Friday, December 31, 2010

Word Wonder -- resolution

New Year's Eve 2010

1. The act of resolving or of reducing to a simpler form.  2. The state of being resolute; active fortitude; resoluteness.  3. The making of a resolve; also, the purpose or course resolved upon; a resolve; determination.  4. The separation of anything into its component parts.  5. A proposition offered to or adopted by an assembly. [from the Latin resolvere, made up of re-, meaning "again," and solvere, meaning "to loosen"] -- Funk & Wagnall's Canadian College Dictionary

"A New Year's Resolution is something that
goes in one year and out the other."
by Anonymous

New Year's Resolutions -- an effective tool for personal change or a pointless exercise in self-delusion...?

For thousands of years, people around the world have seen the beginning of a new year as a time of hope for the future. Even though the new year is considered to start on different dates, depending on the culture and calendar, it is often seen as the doorway to new possibilities.

I found it interesting to discover that the word "resolution" comes from an ancient word meaning "to loosen again." Loosen what? Maybe to loosen and let go of old problems and attitudes. In some cultures and times the custom has been to open the back door as the clock first strikes at midnight; this allows the old to get out. Then as the clock strikes for the twelfth time, the front door is opened, inviting in the newness of the new year. Other people eat one grape for each strike of the clock as New Year's Eve turns into the new day...thereby hoping for prosperity and good luck in the coming year.

I like the image these small actions invoke. They remind me of the kiss at midnight that is part of the tradition with which I grew up. Apparently, this practice grew from a custom of holding masked balls on New Year's Eve. Then, at the stroke of midnight, everyone would lift off their masks (representing the removal of evil spirits) and kiss, to admit kinder spirits and purify the new year.

So all this hope and forward-looking leads us back to the idea of New Year's Resolutions. Are they effective? Do people actually stick to them, and do their lives improve as a result? Well, according to some statistics I found, almost half of North American adults make one or more resolutions each year (not necessarily only on January 1). Of those, approximately half maintain the new change  for at least six months. Frankly, that's more than I expected.

What I do know is that people who make specific, conscious resolutions -- at any time -- are ten times more likely to reach those goals than people who don't. What's this about? It's about focussing on what you want and injecting your plan with positive thoughts, feelings, and actions. It's about slowing down the usual pace of life and reconsidering habitual patterns. It's about being willing to consider that change is possible...and then being willing to risk reaching away from the known and toward unfamiliar newness.

Though I have never been one to give much credence to New Year's Resolutions, I do believe strongly in hope and the power of conscious change. I doubt that I'll suddenly start making resolutions on January 1, but I am likely to continue being open to possibilities for change when that is right for me. And that might be at any moment of the year.

So for you, and for me, as this new year approaches, I hold out hope and belief that whatever we decide and pay attention to and invest in is what we will get.

Happy New Year & Happy Right Now!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Climb Every Mountain

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The other night I watched part of the 1965 movie, The Sound of Music. Its songs have provided me with several pleasant little earworms, such as Climb Ev'ry Mountain by Rodgers and Hammerstein. These words keep soaring through my mind:
Climb ev'ry mountain, ford ev'ry stream,
Follow ev'ry rainbow, 'til you find your dream.

A dream that will need all the love you can give,
Ev'ry day of your life, for as long as you live.

Climb ev'ry mountain, ford ev'ry stream.
Follow ev'ry mountain, 'til you find your dream.
After watching this movie, I reflected on its place in Western history and my own life. As a white, middle-class, post-war baby-boomer, I grew up with optimistic television and "nice" values. Despite being raised and abused by a war-veteran father who I now believe may have suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a nervous homemaker mother, I absorbed the hopeful ideals and views of my time and place. Walt Disney's "...and they lived happily ever after" sums up the ideal pretty well.

By the time I was a young teenager, which is when The Sound of Music film came out, I was a veteran of years of sexual abuse by several people. I needed hope badly. I needed something to believe in, some inspiration to pull me forward into adult life. Songs such as Climb Ev'ry Mountain and the film story that surrounded it provided some of that inspiration.

Somehow I found ways to believe in "happily ever after" for people in general (though not yet for myself). Through music and story, my own feelings were stirred. I came, so slowly, to believe that if I climbed the mountains in front of me I would find my dream. I certainly didn't consciously think in those terms, since I acted like a pretty normal teen, but hindsight reveals my young beliefs to me. I was an idealistic, painfully poetic adolescent and young woman.

But you know what? I recognize today that no matter how hokey those ideals (and the songs and movies that inspired them) may seem to some, they have helped me move forward. They have fueled my dreams. I'm finally old enough to be only slightly embarrassed by my enjoyment of sentimental, sweet stories and songs.

I'm finally old enough to see how music and story help me sing my own life.

What helps you sing your life? Who and what have inspired and shaped you? Make time to notice and savour those gifts. Sing your songs. Craft your dreams. Work out your own rhythm.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Excuses, Excuses...?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sometimes it's a little hard to tell the difference between making excuses (usually to diminish one's feelings of failure) and explaining oneself out of respect for another's feelings and perceptions.

Today's short little post is somewhere in the middle. I've been away from my blog for eleven days, which is too long. I have the usual string of reasons:
  • super busy with work
  • holiday preparations
  • unexpected events taking an unexpectedly long time to resolve
  • sickness
So, does anybody care why I've been away from my blog? I don't know. Does anybody notice? I don't know.

But in case you do, and because I do notice and care, I'm writing to say I'm still around. I know that bloggers sometimes lose energy for and interest in their blogs, or their lives simply move on to other pursuits. This little post is here to say that's not the situation with me. Life just really got crazy this fall, and I did my best to balance my obligations -- to others and myself. So I wrote fewer blog posts and did less of other activities I also enjoy in order to maintain the basics. And to sleep at night.

Do I feel like a failure for not keeping up with this blog lately? A tiny bit, yes. But I can live with that because I know it's not true. That's just an old feeling of insecurity rearing its nasty little head, which it does from time to time. Since I used to feel insecure quite often, I consider that to be good progress.

And have I been making excuses in this post? Some would probably say so, but I don't feel like I have. I just felt it was respectful to clarify my status for those who check in with me here. So please keep coming around. I intend to.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Unplugged -- A Journalling Exercise

Friday, December 17, 2010

This morning I wanted to write a post, but I couldn't think of what to say. I try not to do a lot of blah, blah, blah on here; if I don't have something worth saying, I know it's okay to say nothing.

But...and blah, blah, blah. SO, to get unplugged, as it were, I started some free-flow writing, also called "stream of consciousness" writing. I've used and recommended this technique many times over the years.

In free-flow writing, you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and just start writing. You don't stop and fix mistakes or try to think of how to say something. You just write whatever comes to mind or heart, without letting the pen/fingers stop.

This simple writing technique clears away confusion and blockages so that clearer thoughts and feelings can surface. Here's what I free-flowed to get started on this post:
I can't seem to zero in on something to write today, but I want to write something, so I'm just going to get started and see what happens and maybe an idea will come to me as i get going even though it seems to be drivel, but now i'm getting an idea to write about a journalling exercise. Ahaaaaa! Got it.
And Bob's your uncle.

Free-flow writing is a useful device any time you feel stuck. Don't know what to write for a school paper? Start with free-flow writing. Can't figure out what you want in a troubled relationship? Free-flow. Just feeling lousy and don't know what's wrong? Set pen to paper and let the words flow until the stuck feeling passes into clarity and you get the Ahaaa! feeling I got at the end of my little free-flow above.

There are only two "rules" for stream of consciousness writing:
1. Don't plan.
2. Once you start writing, don't stop until you feel clearer.
This can take a few lines or several pages. Don't stop to fix mistakes. Don't worry about wording. Just write, write, write. It's amazing how well free-flow works to help us find the answers we already carry within.

Try free-flow. Get unplugged.

Friday, December 10, 2010

4 Helping Books

Friday, December 10, 2010

Here's a list of books you might find helpful for either holiday-giving or holiday-surviving:

It's So Hard to Love You -- Staying Sane When Your Loved One is Manipulative, Needy, Dishonest, or Addicted
(New Harbinger Publications. 2007)

This is an interactive book I wrote with my brother, Bill Klatte. Many have found it useful for understanding and improving troublesome relationships. Available from Chapters, Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Schwartz Books, and Amazon, as well as many independent booksellers. Also available in Spanish and Polish.

Why Good People do Bad Things -- Understanding Our Darker Selves, by James Hollis, PhD.
(Gotham Books. 2007)

I've only started this one in the last week, but two good friends vouch for its deep, helpful concepts and its ability to help us work "toward the possibility of greater wholeness." (The quote from the back cover.) They both swear by everything Dr. Hollis writes. This is my first by him. It's very good so far.

I'm having trouble downloading the photos of the next two book covers, so I'll just list them here:
  • Little Ways to Keep Calm and Carry On (New Harbinger Publications. 2010) by Mark Reinecke. Available from Amazon and other stores. I haven't read this book, but I love the title because I think that many problems and many solutions come in "little ways." I also highly respect New Harbinger Publications.
  • Women Food and God (Scribner. 2010) by Geneen Roth. This book is sitting on my "hope to read soon" pile. It was placed there by my friend, Beth, who says it's wonderful.
Well, those are the books I want to offer up for the moment. I hope you find something useful in one or more of them.  

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Good Kind of Label

Friday, December 3, 2010

A number of years ago, an acquaintance told me that I had a gift for encouragement. I felt softly surprised by her observation and instantly delighted that she mentioned it, out loud, to me. At the same time, a quiet part of me shyly recognized the truth of her words.

I didn't know that I knew this about myself, but I felt so grateful to her for shining a flashlight of conscious awareness on that inner corner of me. I knew I liked saying positive things to people and offering to help out when I could. People expressed gratitude or happy surprise, and I felt as grateful and delighted at their reactions as I did when I made the offers in the first place.

I had enjoyed this circle of niceness, if you will, for as long as I could remember, but I never thought about it. It's just what I did, and I liked it. My acquaintance's label -- encourager -- brought an important part of myself into sharp focus -- with myself. I knew it matched my previous actions. I knew it matched how I felt inside.

Her comment was one of those things that is a surface surprise to hear
expressed but not a deep surprise to acknowledge. It was like the adage that a teacher's job is to show us what we already know.

This woman's label immediately, and over time, gave me a sense of clear self-knowledge, and it felt excellent. It still does. Being labeled in that way, having a word for that part of me, strengthened my sense of myself and what I'm about. It does not in any way describe my entire self; I think, act and feel in many ways, and they're not all desirable. But nothing I have ever done since that day in the late '80s has ever erased or undone my encourager-self completely.

That is a great, great gift.

This gift feeds itself. Encouraging others feels good. I know it's helpful to them, in however small or seemingly invisible a way. I know this because it's how I feel when someone encourages me. So I keep doing it, and being an encourager becomes a self-fulfilling trait. I feel better. You feel better. Win-Win. Very cool.

What deep inner truths about yourself have you been able to see in your lifetime? Whether the awareness grows gradually or jumps up in a millisecond is immaterial. What matters is that you do carry deep, lovely gifts, and whenever you find them you'll recognize them for the truths they are.

I rarely believe in or espouse guarantees, but here's one I say with no hesitation whatsoever: every single person carries deep, rich substantial Somethings within. Having a name for that trait helps strengthen and deepen and build it.

So often, the world teaches us not to brag, to be humble. Be nice. Don't show off. Well, these messages have some value, but they're confusing and not 100% accurate 100% of the time.
If it helps, keep in mind that the wonderful traits I'm talking about are gifts. Wherever they come from, it's in our power to accept and build on them. Name them. Help them grow. Have a good time with them. Use them.

You'll benefit, and so will everybody on whom you practice.