Saturday, February 23, 2013

Reflections on the Nature of Unconditional Love

We use and consume goods.  We dispose of objects when their usefulness is obsolete and replace them with the latest and the newest.  

In our throwaway society have we come to view people as disposable as well?  Are relationships becoming more about having the newest and the best and less about understanding and caring?

Practicing unconditional love and accepting all aspects of family or friends requires that we reject the media version of only accepting and appreciating the perfect. People are not perfect.  Their character is the result of all the turmoil they have survived in their lives.  The scars they have overcome mold them into the person you see.

The media is forever showering us images that to be “loveable” one must be perfectly dressed and coifed and made up etc.  Is it any wonder that so many today reject people based on their unlovable characteristics?  There seems to be an epidemic of casting aside the imperfect.  Life leaves scars on our psyche.  Are we discarding relationships because empathy would require us to embrace those imperfections and scars?

“All you have to do is revise your point of view. Instead of trying to achieve perfection, simply relax and enjoy human imperfectability. … You see man as infinite possibility always in the process of becoming.”
~ Robert H. Rimmer, That Girl from Boston

It is easy to love the lovable. 

It takes compassion and empathy to love the not so lovable traits.  A person is molded by the experiences they have had.  The positive experiences as well as the negative leave a trace upon their character and shape the way they see and respond to the stresses of life. 

Mature love accepts the good as well as the not so good aspects of a cherished person.  To accept another person’s weakness does not lessen us as person but rather, elevates us.

“Compassion crowns the soul with its truest victory.
~ Aberjhani, The River of Winged Dreams

It is easy to pass judgments based on outer images. Our biases will cloud these images for, as with the iceberg, there is so much more to know about a person that what at first appears. There are depths to a person’s character that we may never know.  The events of their past that shaped them are a mystery to us.  Empathy does not imply understanding nor agreement, but rather acceptance of the unknown.

“Close both eyes see with the other one. Then we are no longer saddled by the burden of our persistent judgments our ceaseless withholding our constant exclusion. Our sphere has widened and we find ourselves quite unexpectedly in a new expansive location in a place of endless acceptance and infinite love.”
~ Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

To unconditionally love a person requires the maturity to accept those weaknesses and scars that are left behind by events that shaped the person that you see and interact with. Rejecting a person based on their inability to perform to your standards punishes them for the hurts they have had to already endure to become the person they are.   

“Love is without a doubt the laziest theory for the meaning of life, but when it actually comes a time to do it we find just enough energy to over-complicate life again. Any devil can love, whom he himself sees as, a good person who has treated him well, but to love also the polar opposite is what separates love from fickle emotions.
~ Criss Jami, Venus in Arms
Occasionally, we need to take stock of the nature of our relationships and ponder the quality of love we show those we say we love. Are we falling prey to the throwaway society of loving only the newest and the best?  Or are we cherishing the well-worn and frayed, sometimes tattered personalities that deserve our unconditional love.

Renate Dundys Marrello

last edited on 2017 - 02 - 23 
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Monday, February 18, 2013

Abundance is a way of living

Abundance is so much more than material goods.  Abundance is a way of living.  It is feeling on the inside that today was worthwhile.  It is the happy feeling we experience being content with the richness of today’s experiences.

When you unwind at the end of the day and reflect on what you have accomplished, when you are satisfied that you met some of your goals for the day, then you retire with a feeling of abundance, "today was a good day".

On the other hand when your day was filled with disappointment, when things you did or said were met with disapproval, you finish the day with a feeling of regret or sadness.  A sense that today was not a good day.

Most of our lives we have both kinds of days and they are the ups and downs that create the tapestry of our memories.  Often we take the abundance of our lives for granted.  It is so familiar that we don’t take proper notice of the little things that fill us with joy.  Simple things like the contentment you feel after creating a great meal for a family event where everyone comes together to share the celebration.  Or the review at work that gives you positive feedback on your progress.  Or maybe you just completed that job or project and there is a feeling inside yourself, “I did it and it is good”.  These positive “report cards” of life fill our self-esteem bucket gradually one drop at a time.

On the other hand, negative or critical content knocks a hole into the bottom of the self-esteem bucket. When someone criticizes your efforts, they remove value from what you have accomplished.  For example if your dinner is greeted with critical or derogatory comments instead of compliments, or the boss tells you that your efforts were not up to their standard, or a neighbor comments that “they would have done it differently”.   On such days it is hard to feel valued and hence your life does not feel so abundant.

Life feels abundant as long as the positive days outweigh the negative.  Mostly we feel content with our lot in life. We do the things we need to do, in our jobs, in our homes, and for our family and friends and as well as for ourselves.  Each of the elements in our life fulfills certain needs that contribute to our sense of self-worth and wellbeing. We find balance and have a sense that “life is good”.

However, all it takes is one tragic or traumatizing event, one where everything you knew or believed to be true is violently torn from your life, for you to realize that your feelings of abundance are closely tied to your feelings of value and worth.  The vacuum this creates is almost overwhelming in its intensity.  Suddenly you are left to question your value as a person.  Are any of the functions of your life worthwhile? Survival requires that you fill the void with replacements.  We are creatures of purpose.  When our purpose is torn from us, doubt fills the empty space left behind.

To just exist is not enough.  We humans need more to function optimally. 

Having a goal and a purpose gives us a reason to get up in the morning and face the day with an optimistic outlook.  Working on, and occasionally achieving some of those goals, fills our life with abundance.

Purpose gives us a personal sense of intrinsic value.  A feeling that “what I do matters, what I accomplish has value”. Without purpose we lose sight of our value.  Without value we lose confidence. And without confidence, even getting up in the morning becomes a painful blur of “why bother”.

For a large part of our adult life that sense of value is tied up in what we do for others.  How we perform at school or work, as parents, what we do to raise our families, and in the community how we contribute to our neighbourhood or our social structure.

However, what happens when those stabilizing influences in our lives are shaken up?  Job loss or family disintegration or changes in our role in society all of these affect us on a much deeper level that at first seems apparent.

When a lot of our notions of self are tied up with what we accomplish that has value for others, then to lose that means an abrupt end to a sense of self-value as well. To be without self-worth is to feel lost; adrift in a sea of questions and doubts.  Who am I?  What is my purpose beyond my value to others?  How do I go on?  Where do I want to go? Who do I want to become? How will I get there?  What steps do I need to take to begin this journey? When do I begin?

Whatever the life changing event (retirement, grown children moving away, illness etc), the only road to recovery is to embark upon this challenging journey of self-discovery, redefining what brings you value in your own estimation.  Do something.  Learn new skills, take on new projects, and make new discoveries about yourself.  It is essential to make changes in your life to bring about changes in the sense of abundance that you feel.  It could be as simple as finding something you love to do, like a new hobby or craft or skill to learn.  The goal is to find something that gives you a new purpose and a new direction in your life.  Something that makes you wake up in the morning saying “I am glad to have another day to enjoy my passion”. 

However hard the journey may be, you deserve the end result, a renewed sense of self-worth, the feeling that you as a person have value beyond what you do for others.  And most importantly, beyond the value that others see in you.  It is important to find this feeling that today is abundant.  Abundant with joys and pleasures and good things.

Abundance is a way of living that fills your spirit with contentment and appreciation.

"Doing what you love is the cornerstone of
having abundance in your life."

   © photoart by Renate Dundys Marrello

©  My journal blog entries and pictures are copyright
You may quote and share if you contact me and ask for permission
Hard copies may not be made
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In Search of Mind Silence

When faced with the inevitable challenges and turmoil of life my brain turns into a constantly replaying movie where I relive events that have not been effectively resolved through other avenues.

In the absence of a satisfactory conclusion in real life, the film fragment replays over and over in a never ending cycle.  I find myself facing a real life version of the movie “Groundhog Day”.  My film is filled with sub texts of “what went wrong”, “why is this happening to me”, “what ifs” and “what might have beens”. 

Sometimes the volume is so loud it keeps me awake at night.  Sometimes the scenes are so vivid that they prevent me from fully participating in the present.   While I accept that this is my way of processing traumatic events and finding resolution, the day to day process is very tiring and emotionally draining.  Some days I just wish there were an “off” button.  Sometimes I yearn for “mind silence.”

Mind Silence; the absence of the inner voice criticizing everything I think or say or do! 

Mind Silence; the absence of that inner voice going over and over the conversations of the past trying to figure out where it all went so wrong.

Mind Silence; that moment where there are no recriminations, where for a moment I feel guilt free.

Mind Silence; is like an island of calmness in the midst of a turbulent sea.

Mind Silence; where everything is clear and pure and simple.

Mind Silence; where for a time I can be at peace.

Mind Silence; where the beauty of this moment is all that matters.  Just this moment in time, precious, unsullied by negative thoughts and emotions.

Mind Silence is freedom.  Freedom to just be and accept who I am without all the fine text of insecurities.

Mind Silence is happiness, because in the stillness my world view is optimistic and grateful.

Mind Silence is self-acceptance.  A moment when I am alright with who I am without the long list of things I need to be or do to be more acceptable. Letting go of the inner critic.

How I long for Mind Silence! 

Sometimes, I can create momentary silence by totally focusing on an object or concept or vision with gritty determination.  Shutting out all the nagging negative doubtful voices in my mind.  I cherish those moments like the precious jewels that they are.  I string those moments together into a patchwork of memories.  I write them into a new script, a story of joy and thankfulness.  And in the process I find healing for my wounded heart and aching spirit.

Mind Silence, is feeling okay about who I am and feeling comfortable with my place in life, a feeling of being in harmony with the universe.

Mind silence is accepting that I am worthy of love and that it is okay to love myself.

“love is the voice under all silences.”
-e.e. cummings

Mind silence is a new beginning.

Renate Dundys Marrello 
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Monday, February 11, 2013

Things to ponder before preparing a eulogy:

1.    Don’t talk about wishing for more time with me; if there were opportunities to spend time with me when I was alive of which you did not take advantage.  I spent many years alone, without phone calls or visits or letters or cards or communication of any kind from those I had thought would share my senior years.  Instead I had to learn to make new friends and fill my days with new relationships to fill the void.

2.    Don’t say nice things about me; if you gossiped about me and said nasty things behind my back. Your thoughtless cruel and angry words broke my heart and destroyed my confidence, made me feel inadequate and unworthy.  You should have shared the nice thoughts and your good opinion of me when it counted…when it would have brought me joy.

3.    Don’t say you loved me; if you did not show your love and caring to me while I was alive.  There were countless days when I felt unloved and unlovable.   To fill the void I had to learn to reach out and form new relationships.  People who treated me with the kindness and respect I deserved.

4.    Don’t tell stories of the fun times we shared; if you did not share those fond memories with me while I was alive and could have enjoyed the reminiscing with you.  In my loneliness, I finally got to the place where I believed that there were no pleasant days in all your memories, that there was nothing beautiful worth remembering.  That all those years were a wasteland of negativity and all my efforts were for naught.

5.    Don’t compliment me; if you neglected to compliment me when I was alive and would have welcomed some positive appreciation.  If your neglect made me believe that I had done nothing right, and that everything I did was somehow second rate or did not measure up, then hollow words of praise mean nothing to me now.  

6.    Don’t talk about my good traits; if when I was alive you criticized me and told me how I needed to change to be better.  It was so tiring trying to live up to your expectations and always failing.  If you made me believe that nothing I did was ever good enough for you, then you have no business endorsing me now.

7.    Don’t say you will remember me; if you forgot me on my birthday or other holidays where it is respectful to remember those we hold dear.  There were many of these special days that I spent all alone and unremembered.   The tears of sorrow that I shed cannot be wiped dry with empty words.  There were times if felt invisible and forgotten.  If you did not give me the comfort of consideration and the warmth of being remembered when I needed them, they are wasted effort now.

8.    Don’t thank me; if you never thanked me while I was alive and would have welcomed knowing that you appreciated something I did for you.  I spent many hours in self-doubt, thinking that I had gotten it wrong yet again.  Over time I came to feel that much of what I did was a wasted effort, a thankless job unappreciated.   If you did not appreciate my generosity and kindness when I needed to hear that they mattered, then what use are empty words of thanks to me now?

9.    Don’t talk about the nice things you remember about me; if you only told me the bad traits you wished I would change while I was alive.  I would have welcomed some good feedback too.  If you devalued me as a person and made me feel unworthy, if you deflated my self-esteem then you have not earned the right to praise me now.

10. Don’t pretend that we were close; if you never took the time to get to know the real me. If you didn’t get to know my dreams and my aspirations, if you did not learn my regrets or find out what hurts I had suffered and endured; then you did not know the events that had shaped my life.  If you did not learn what motivated me to get up and try again after every disappointment or learn what inner strength and courage I had to develop to be able to cope; then you did not know me and you do not have the right to presume so now.

11. Don’t say you will miss me; if you never spent time with me when I was alive, when I would have welcomed your company.  There were lots of lonely days I wished you would remember me and had only fantasy visits to sustain me.  Only those friends who were a part of my life through visits and letters and phone calls, deserve the honour of missing my company now.

12. Don’t say you are glad to have known me; if you didn’t ask how I was doing and you weren’t glad to spend time with me when it counted most…while I was alive.  If you compared me unfavorably to others or replaced me with those you thought more qualified to be in your life, then you have not earned the right to claim my past.

13. Don’t tell the world you knew me: if you could not read my emotions and know the secret sorrow I carried in my heart.   If you did not learn that, “I’m OK” really meant I did not have the words to express my fears and hurts and that I really could really use a friend.   If you could not see beyond the smile I showed the world, if you did not see the sorrow and doubt on the inside, then you did not know me.  If you did not look close enough to realize that the smile rarely touched my eyes, you did not know me.  My secret grief I carried hidden deep inside and few were privy to that side of me.  You never got to know me. 

14. Don’t presume to put on a show of caring; if you did not care for me when I was in need of your caring. If you did not value me enough as a friend when I was alive I have no need for your hollow words now. Those who stood by my side during my times of greatest heartache won’t be deceived by your lies and flowery words.  There is no need to impress those who know the truth abot the lack of caring you showed me in the living years.

© Photoart by Renate Dundys Marrello

©  My journal blog entries and pictures are copyright
You may quote and share if you contact me and ask for permission
Hard copies may not be made
Photoart may be ordered as signed art if you contact me.