Sit on the beach by the ocean.

🔲Dangle your feet in a brackish swamp by the sewage plant.

Or

✅Skim stones across a crystal lake on a spring day.

Negativity is corrosive to the soul. If you could see it, smell it, experience it in living color, you’d run for your life. But we can’t see it for the pile of stinking garbage it is, so it seeps and creeps into our minds before we know it.

When I woke up this morning, I felt the weight of three issues on the horizon to do with money, health and my son’s well-being.

Sat for some time with my internal Catastrophe Planning Advisor and he offered this sage word of advice:

Panic! 😨

But it hasn’t happened yet.  So why experience it until it does?

It’s like an installment plan of pain. Act now and you, too, can feel bad before the bad thing happens!

Set of guilt-Ginsu-knives that stab me in the back as I try to improve my life? Nah! You’re not here to offer me a fortune from a Nigerian prince. You’re here to steal my peace and make me focus on the problem instead of a plan.

If you could look these negative, nagging thoughts in the face, you’d see they’re lost little souls filled with fear. Look out! Last time you tried to change your life, it didn’t work out. Just stay in your lane. Sure you’re not happy with the way things are but what if you make it worse?

Feel bad less today. Take worrying off your to-do list. Just nix one dark thought and you’ll feel better. The yesness of life is always present, but you have to stop saying no so much to allow yes to find you.

Listen. So it didn’t work out before. Adjust your approach and try again. Face the problem, make a plan, move ahead. This is not a limited time offer. You can sign up for yesness at any point in your life. Why not today?

Is it me, or does the world seem particularly noisy right now? Arguments abound — about who’s at fault in the government shut-down, about the kids from Covington, about how long a person ought to be able to last without a paycheck (“Just get a loan,” says one out-of-touch billionaire), about whether and how quickly political events are dragging Venezuela and England and the US and Zimbabwe (and a whole host of other countries) to hell in a hand-basket. It’s getting loud out there.

We cannot, of course, ignore current events. I mean, we can, but the minute we tentatively extend our ostrich heads out of the hole we’ve planted them in, the problems will still be there. Hiding won’t make the news go away. But being quiet and centering one’s self and getting away from social media (as Ruth has wisely done) can give us the space to get our heads together and form our own opinions. So —

Crawl into the smallest place in your mind,
the darkest, the most in-dwelling, and breathe.
Get entirely quiet with yourself.
Bring a book if you are uncomfortable with silence.
Turn inward on yourself until you are wrapped
securely in a sheet of inner tranquility.
Wait.
When you are ready, release yourself into the world.
You will be different —
one look at you and mouths will still.
This is a good thing.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Looking for a picture to go along with this post, I typed in the search term, “Golden Rule.” The result was the picture you see here: a ruler placed on a golden background. Oh, dear. Could it be that the younger generation has never heard this term before? Is it not being taught anymore?

Here’s a little pun. Maybe in 2020, everyone will miraculously wake up with perfect vision. Even if we still have to wear glasses, there must be a way to fine-tune our vision to see that the words we say have lasting impact. If we all woke up on January 1st and made the resolution to speak kindly to everyone, we’d be looking at a whole new world.

Last week, UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi went viral with this exuberant routine that earned her a perfect 10, but she had once quit the sport altogether. Nobody knew her struggle behind the scenes. Fans would tell her she “wasn’t good enough” or “didn’t look a certain way” and when she gained weight, she was compared to a “bird that couldn’t fly.” With fans like that, who needs enemies?

I gave up on social media this week after I realized its net effect (another pun!) on my psyche was negative more often than positive. It seems to be standard operating procedure for most to mock and provoke people who don’t see things the way they do.

If something or someone in your life isn’t building you up, it may be tearing you down. Let it go. You’ll lighten your own load and see the world more clearly.

Mary Oliver is dead. Maybe that name doesn’t mean anything to you. It should. Mary was one of the greatest poets of our time, and if you aren’t familiar with her work, I urge you — no, I beg you — to look her up. Her philosophy was that poetry shouldn’t be fussy, a sentiment all of my favorite poets share. She wrote about nature largely, but in doing so also wrote about deeper matters, matters of faith and spiritual sustenance. Her poems were like the most joyous of prayers, little hallelujahs. The world is poorer without her.

To see the least of God’s creatures
and view the universe in mandibles, pincers, paws;
to discover the very hue of God’s eyes in
a field of wheat, winter leaf or sprig of mint;
to capture all high heaven in the upturned work
of furrowing ants — what small eyes you had
and yet, how large. You are seeing it all now,
at last, and how it must dazzle! Pray for us,
toiling poets, working our own furrows,
that we will see, despite the size of our eyes,
the real, the plaintive, the whirring of wings
that wend ever heavenward, wings of locusts
or angels. It is all the same.

What if empathy was a finite resource that only existed in a fraction of the population? Imagine what would happen if the ones designated as caretakers of compassion went on strike. Or their kindness soured into cynicism. What would become of humanity then?

I’m concerned that compassion will be elbowed out eventually, especially since those in charge seem unwilling or unable to model it. The younger generation is growing up at a time in which “Instagram Influencer” is an actual job. We’ve even learned to condense our coarse critiques into 140 characters.

Now tell me, when did we decide as a society that pulling pranks was “all in good fun?”  This “heartwarming” (not to mention “housewarming,” but in a bad way)  video of a firefighter fooling his girlfriend into thinking their house was on fire so he could propose to her is (as all of our fathers used to say, say it with me now:) everything that’s wrong with the world today.

If I were that woman, not only would I refuse that marriage proposal, I’d throw my now-ex-boyfriend in jail for causing a public disturbance. Not to mention misuse of tax dollars. Of course, then social media would obliterate me for being a spoil-sport, I’m sure. I can’t even believe this needs to be said, but here goes. Terrifying someone you love is not kind.

A different video of a child in China who walked to school in weather so cold that his hair froze caused an outpouring of kindness. And this one of a stranger who drove 2300 miles to return a family dog to this sick boy shows that focusing on the positive is the antidote for negativity. Despite everything wrong with the world today, there’s still hope for humanity.

This phrase in the Bible shows up more than once: “And it came to pass.”

I’ve always taken that tiny snippet of Scripture as inspiration.

Here’s why: it didn’t come to stay. It came to pass!

Whatever it is in your life that’s holding you back, getting you down, tearing you up. It came here for a reason. And it’s just for a season.   

Even though I reside on the sunny side of the street, we’ve all been down that dark alley. I’ve learned some things that have helped me stay in a positive frame of mind.

Tell but don’t dwell. Tell your story but don’t dwell on the pain of the past.

Follow but don’t wallow. Follow your heart and share what you’ve been through so others know they’re not alone, but don’t wallow in the negative emotions of it.

Make sure it’s useful and truthful. It’s not helpful – to you or those around you – to talk trash about your ex or go into gory detail about the ways life hasn’t been fair to you. It is helpful to be human about it. Here’s something I’ve been through. Maybe it’s happened to you, too. Let’s share what we’ve learned from it, and if it’s still in our life, how to deal with it.

Bask in the positive. You learned from it, lived through it, found a way to rise above.

Be in the present. The past is a springboard. It may have refined you, but it doesn’t define you.

Moving forward with optimism is the antidote to a painful past. No matter what your life may have been like before, every new day is a chance to start again.

Back when my sister was a kid, she loved choose your own adventure books.  Exploration, travel, daring do!  These books but the reader in the driver’s seat.  Every few pages you’d have a decision to make. Do you do choose the door on the left of the door on the right?  Each choice would lead to a completely different adventure.

In reality, life is a lot like those books but I have to admit that this is a reality I sometimes forget.  If I do the same thing, I can’t expect a new result.

What opportunities is God sending your way in 2019?  The reality is that you can only spot them if you are open to something new, something different, something miraculous.  What story are you supposed to write in 2019?  Spend some time in prayer and listen for the answer.

–SueBE

“Be independent of the good opinion of others.” Abraham Maslow

Would you rather be universally liked by all, or loved by a loyal few?

If we could sum up the eras of a lifetime, it might read something like this:

Childhood: you want to belong.

Early adulthood: you want to be loved.

The rest of your life will be about this: you want to be yourself.

That’s good news, if you think about it. Early on, we may look to others as we determine how to “be yourself.” It takes years to figure out that everybody else is doing the same thing.

Ancient mariners didn’t have GPS. They used the stars, sun, moon and planets to navigate. Somehow, they found their way across oceans. In modern times, we tend to use landmarks to map out the course of life. First love. First job. First child.

But that’s also the beginning of comparisons. Net worth. Number of followers. Measuring yourself against others does nothing to improve your life. It can lead to feeling insecure and envious.

What if we didn’t feel the need to compare our place in the world to others? We might find the meaningful mile markers that fly just under the radar. Doing projects you love that allow you to contribute in your own way. Helping the community with all the tools at your disposal: time, talents, teamwork. Money if you can spare it. A prayer if you’re so inclined.

Life isn’t all about being first, you know. These days, second-hand clothes are sold as “vintage.”

“On second thought” can save you a lot of heartache.

A second wind will keep you going through long days.

This is your second chance at a first chapter. Set your own course starting today, and soon it will become second nature.

We’re keeping things easy this time around, my husband and I. No New Year’s resolutions, just a loose plan to eat at one new restaurant every month. It’s simple, enjoyable and doable — we’re destined for success. And yes, we do need to lose weight, fix up the house, get organized…all of the typical fronts tackled by most folks’ resolutions. We’ve failed at those enough times to know that it’s not worth making a commitment you can’t keep, one that’s sure to end in unhappiness when you just can’t live up to it.

Resolutions are funny things. They are based entirely on what we want for ourselves. Certainly God isn’t asking us to run a mile a day or clean out our closets, except in the most general and generous of ways: God wants what is best for us. God wants us to be healthy and happy. Everything else we resolve to do is simply to satisfy our own image of what our lives should look like. Our lives should be more, better. Or so we think.

Instead, I urge you in the year ahead to do less. Take one thing off your list; excise one of the rules you live your life by. Not something central, but a tangential and self-imposed thing — the lawn must be lush and green year-round; the dishes cannot sit in the sink overnight; you must never eat a carbohydrate. Get rid of the script in your head that tells you “I’m too fat to shop for clothes” or “whenever someone perceives me to be a bad mother, I must feel guilty.” You don’t have to do or feel or think or be anything, no matter what anyone else expects, feels, thinks or chooses for you.

This year (2018) I did something difficult — I stopped dyeing my hair. And it was hard and it is hard; every time I look in the mirror, I have the knee-jerk reaction that I’ve let myself go. But…go where? What is it that I think I owe to other people when they look at me? In something as silly as embracing my natural hair, I’ve found more opportunities for self-examination than I ever guessed I might.

Take it easy on yourself in 2019. Resolve to just be happy. Because if you can’t be happy with yourself as you are, no resolution will ever make you so.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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