Life Lessons

Easter Edition

Easter is this coming Sunday, so I thought I would do an Easter Edition blog post. Today my heart is thankful that I woke up, had shelter, enjoyed nutritious food as well as all the other things I am so blessed to have. I’m also thankful for:

Recipes that allow me to make just about everything I have ever eaten out but make at home cheaper and healthier. Love me a Big Mac salad with non-meat crumbles.

Being able to learn new things on the internet for no cost. Enjoying some free guitar lessons.

The smell of fresh air through an open window along with the the sight of the curtains blowing with the rhythm of the breeze. So comforting.

Knowing the joy of opening a new journal and thinking of all the possible things I can write down.

The joy of waking up to an empty kitchen sink which sparks the imagination of all the things I can cook that day.

Being able to have a cake and there isn’t even a special event to celebrate. Eating cake for cake’s sake.

Listening to music in the car with the windows down. Pure freedom.

Hearing a song that reminds you of your mom or dad as your heart fills with gratitude for having had such great parents.

Feeling satisfied with what you have and not feeling the need for more more more.

A sweet laugh with the one you love as you remember a silly memory.

Reading a really good book. Listening to great music. Smelling baking bread. Tasting a sweet strawberry. Feeling a soft and comfy blanket. Wearing a cool hat. Writing with a balanced pen. Having a friend. And so the list goes on and on.

Gratitude,. I practice everyday. Some days I am good at it, others days I cannot see it through the tears. I guess that’s why they say to practice it…it can never be a perfect art.

So with Easter approaching, I have one more thing to be thankful for. A man who suffered horrible injustices on my behalf so that I could have a life overflowing. He withstood ridicule and physical pain in my place. His blood was given instead of mine. He took me from my depths and brought me to a higher place. He died (and rose up) in my place. I know many do not believe in this as a reality, but I do with my whole heart and soul. My Easter is not about eggs and baskets but about all things in life I have been given without once being deserving of it. Thank You Jesus for loving me even when I am so unlovable.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter. It is a time of renewal and I hope that your spirit is lifted and that you enjoy the feeling of gratitude! Enjoy the day!

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How Far…

I’m such an idiot, why did I say that? What a dummy. I can’t believe I did that! I am such a loser when am I going to learn? That was an epic fail, why try anything. You are not good at anything. I literally have no talents at all. I am a waste of space and air.

These are all things I have said to myself. Not even that long ago. If someone else would have said any of these things to me, I would probably fight them. But I can say these things to myself and accept the words as truth. How very sad is that?

Not only do I say horrible things to myself, I back them up with samples from years or decades ago.

I know a lot of people struggle with negative self-talk as it is called. We are our own internal bullies. The venom we spew inside our own heads is so toxic, it makes Chernobyl look like a theme park.

I go on and on about how the world needs more kindness. How love and acceptance will change the world but I cannot forget the thing I said in 1979, or forgive myself for how I behaved in the 80s or how I let people down in the 90s and so it continues. Should not the forgiveness the world needs extend to me too? Somehow I cannot seem to do that.

I am quick to take the blame and beat myself up without respite. I say horrendous things to myself, things I would never dream of saying to another person. I am hard on myself with the reasoning that I deserve it and that it will keep me in check.

Granted I was a brat and was self-centered and lazy for a time. I was confused about who I was and was desperate to figure it out. I was hurting from pains I had suffered and I was angry. Looking back I am not proud of those things but in the middle parts there were some good things I did that I never look at.

I always think when I get to Heaven and God asks me about my life, my reply will be that I tried. I tried to be a better person sometimes without the slightest idea how to achieve it. I tried to right the wrongs even though it was too late for some. I learned and I applied the knowledge when I could. I tried.

I think instead of always beating ourselves up we need to stop and look at how far we have come. There is no perfection in this life, but it is possible to improve. The road behind is full of twists and turns. Blind spots and switchback. The road ahead is not visible to our eyes. But the road as we see it now is full of potential to strive to be that person we want to be.

So today I will look back only to remember the lessons learned. I won’t try to look too far ahead as it is obscure at best. Today I will travel life’s road with the knowledge of how far I have come. I will give myself a break from the constant self-imposed beatings and be thankful I made it this far. There were times I just wanted to drive off a cliff…but I didn’t. Kudos to me for the perseverance I did not even know I possessed.

I will love, admire and respect the road so far. Don’t forget for one minute how far you have come. Hold a bit of pride in your hand today and say I made it this far. Not only is that good, it is amazing!!

Another New Start

Here I go again looking to make yet another new start. I thought I just made a new start but it turned out to be a less-than-new start with ramifications similar to my last new start. In other words, I was doing the same destructive things but in a new place.

I think when you finally get to a place where you realize something has to change and it doesn’t, situations proceed downhill very quickly. That is what just happened to me. I changed jobs thinking the new one was a better fit and it went south, so to speak, at a very accelerated rate. Quicker than most.

I felt drained off all energy. I did not want to do anything, even if I enjoyed it. My health went bad quickly too. I kept saying to myself I will make a change when I have more money saved or have a bill or two paid off. But my mind and body had different ideas and a much different timeframe. I had to jump and jump without a safety net.

So with $42.73 in the savings I quit my job. As soon as I did the pains in my chest went away, my breathing was easier, my appetite came back and the ideas started to flow. I felt a spark again.

Am I scared that I will not be able to come up with something? Yes, of course but I put down on paper all my past failures. The reason for that is those epic fails in my life, and oh there are a lot of them, were actually my training ground, my graduate work if you will. I know what not to do but now I know what I want. It’s a start.

It’s time to use the skills I do have and make a way for myself that is not only a means of support but nourishing to my soul and gives me health. The only thing is that I cannot do this alone as was previously my thought. I could use prayers for guidance and for wisdom.

This time around I’m not going to chase the money. That hasn’t worked yet. Now I want to chase balance, peace, joy and with that I hope to help others and support a lighter lifestyle for me. I want to be a better citizen of the world.

I am blessed that over the years I have left behind many of the trappings I thought were necessary to have. Gone are my longings to own everything I see and viewing my life through other people’s glasses. I no longer feel the need to keep up with anyone. There is freedom in that alone. Once you let go of that which you were gripping so tightly, true peace is achievable.

I’m praying for the strength I need to change my life once again. I’m praying for the wisdom to utilize my resources in the best possible way. I’m praying for the ability to make an impact, no matter the size, on another person.

I have been around the block more than once, so I know nothing is perfect. The intent is not perfection but peace, integrity and stewardship of all things laid before me. My time with the greedy and entitled is going to be less time spent with. My time running here and racing there is to be lessened. I have nothing to give anyone if my tank is always empty.

So starts yet another chapter, another set of defining moments meant to teach and another step closer to being the person I know I am deep down inside. No safety net, no solid plan just faith in my God and faith in the lessons I have learned.

I’m at the edge of the cliff, ready to jump….I will let you know how it feels….Here goes!

Big Picture by Lois Hewitt

“You should look at the big picture.” “Seeing the big picture explains it all.” “Don’t miss the big picture.” We have all heard these or similar sayings. They are meant to help give clarity to a situation that just might not be making sense.

I have tried to always look for the larger meanings in life. I have to admit there have been times in my life when I was not able to understand what was happening and/or why, that looking beyond myself provided some sort of larger meaning. That the obstacle or the pain was actually going to provide some sort of answer in my life.

It was easier at times and much harder at others to get past the things that just did not make sense. The older I get, the more I utilize and appreciate the lessons learned in those darker days. I see a bigger picture in play.

As I continue on my current life path, I find myself struggling daily with an overwhelming sense of constant anxiety. I wake up in the middle of the night to a face soaked in sweat and a racing heart. My stomach is always in some stage of anxiety. I am having difficulty feeling joy even though I clearly see my blessings.

As I laid in bed this morning before the official start of the day, I pondered the bigger picture…the world view if you will. I can say with complete honesty that did not work for me. I just wanted to cry and continue to hide under my blanket. I prayed to God for relief from this constant onslaught of uncertainty and fear.

Then my mind moved to a much smaller place. My efficiency kitchen. I started to think about what I would cook today. My mind traveled to my pantry to see what ingredients I had. I thought about the schedule of preparation. Would I freeze this for later and serve this tonight.

My mind blocked out the noise we hear daily about war, famine, soaring prices, hatred and on and on. I know those problems are all around us. We have to make decisions based on the big picture. But maybe, just maybe, we need a vacation from the big picture.

I saw my day and it was about something I absolutely love to do. Cooking has become my passion. Planning what to make, prepping the food, mixing it up, thinking about better nutrition, storing it and cleaning up. I have developed a complete process for myself that allows me to have healthy home cooked meals every night.

I realize that the above scenario may sound more like a chore than a passion. But for me it is pure love to create food. I enjoy reading and writing. My small picture might include a good book, a cup of oolong tea and a fuzzy blanket or a new journal and a colorful set of pens. Insert anything you love and just focus on it.

I figured I could finish the laundry later, sweep and dust tomorrow, and just leave the other chores somewhere outside my mind for now. I still need to consider the bigger picture but today I want to focus on the small picture. I want to feel relaxed for a change. I don’t want to feel sick to my stomach. I want to feel joy today.

I guess that is what people mean by mindfulness. I’ve read the books about it, tried it but never really got the concept until my prayer this morning. And then it all made sense.

No one ever mentioned that if all you do is look at the big picture, all you will feel is overwhelmed…at least in my case. So from today forward I am going to try to focus on what is in front of me. Not what could appear in front of me, not what is going on over there, not what may happen in a month or a year…just what is in front of me.

Finally I understand mindfulness for me means the smaller picture. I respite from all the many things I have no control over. A vacation from the never-ending to do list. I can actually breathe right now. What a blessing and answer to prayer. What a joy!

Temptation by Lois Hewitt

I am so tempted today! I can hardly control myself. This is something I’m working on daily and I can’t lose the battle now. I am so tempted to be negative today.

As has happened in the past some of my fellow humans have let me down. No one I know personally, just general online humans.

I want to make a rebuttal to not be so ugly, but that makes me ugly. Exchanging words does not a solution make. Taking the low road brings me to a lower level. I advocate kindness whenever possible, continuing a fight does not reflect kindness.

Being kind, empathetic and understanding of others is exhausting as well as infuriating. I want to kick someone in the shin and tell them to grow up. The old me would have jumped on that train and rode it until one of us was in tears. That’s not the new me. That was the old me that required validation from everyone. The old me that took all things said to me personally. The old me that was seeking to be liked by all. And the old me that was so small minded to think I was always right.

I do not want that person to exist anymore. I want to have evolved. I want to always take the high road. I enjoy a much higher spiritual and emotional level than I did before. It is hard though. It is much easier to be offended. It’s much easier to open ones mouth and spew negativity. It’s much easier, at least for me, to throw a tantrum.

But easy is not my goal anymore. I want to live higher. I’ve lived on the low road for too many years and it literally goes no where good. The drama and surrounding circus may be fun for a while but it steals your soul and makes you hollow inside. I know because I was there and all the time addicted to it. My value was based on how miserable I was.

I’m learning in many different coping mechanisms for dealing with hurtful comments or a disrespectful action. I know now that the only component of the situation I can change is the way I handle the situation. I cannot will another person to be kind. I cannot wish for civility in that person. But I can hold myself to a higher standard without becoming pompous.

I learned so many years ago that I am the only one looking in the mirror at my reflection. I am the only one who can see under the exterior facade into the depths of my personal reality. I have learned to hold my personal truths high and even when my reflection is exhausted and full of tears I can look back at myself without regret.

I still stumble just like today. I’m not proud that I still get upset over careless words especially from someone I have no knowledge of and visa versa. I guess I am still evolving into that better person. Even though I am tempted to get ugly, I will refrain. Negativity is a disease in our world today. I have no business helping create an environment which it spreads. So today my temptation has been squashed and discarded. My inner peace and my expectations of myself are in tact. May that circus leave town. It’s no longer welcome.

Jobs, I’ve Had A Few by Lois Hewitt

Hard-core unemployable…that is how I describe myself. The number of jobs I have held could fill volumes. Waitress, clerk, teller, cashier, stocker, salesperson, candy maker, data entry, secretary, travel coordinator, office assistant, writer, greeter, historic intrepretor and estate ambassador. Makes me tired just thinking about it.

Because of my previous impulsive need to spend every penny I made and then some, many of my younger years had me working two or three jobs at a time. Some were really bad, some were ok and a few transcended all other experiences. When I look back, I realize how amazing my work life has been.

As a high school drop out, I never expected to make anything of myself. I had no doubt that I would be a failure at everything. I literally knew nothing. I had no real understanding of the world and how it worked. But I did have guilt! That guilt, to this day, makes me work hard to overcome the fact that I believe I have no skills. It is taking a negative and turning it into a positive…I guess.

Although I may not have had a lot to offer, I fell into a few jobs/careers that changed my life. In my younger years, I avoided working because of my crippling fear of failure. Then came my first real job, one I was at for almost 20 years. The people there taught me skills and how to be a decent human. My days were full of anxiety and a lot of fear but I was surrounded by some of the best people on the planet, including my soulmate. Those times and people are forever etched in my heart.

I struggled after that but had some absolutely awesome experiences. I continued to learn and my character built as I saw ways to act as well as how not to act. People helped me at every turn. I was blessed with caring co-workers who put up with my drama. When I look back on all the jobs, I am humbled beyond belief.

A few jobs came along with were just a bad fit. That happens. Those, too, are opportunities to learn…they just hurt a bit more.

Over the years I have worked for myself a couple of times. I enjoyed that but realized I am not a great boss. I tend to try to not let others down but have no qualms about disappointing myself. Got to work on that.

Today is much different from those days previous. Yes bills are still a major tipping point. But now I want a strong sense of purpose. I want to feel as if I can make a difference no matter how small.

During Covid I worked at a large grocery store. I had read what a great company it was and was excited to work there. Suffice it to say that after four weeks I put in my two week notice. I realized without the sense of purpose, not just showing up and doing the minimum, the work is hollow and meaningless.

Today I have the opportunity to help make memories for other people. Not exactly saving the planet or curing disease but important on another level. I hold in my hands the chance to make someone feel welcome, to feel important and to touch their soul just a little. Some people deserve a punch in the nose but most are gracious and funny and curious.

Working with the public is so hard. I dread it every day until I get that first smile or thank you. Or a visit later in the day to tell me my advice made their day. It’s not rocket science, it’s not brain surgery but it is a purpose and I am blessed to have it.

Same Road, Different Journey by Lois Hewitt

I just read a wonderful interview with my favorite musician, Jerry Cantrell. As co-founder of Alice in Chains he was discussing their history and their state currently.

He talked about how in the beginning before Nirvana broke open the Seattle scene in the 90s, the bands there were doing the things they loved, selling out taverns not arenas and having the support of friends and community. He said it just felt right.

Then the change came. Years came and went, loved ones were lost, there was pain and sadness. The thought was that Alice could not go on.

Fast forward a few years and a global tragedy brought the surviving members together for a charity concert and they decided to move on together again. Up from the ashes they came. Still Alice but different. According to Jerry it just feels right again.

That story resonated with me. I was doing something I loved and it felt right. Then it abruptly ended. I was lost and didn’t know what to do. I tried quite a few jobs in a short time as my feelings of failure started to grow.

I looked back and thought I could never recapture what I had before. But with a little more wisdom then I had previously I thought I could try again. So I went down the same road but the journey was different.

That ended up being ok. I’m in a different position, responsibilities are different but it feels right. I just realized that life will not go backwards. Those feelings you had years ago turned into experiences that created change in your life. Then the time comes when you are no longer looking for what was but trying to figure out what may be.

Without being overly dramatic, I feel as it my Phoenix as risen. God has showed me something that feels right but is different from what was right before.

It almost feels like time travel. The things before set in motion the things present. The experiences of past created an environment of new thought processes which create new journeys. It is hard to wrap one’s head around how intertwined the two are.

Today, and I have no idea of for how long, I’m travelling on a familiar road, once travelled before . The journey is, however, different. That is ok. I enjoyed this road once maybe I can enjoy it again. Now I realize the the road will twist again and I just have to be open to the directions I’m given.

What a wild journey this thing called life is! I hope and pray your road feels right!

Food, Again by Lois Hewitt

I know that I talk a lot about food. My entire life has been one great big obsession with food. Fatty, salty junk food and anything sweet. When I bought junk food the wait to drive home to eat it was unbearable. My car was a moving restaurant and garbage dump.

I remember reading an article that said if you ate fast food more than three times a week it was extremely unhealthy. I laughed. Three times a week, really? If I had the money I would eat fast food three times a day along with a box of donuts and candy bar after candy bar! A six pack of bottled (yes in glass bottles) of coke would last two days at the most.

Most of this eating was done alone. I was so embarrassed of my weakness. If I wasn’t eating, I was planning my next meal. When I say obsession, it truly was.

My health reflected my eating sins. I was always sick and pale. My heart was always racing. My mood was generally foul. My teeth slowly rotting. My bank account was as depleted as my health.

Then came Covid. No more going out…I didn’t know what to do. I knew how to throw a few things together. Nothing healthy or even very tasty. Then I found Jamie Oliver and I started changing one meal a week to a veg based meal. Then it was two days, three days and it finally became a lifestyle change.

My health blossomed, my bank account was not always empty, I was not throwing food away and I started to crave healthy food. Now I am obsessed with cooking, stretching my food dollar to get the most I can from what I buy and making up my own recipes. I have embraced prep work and doing dishes. It’s all part of the creative process.

I am learning more about farming practices. About organic food. I know actual people involved with growing food and they are some of the greatest people I have ever met.

I would never eat anything if it wasn’t plastic wrapped and on a Styrofoam plate. Now I eat things I never dreamed of and the less packaging the better. I used to scrub and scrub everything. Vegetables seemed dirty and full of germs. Now I’m not as crazy about it and prep work is actually fun.

I know I have talked about this before. I am not sure why I feel so compelled. This change has changed everything for me. I eat slower and enjoy food more. I don’t waste precious food like I used to. I control what my husband and I eat to a much larger extent.

Meals are planned and prepped. Dinner is ready when we get home from work which alleviates the temptation to eat out. It has centered me in ways I had not imagined. I feel creative and connected to something.

I know quite a few people who would not feel like this would be a positive change. I get it. Having a positive experience from a nonstop pile of dishes would not have been in my thought process previously.

I guess I’m just trying to say that finding that thing that makes you happy and savoring the time you can participate is one of life’s gifts. It could be reading, writing, knitting, playing guitar, painting or any of a multitude of things that center you. Even if you aren’t particularly good at it now, you will get better and will enjoy life a bit more. Find that joy in your life. Keep looking if you can’t find it. Experiment and learn, these simple pleasures in life have huge impacts. Go enjoy!

I Wish I Knew…by Lois Hewitt

The older I get, the more clarity I get. For example, things I wish I knew sooner:

It is ok to not be the pretty one. I used to cry and hate myself because of the way I looked. I was made fun of for my looks. It took decades to get over it. I still look in the mirror from time to time and wish the face I saw was different, but it’s ok. This is me. (Not fishing for compliments, I no longer need external validation and that feels great!)

It is okay to be quiet. I used to think I had to fill all the quiet moments with witty (mostly not) banter. Silences are fine, they are no longer awkward. I don’t have to brain dump everything in my head. I wish I had learned that a looong time ago!

It’s ok to not be rich. I used to think money and things would make me feel better. All I did was set myself up for years of debt and disappointment. Having the latest whatever does not bring joy. Here I am close to 60 with very little personal wealth and I am better than I was when I was buried in stuff. Rich is found in gratitude not a bank statement.

It’s ok to be kind and strong. Kindness, by some people, is perceived as weakness. I have found that kind people are also the strongest and most resilient people. They have walked through life and know the pitfalls. They have empathy and know justice. Kindness is, in my mind, a super power! Never discount the effect it can have!

It’s not ok to abuse your body. I used to eat a consistent diet of sugar and fat. I smoked and drank. I never exercised or did anything positive for myself. The older one gets the more you realize health is the pinnacle of what you need in life. Without health, life gets really hard. It’s never too late to start taking care of yourself!

Stress is not ok. I used to live on stress and if I didn’t have any I would create some. It’s a drug. It’s an addiction. Walk away from it, no good comes from it. Learning new ways to handle stress are life changing. You will still have stressful times, that doesn’t go away, but dealing with it differently is healthier physically and mentally.

It’s ok to ask for help. I used to think it was a sign of weakness. I carried burdens that were not mine to carry. I felt resentment and bitterness that was hugely misplaced. I was always angry. That is never good! Ask for help, if someone won’t help, keep looking. Not everyone will be sympathetic. That’s ok, someone will be.

It’s wonderfully ok to not live by other people’s opinions. Our society today allows everyone to have an opinion about you. Unseen voices will be happy to point out your flaws. Don’t listen. Your truth comes from inside of you. You walked your walk, they have no clue what you have been through. Forget the guilt, learn the lesson and move on.

It’s ok to apologize. It’s ok to say thank you. It’s ok to be polite. It’s okay to stand up for yourself. It’s ok to live with your past as long as it doesn’t cloud your present. It’s ok to cry and it’s ok to laugh. It’s ok to swear and it’s ok to pray.

Life is a difficult journey. But it can be amazing too! Stay strong, be kind and appreciate you. See your worth, and you have worth. See your beauty, it may be different from others but you have beauty. See your talents, yes you have many. Don’t be afraid to be you!

The Cost by Lois Hewitt

What does it cost to say a kind word or to refrain from saying an unkind one?

What does it cost to allow another person their opinion?

What does it cost to hold the door, put your grocery cart away, or to do any number of small things done in civilized society?

What does it cost to offer a prayer for someone in need?

What does it cost to fully listen to someone without thinking about what you will say next?

What does it cost to say an encouraging word or show support to a fellow human being?

What does it cost to be kind? The cost of empathy? The cost of understanding?

Nothing. Most kindnesses do not cost anything. Yet they can bring about positive change.

Kindness does cost time. Some say time is money. In my opinion, if you are looking for a huge return on your investment of time, being kind is the best investment you can make. Dividends are not guaranteed nor are they immediately seen, but a life lived with kindness is a joy.

I have written a lot about simple acts of kindness. The further away we get from that in our society, the more self-centered we become, the more we need to step back and reevaluate ourselves.

Believe me, I know how easy it is to wall yourself up and cast all others away. I am an introverted introvert at best. Other people scare me and make me want to ignore them. I have to force myself to be kind and when I am my heart soars.

So worth it is to help someone else. The gesture need not be large or costly, it just needs to be genuine. My sense of self-preservation makes being kind something I have to think about. It is in my nature but I have suppressed it in lieu of fear long enough.

I’m broke but I can still be kind. I’m afraid but I can still be kind. I’m in a hurry but I can still be kind. I want to be the person who cheerleads for someone else. Who say congratulations. Who says thank you! Who says I’ll pray for you!

Kindness is the great equalizer. It crosses all boundaries and it costs nothing. But it can change lifes.