Friday, October 27, 2023

Aimless Meandering


It’s amazing how quickly the hours, minutes and days go by when your mind is occupied in a busy life.  I think I’m reminded more so now than ever of the importance of taking a pause, a moment, a breath in the present to just appreciate all that has been, all that is and all that is to come without assigning any emotion to that.


In reflecting this morning, I realize what a winding steep and perilous road I have sometimes travelled.  At other times, it felt like smooth sailing.  At this time and in this stage of my life, I have to say that I am happier than ever I have been.  I have meaningful work, a growing family, and I somehow managed to deal with grief.  I’ll be honest, I don’t care for that part of life.  It seems the things that wound us never really ever heal (sorry – spoilers).  But if we give ourselves the space and the grace to be fully present with grief without resisting it, something shifts in our disposition.  Some part of us begins to accept that grief as part of life and we learn that pain is okay to feel – it is nothing to fear – and we just tend to grow beyond those moments.


Acceptance has loomed large in my life with many lessons to affirm the need for it.  I might like to throw temper tantrums because of “what is” in various aspects of my life but I know ultimately how I face something or not is a choice and that choice may extol more energy than I have (if in resistance) or apply just the right amount (if I allow what is to be).  Ever since I heard the serenity prayer and took the time to really dive deep into what seems on the surface a simple string of phrases, I have learned the wisdom of it.  At some point we have to decide if our resistance to what is makes sense to hold onto.


I’m a deeply sensitive soul and I have faced some pretty big emotional upsets in my life but I somehow learned to stand and remain flexible regardless.  If we can learn to bend sometimes like a tree in a storm, flow instead of resisting, we’ll weather most storms.  Sometimes the storms are just overwhelming in life – did you know it’s okay to crumple into a heap and cry it out?  (I’m telling you – give yourselves permission to feel whatever you feel when you feel it – just don’t take action when in feeling mode. When in feeling mode, just feel – be with whatever it is – then take action in a healthy and appropriate manner that supports you and others).


I think for a while in my life I got hung up in trying to ascribe a reason for this or that lesson.  While seemingly a pain-minimizing endeavor, sometimes we just don’t get any closure on things.  You have to learn to deal with what you have, what you don’t know – you don’t know, and assumption is never a good idea.  It isn’t an either or – assume or get the definitive answer exercise – in order to be okay.  The one thing in life that is fact is that life is ever changing. The only thing that is the constant is change.  When I run into rougher times I remember – “This too shall pass.”  When I am enjoying happier times I remember – “This too shall pass” and I appreciate with much gratitude any moment of peace or happiness.


I understand much about people and sometimes that understanding that everyone is battling their own trauma’s, wars, environmental psychology etc. is all I need.  I never let that excuse behavior I find untoward or indecent, but it does help me to realize much of what other people engage in along hurtful or unthinking lines is not personal for me.  That thought doesn’t minimize the pain of the things that some people do but understanding that from one human to another – life is hard – I know all that I need to know, and I can set boundaries for myself in terms of what I can and cannot tolerate.  In life, the one thing you must learn to do is stand up for yourself and your needs and that doesn’t have to be a battle of wills with another human to get them to understand your needs.  In some cases, you can scream that crystal clear and the person you’re screaming at cannot take that onboard at all.  That’s okay – some people are not for you, and you are not for some people.  You don’t have to hate or hold grudges, just refocus on you and what you need to do for you.


Life is hard but when you look back, 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50 years in a life, you see so many different versions of yourself while you were enmeshed in one life lesson or another.  The same is true of your family and friends – different versions of them throughout the years.  It doesn’t matter so much today who you were yesterday – what matters is who you are now – in this moment.  Every moment is an opportunity to find realization, gratitude, acceptance, make plans and set goals and find something in our moments to appreciate.  I find I can appreciate even the bad times even if only to think they won’t last forever.  I find I can appreciate people – even the hurtful and mindless seeming ones. I do know they’re doing the best they can.  I also know I don’t have to remain in proximity to those who are hurtful and hateful.  I don’t have to add to their negative energy.  I can lick my wounds and take a detour down any number of different life paths open to me when I and only when I remain open to finding them.


Sorry for the aimless and meandering thought journey this morning.  I don’t often have the time to write these days.  I appreciate more living life rather than trying to mentally figure it out, but old habits die hard.  I still love my morning reflections over coffee when the house is quiet, and the cat is curled up right next to me.  I’ve got projects to get started and I’m burning daylight. Wherever it is you find yourself on this great journey of your life, I hope you can take a moment to congratulate yourself for making it to this moment.  It’s been no easy task and yet you have somehow managed to master it.  Yay You! Be good to yourself today – acknowledge your efforts regardless of whether anyone else will.  Do one thing at least today just for yourself.  You deserve that kind of love and care from you to you.


Blessings for a great day on the journey that is your life.  Remember – the Journey IS the Destination!


©October 2023, Janice L. Harter (photo and words)

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Chasing Dreams and Lessons Learned

So many miles have come between me and the land of my birth.  If I think about it too long, my heart starts to ache for the sound of the ocean, a strong and cool salty sea breeze, and the sound of gulls.  How many days did I sit at the shore just to feel the power of the waves, feel the enormity of the depth and the breadth of the ocean? Through sunny summer warmth, and cool, cold and stormy days, I’d find my way to the coast and gaze for hours in solitude.  I miss those days sometimes.  Fortunately, those memories will always live in my heart and bring me comfort still when most I surely need it.


As many in life have come to know, the land of your birth won’t always support your dreams and if those dreams are strong enough, you’ll pack up all that you own, kiss your loved ones goodbye and begin a journey to find whatever it is that calls to your heart and soul the most. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to go to far to begin to fulfill my biggest dream.  It was a simple dream to own a home on my own - large enough for me and my children, a yard big and green filled with flowers and trees, and some space to breathe with rare beauty.  I did find it and I’m so grateful.  But these words echo in my mind, “now what?”  

In my mind I have visited the echoes of yesterday and the enormity of lessons learned, love lost and found, broken, and bruised pieces of my heart and psyche along with the strength of the inner light that can and will carry you through the darkest of places if you just find a small shred of hope to hold.  I have not lived an easy life by any stretch, but I have learned above all else to trust my inner most urges and intuitions.  In all the times that I learned to listen and heed my inner guidance, I have found resolution to outer and inner conflict, new paths where all once seemed obscure and a beautiful light to reveal what lay hidden in the darkness (that of my own thinking and that brought to me by the lessons of others).


 When I look at all that I have accomplished, I feel really good.  Humble beginnings was the start to my story.  Where I am now I am not married to because I have learned in life that all is fleeting, transient and impermanent at every level.  I have come to know that it is not what I have and what I have done that matters most.  The greatest of my life’s lessons has been learning to take a measure of comfort in what is as it is in the absence of judgement or fear.  I have grown and gone far beyond anything I ever expected.  It only took me learning to let go of what this world, society and my family expected of me.  The conventional has never suited me and I will no longer entertain it.  I am content now, more whole and happy even - most days.


Life lessons still come and the pain can sometimes feel soul crushing.  But the key to leaving that prison is accepting what is, sitting with the pain without reacting, and allowing yourself to cry, shout, scream or be.  In time, we expand beyond the painful spaces within us.  We learn to bring in more light to shine more clearly into the darkness and we find our way back to the sun as long as we spend no time in resistance.  That is so hard and can take years and years.  It’s not an easy lesson facing grief, sadness and pain.  These things are part of the human condition and when we encounter them we must always remember – this is not it.  It is not all we will ever feel again.  We will expand, we will grow and as we do we create more space within us to take in other things – joy, love, curiosity, hope and so much more.  I think the pain never goes away but we take in more and with balance, we learn to live with the good and the bad seeming within us.  It’s amazing how that works, and it has worked for me time and time again.


 I stand here today so grateful for all of the mountains I have climbed, the darkness I have faced, the disappointment, the anger, the bliss and love – all of it.  My time is not yet done.  I just plan to live a little wiser, with more patience and acceptance.  Maybe find a little more courage, curiosity, and wisdom to face the rest of my journey wherever it is it may lead me.  I think sometimes the journey is within and without simultaneously.  How can it not be?  It’s like magic at times and it can make me laugh or cry depending on how I look at it.


If you take anything away from this piece, I hope you take with it hope, trust in your journey and yourselves to live your lives as perfectly and as meaningfully as you were meant to.  Count your blessings and lessons both (you’ll find they are one and the same in the end).



© Copyright 2023 Janice Harter (photo and words)

Monday, May 29, 2023

Not an Every Day Journey



I woke up early to watch the sky change colors as the sun climbed up into the sky.  The display is one I never ever tire of.  Its magical how the sky goes from inky black with millions of pin point stars, to dark blue, faded blue, to smoky pink, peach and then golden.  Every new day always strikes me as a rebirth.  It isn’t actually that but the world turning on its axis as it orbits the sun. But I like my magical thoughts more than my scientific ones this morning. 


I made some coffee, fed the cat and retrieved and then filled the bird feeders.  I sipped coffee watching my little winged friends flitting about excited for an easy meal.  The brightly colored Finches and Sparrows are a favorite.  After they finish a nibble, the bigger birds swoop in to pick up off the ground what the little birds pushed out of the feeders.  The Grackles and Doves get a bite too.  I just love to see them for some reason.  I have small windchimes around the posts that hold the feeders so I can hear when the birds fly in for breakfast.  Well that and I love the little windchimes.


It's cool out now so I threw the front and back doors open.  I can hear the birds singing happily along with the occasional whir of air conditioning units kicking on.  Out here in the desert, we are heavily dependent on the air conditioning to keep us not only comfortable but safe from the extreme heat of the late Spring and Summer days.  Sometimes I long for greener scenery but there is something about this place that called to me so long ago.  It came to me one afternoon nearly 20 years ago.  I lived in Southern California and was paying ridiculous amounts of rent, daycare on three kids on one income.  The idea of moving to Arizona came to me.  I could at least solve the exorbitant housing expense.  I just wasn’t quite ready to leave.  But then, over the years the call changed.  Added to it was a desire to not just move to a new place but to be a home owner.  As a single parent of 3, there was just no way I could come up with a down payment.  There was also no way my boss at that time was going to let me telecommute.  A few years later, I had 4 children and no idea how to manifest the dream.  But it came back due to circumstances reinforcing the original thought – giving me pause to remember and consider. I wondered, why couldn’t I just manifest the resources?  That changed to – why don’t I just manifest the resources. And that is exactly what I did.


I found my desired location (the city felt like home as soon as I accidentally found it) and started looking for houses in my price range.  I figured out what I needed for a down payment.  I definitely didn’t have that but I didn’t let that discourage me.  I imagined what it would feel like to sit in my back yard sipping coffee.   I imagined my bank account growing so that I would have enough.  I stayed open, positive, and every day looked at homes and started getting really excited about the idea.  I found myself a mortgage broker and an agent.  I found a way to manage a down payment, pulled together the funds for a mover and before I knew it an offer had been made and accepted on a home that really sparked my inner being.  We went to Arizona to see the house and fell in love.  45 days later, we were moving in.


I was paying twice my now mortgage plus just for rent in California.  But, my new boss allowed me to telecommute and I was able to bring my California salary with me to Arizona.  My dreaming, positive thinking, staying open to ideas that would better align me to my goal paid off.  Here I sit 4 years later on my back patio sipping coffee watching the birds munching happily the bird seed I just filled the bird feeders with.  I did it on my own.  I did what I once thought impossible.  I manifested a dream I scarcely let out into the light of day.  I’m still amazed today at how everything came together.


The trick was giving voice to the dream, as specific as I could while staying completely open to the how and trusting the how would come together.  I did my part.  I researched, I gave good positive thoughts to it daily, I worked to do my part and not one hitch was encountered.  It could have been a disaster, but it wasn’t.  Uprooting your life from being born and raised in one state to another is no easy thing.  But it was the perfect thing for us.  I always knew that Arizona held magic for me. Yeah, there’s that word again.  Let me have my magic!  My first grandchild was born a year ago and as I ease myself into that next part of life I have managed with the Universe’s help, to create for myself a fabulous framework for that next stage whatever it will hold for me.  I couldn’t be happier.


More than thirty years ago while driving through the desert, a thought came to me – “Lost and Found in the Desert.”  I didn’t think much of it at the time but as I sit here now, I know exactly what that means for me.  I was lost in so many ways before but when I came here, to the desert in the land of the sun, I found myself.  I found what I didn’t even know had been missing.  The journey of the last 30 years, every step, every misstep, all the good times, all the hard times – they all led up to this moment.   In this moment I feel tried and tested.  I feel strong and so happy.  Times won’t always feel happy because there have been some hard, hard things to face on this journey.  While I know now that dreams can come true, the every day journey is going with the flow, knowing that emotions and circumstance are fleeting, and that every life journey is extraordinary.  It’s no everyday ordinary journey that brought me here.  It was a dream that I gave voice too, concentrated on and helped manifest into reality.  I’m grateful for every part of my journey up until now. The good times – the bad times – the happy times and dire sad times…all of those times instilled in me the character I needed to build, let shine, let grow and to keep on dreaming.  Yeah, this had not been your every day journey.  It has been a magical one.


© 2023 J.L. Harter (photos and words)

Sunday, May 28, 2023

The Heart Break of Letting Go and Healing

At so many different points in my life I have faced the agonizing decision of letting go.  I have let go of jobs, places I loved, People I loved and even family pets that I loved so much.  None of these can be faced, I think, without encountering some level of intense grief in the act of letting go.  I don’t deal with these situations very well.  When I realize these are manifesting in my life for whatever reason, my body physically starts to fight back hard with that deep and heavy feeling in the chest, that sinking feeling of horrendous anxiety, or those doubtful feelings of failure, of losing something important or realizing you just can’t hold on anymore either for self-preservation or it’s just time for others to go.  So, letting go becomes the only option for many reasons.


In my time on Earth, I have had some pretty epic letting go scenarios.  The first and the hardest were letting my parents go. One through death, the other through substance and resulting extreme toxicity that I could no longer bear.  The latest, a beloved pet I raised from a puppy.  For some reason this feels like the worst letting go of all of them.  I’m not sure why really but I suspect that the grief of any letting go is cumulative.  You don’t ever heal from letting go and each time a new scenario presents itself and you must decide again that you must let go even when you don’t want to, all the pain from all of the past letting go’s come straight back out to the light of day from the depths of your soul.


They say grief and pain heal in time.  Sitting here today, I know that isn’t true.  You can come to terms with letting go, the emotional whirlwind of grief but when you love so deeply and must let go, there is no real recovery.  You must learn to expand who you are, stretch your very capacity for understanding, love and compassion and learn to live despite the pain.  It’s the hardest thing to do.  But what I can offer is that there is something I discovered along the way when dealing with the heart break of having to let go.  I mean, first and foremost, counseling is helpful in managing the processing of emotion. Given.  Important.  Please do it if you face extreme pain in letting go whether mandatory of voluntary. 


Next, what begins must end.  Nothing stays the same forever. On this planet, in this dimension and framework, things begin and end.  Or, well, things shift focus.  What is of primary emotional focus, will not be so in 365 days more than likely, or 6 months, or 1 month or whatever.  The same is true of emotional pain. The time leading up to the imminent decision of letting go is the worst, the moment of feels worse yet and then days that immediately follow are pretty bad.  When it comes to letting go of people and pets, there is an energy separation that feels very physical.  That intense energy separation period seems to be its worst for the first 3 days following the letting go.  The rest of the next week, moments of feeling normal wash in like waves from time to time in increasing intensity.  The next week after that is the same.  Emotional moments and more normal feeling moments come. The pain starts to lose intensity at times and you start to have more blocks of time where you feel normal again.  As you continue to engage in moving forward, the third week really starts to cement the new habits.


Now, you can step back and freeze yourself in these early stages if your push yourself into denial or bargaining, which the mind may want to do. But if you could just acknowledge these arising when they do whithout curling up into the fetal position when you encounter them, you can keep forward progress. 


The year of firsts is really a thing.  Key dates that first year will be difficult, as your mind wanders through memories or temporarily forgets that you had to let go, these moments can be painful.  Acknowledge the pain and know, the level of pain is equal to the love. That thought really helps you to give yourself some compassion.  Of course, it hurts, you loved.  They go hand in hand.


Now, when the letting go is voluntary, extra care is definitely needed.  Your mind could potentially dream up all sorts of scenarios where – you wouldn’t have to say good by if only this or that had happened.  But backwards thinking, wishing or fantasizing cannot change today.  You can also worry or doubt yourself into oblivion about whether or not you did the right thing but here is where a big dose of self-assurance and trust comes in.  If you gauged a situation as any form of danger whether that be emotional, physical or financial, to the point you felt letting go was required, trust yourself.  At the end of the day, the person you owe is yourself. Setting health boundaries means that sometimes you will need to let go of all that is not in alignment with what you need. There will be no shortage of challenge, judgement or harassment for boundaries and letting go when you felt you needed to.  If you are concerned, get counseling to vet your thoughts and decisions before you invoke them.  Then trust yourself to do the right thing by yourself.  Your happiness and quality of life matter.  That happiness and quality of life is something within your power to control.  You cannot control other people.  You may be able to influence them or their behavior, but you cannot change the reality of the exchange.  If it is toxic or dangerous for you in any way, letting go may help you preserve you.  Even though pain in such an instance is seemingly self-inflicted, it’s really no different than an involuntary letting go.  You must work through the steps and if you can steer clear of second guessing yourself or entertaining the harassment of those who don’t agree with your decision, you will move on and eventually learn to live your life again despite the pain.


Pain isn’t the enemy. When I feel it, I’ll be honest…a part of me panics.  I may actually have panic attacks of the kind where I lose consciousness as my system is overwhelmed with anxiety and emotion.  It is really uncomfortable.  I face the same reaction whether the letting go is voluntary or involuntary.  Although it is definitely made worse by outside harassment after I have decided that the best thing for me is to let go.  I know that if the decision to let go comes to my mind, I have already done all I can do, managed all that I can, considered all other options for me and must do what I feel is right. That is my right.  Bottom line. Dealing with the pain, as I said is similar.  Getting over heart break and the panicky feelings of the first days is hard.  You cannot heal them completely, but I think “getting over” is a better way to put it.  You learn to accept in time as you continue with your life, and you expand enough to do that. The pain may always be there, and you may even be reminded and feel that twinge of pain from time to time but sometimes letting go is the only thing that you can do.  No matter what anyone else says, the way you deal with parting is individual and unique.  My experience here may not be true for you.  I’ve just observed the energetic aspect – that physical feeling of separation that is the hardest at first. That energy deficit does calm down and right itself within about 3 weeks.  Emotional pain may take longer to work through, and each path is different there.


The most important thing that you can do for yourself when you are facing one of the many “letting go” periods of your life is to be really good to yourself.  Honor the emotions you feel, acknowledge them, give yourself time to feel them.  Emotional times aren’t necessarily times for action though.  Keep in mind that when you are grieving, you are impaired when it comes to things like decisions.  Rely on your circle to help you through any decisions that must be made during grieving.  Any important decisions that can be put off while you are grieving, put them off for a time.  Turn your focus inward kindly and gently.  The things that have helped me most during times of grief were just the simple acts of daily living.  Getting up in the morning when I don’t feel like it, showering, getting dressed, getting myself presentable as normal or eating, working and taking care of my home.  Take it easy on yourself but do keep up with as many of your responsibilities as you can.  Get outside if you can.  Breathe in nature with your lungs, with your eyes, with your ears and with your heart.  These things all help.


Letting go is part of life.  As I said, everything changes – nothing ever stays the same. We must learn to roll with the punches, flow with the changes and some days this will take epic amounts of energy and sheer force of will.  That’s okay.  Just keep going.  Even when it seems like life his horrible and dark, it won’t aways seem that way.


© 2023 J.L. Harter (photos/words)