Category Archives: anxiety

The Gifts Of A Terrible Day

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet shed on the heel that has crushed it. -Mark Twain

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet shed on the heel that has crushed it.
-Mark Twain

Special note to my followers:  The very talented Cathleen Townsend, author of the recently released, ‘Dragon Hoard and Other Tales of Faerie’ has done an interview with yours truly to be released on the 17th of Dec. – Please click the link below to read: http://cathleentownsend.com/2015/12/17/interview-with-christina-barnes

Now, onto the gifts of a terrible day….

Gigi stared out over the ocean at the giant, full moon rising. The pageantry of clouds lit up, dancing slowly to the music of the evening breeze. She was ready to scream.

The same storm front had kept her in bed late that morning. It seemed cozier with the clouds, so she stayed a while longer to enjoy it. She finally arose, joyfully as usual, eager to see what the day would have in store for her. She prepared herself a ginger and celery smoothie before checking in with Gotu.

Gigi called the troop leader—her boss—Gotu. Gotu was surly, complaining about the weather and in a foul mood. He complained about everything and everyone, and he promptly assigned her a mountain of tasks that were his responsibility. So dreary and detailed they were, she doubted she would ever get through them. Gotu announced he would be playing golf and lunching with clients. Maybe if there was time they’d do a happy hour somewhere, while she covered for him, as usual.
“What a team they were!” Gotu pronounced, unconvincingly.
She felt her ears turn red as she filled with resentment.

Six hours into the first task on her list, her computer screen froze. Gigi couldn’t get it to do anything. She felt the tingle of panic rising from her feet as she realized she had not remembered to back up her work. How could she have been so careless? She frantically punched at the keyboard. But there was no magic key that would unlock the screen. The screen crashed into blackness. Six hours of work gone—poof! Gotu was going to be furious. She poured despair on top of her resentment like chocolate sauce.

She decided to leave the computer off and go to lunch. A break would do her good. She spied a cute little place she had not noticed before and thought she’d be adventurous and try it. She found a nice table with a view of the ocean. She plunked down in her seat, helped by the weight of the world on her shoulders. She observed the surrounding guests enjoying the tasty-looking dishes in front of them as she waited for her server. And she waited. She noticed a server on the other side of the patio. He was deeply involved in an animated conversation with a table of eight celebrating patrons. Surely someone would notice her sitting there with no menu, utensils or water.

More time ticked by when a whir of activity and loud voices behind her got her attention. Two of the staff were quarrelling as a glass crashed to the ground and shattered. One of them caught her staring at them, his eyes wide.
“Have you been helped sweetie?” he said, with a big, insincere smile.
Gigi raised her hands, palms up, presenting her empty table as she returned an equally fake smile. He hurriedly brought her a menu. No greeting, no water, no silver. He was gone in a flash to continue the heated discussion, now in a hushed voice. His opponent turned and walked away from him, surrendering his hands to the sky and shaking his head. Her server threw his towel down and came to take her order.
“Mediterranean salad,” Gigi blurted out before he could leave again.

The beautiful salad arrived—no silver, no dressing and nothing to drink. She looked around for him, but he was nowhere to be found. More angry and frustrated than hungry now, she pushed the salad to the center of the table, and got up and left.

With a frozen computer and no energy or inclination to start over, Gigi dubbed the work day “over.” She dragged herself up to her favorite spot on the cliff.
“I have accomplished nothing today; the day has been a total waste,” she told the ocean. She went to this same spot on the cliff often. She enjoyed sitting and meditating about her day, although today she was not sure it would do any good. It had been a terrible day. Gigi sat quietly as she thought about the day, how she had started it filled with joy.

Her stomach growled. She thought about the waiter. Her anger rose as she replayed the scene in her mind. She thought about times when she had been consumed by a conflict with someone. She admitted she was not very good at focusing on much else during those times. She thought about it and decided he’d done the best he could—he was very, very upset. After all, it had nothing to do with her—she was just caught in the crossfire.

Her mind wandered to Gotu as she took a deep breath. Gigi exploded, “How dare he dump all his work on me?”
She felt her teeth clenching and her lips lock around them. Her heart raced as she thought about her six hours of vaporized work. Nobody to blame but herself for that.
“But he threw all of his responsibilities on me while he went off to play!” she yelled at the moon. He was always doing that. He felt entitled as the troop leader to do as he pleased. She simmered in thought. She had done his work for him for so long. He probably didn’t even know how to do it himself. After all, he never had. He just looked like a troop leader. He bragged and threw his weight around; he knew how to schmooze. She thought about how much she had learned by doing his work for him. The tasks were things she never would have learned had he not had his attitude of superiority. What a gift, she decided. With all her knowledge, she would start her own troop!

As she felt the gentle breeze blow through her, her emotions became small clouds drifting through her sky of joy. They were not all of her, as she had felt earlier in the day. Yet they were all a necessary part of her. She realized each emotion, no matter how unpleasant, taught her something about herself. She needed to love and accept each one as she asked herself two questions: Why was the feeling present? And what did she need to understand to make it go away? She felt gratitude for her anger, despair, resentment and frustrations. They were replaced with compassion and an empowering enthusiasm for her new path. Tomorrow was now full of inspiring possibilities!

Her stomach growled a long rumble as she took a deep breath. She released a soft sigh and a little chuckle at the wonder of it all. Yes, this day was a gift after all.

These pains you feel are messengers, listen to them.

-Rumi

Choices

"I don't trust people who don't love themselves and tell me, 'I love you."... There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt." -Maya Angelou

“I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, ‘I love you.”… There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”
-Maya Angelou

Mia sat in the middle of the two paths, determined to muster up the courage to take the one Chester was not taking.

Mia couldn’t think of any one thing that caused the shift in her feelings about Chester. They had been together so long; perhaps it was many small things. But one thing she was definitely tired of was feeling invisible. She was no longer content to follow Chester, the “King,” around while he hunted and scratched and intimidated everyone. He ignored her except to illicit constant praise from her and continually ask if she loved him. Her now mechanical answer of “Yes” avoided an argument, most of the time. Other times, when she answered appropriately, he countered that she didn’t love him and started an argument. Life had become so exhausting. She felt empty and confused. At one time she truly did love him. His abusive behavior wore her heart out. Now she just pitied him.

She was restless as she watched Chester start down one of the paths. Staying back, she vowed to hold her ground no matter what. Her heart was flip-flopping wildly with a mix of excitement and dread. She sat with the feelings in her heart—an ending and a beginning—a yearning for a purpose yet to be identified. She felt if emptiness could explode, it would certainly happen if she stayed with him.

She watched as Chester arrogantly sauntered down the path, and then suddenly stopped. “Why aren’t you following me?” he asked with a curled lip and the usual sneer in his tone. He started back to where she was, “It’s your job to follow me; I am the King!” he roared.
“I’m not coming.”
Mia was shocked by the calm in her voice. There was no turning back now.
Chester escalated his demand for her to come with him, roaring loudly and becoming a tyrant. The more abusive he became, the more she dug in her heels while he unwittingly convinced her to leave him.
“I want a happier life. I’m tired of walking on eggshells around you,” Mia said, calmly. She felt the power she’d given to Chester flowing back to her. Her confidence was buoyed as she held his glare.
Chester put his nose in the air. “Fine, I will easily find someone else to take your place; I’m the King, and nobody disrespects me like that. I am better than anyone else; you will never replace me. I am the most cunning and ferocious in all the kingdom!”
He stomped off down the path, wishing secretly she would change her mind. He did not like to be alone at all. He didn’t like being with him either. What would he do without someone to blame for all that goes wrong?

Mia let out a deep breath, immediately feeling giddy. She followed her heart down the other path.

It was the first time Mia had ever been alone. She was struck by how wonderful it was to think uninterrupted. Although she was still jumpy, she gradually started to relax as she inhaled the fresh air. Had it always been so sweet? Her new freedom was intoxicating as she drank in all the sights and sounds. She could do anything now. Nothing could stop her! Only…she had no clue what she wanted.

Mia decided to try an experiment. Everyone she met on her path was there to teach her something, she thought. She would leave herself open without judgment about the messenger. As she settled into her game, she spotted a lovely giraffe out in the field munching on the high leaves of a tree.
“Excuse me, may I ask you what you’ve learned from life?” Mia asked in her softest voice, trying not to scare him.
“Well, the first thing I’ve learned is not to talk to lions!” Max said.
“Please, I mean you no harm. I am searching for answers,” Mia pleaded.
Max acquiesced, sensing something about her was different.
“Okay. I will share with you the most important lesson I have learned: Never be afraid to reach for what you desire your life to be. But always with detachment and acceptance of where it leads you. Staying in the stage of desire all the time will make you unhappy. You will miss the beauty life has to offer each moment, especially for you.”
Max turned and walked away, his long neck swaying gracefully as Mia shouted after him, “Thank you so much! I think I understand.” She found the encounter so exciting and insightful. She decided that was exactly what she was doing. Leaving herself open to life, enjoying each moment.

Several hours went by before Mia came upon a stand of trees. She watched in amazement as the monkeys swung from branch to branch, tree to tree, like chattering trapeze artists. One monkey spotted her and yelled, “Lion!” All of them scattered, except one who looked very old.
“Why didn’t you run in fear with the others?” she shouted up to him.
“I have a good feeling about you, and I am way up here with ample time to go to a different tree, should that change,” Ogdon said confidently. He looked at her curiously and asked, “What brings you here?”
Mia looked up at him and said, “I want to know what life has taught you.”
Ogden scratched his chin thoughtfully and tilted his head to the side.
“I’ve learned that thoughts are like tree branches. There are no bad ones, as they are just thoughts. Only hold them long enough to determine if they make you feel loved and strong, or if they are weak and unsupportive. Then, let them go—don’t hang onto them or you will stay stuck there. Always look to grasp the next thought that makes your heart happy and strong. You naturally will share that happiness. Likewise, if you grab and hold onto weak and unsupportive thoughts, you will stay stuck and share those too.”
He nodded affirmatively, pleased with himself, and looked at Mia.
“Oh, that was very nice! Thank you for sharing that with me.” Mia walked back to the path feeling like she had so much to learn—but realizing all she had to do was ask. Everyone seemed to have something to offer.

Mia continued walking on the path when she noticed a wildebeest strolling towards her. Well this was most fortunate, as Mia loved wildebeest—they were delicious. She was very hungry; it had been a long time since she had eaten. She was proud of herself, finding how capable she was. She could do anything that needed to be done, on her own. Chester had always informed her otherwise. The wildebeest had not spotted her yet, so she moved off the path into the bushes.
As it strolled by her, unaware, she lunged from the bushes, latching onto his neck and taking him to the ground.
“Please don’t hurt me!” he pleaded.
Mia remembered her promise to herself, to learn from everyone on her path. Reluctantly, she released him, using every ounce of self-control as he lay bleeding.
“I hope you will forgive me. I want to ask you something. What have you learned from life?”
He strained to lift his menacingly large head with its shaggy mane. Resigned to his destiny, in a weak voice he said, “Know when it’s time to leave. Realize when you have gleaned all you can from your current environment, and have the courage to seek greener pastures. Enduring something that is not likely to change is just fear of change. Don’t stay where there is little nourishment for the mind, body and soul. We do this every year when we migrate,” he said, wistfully.

She was touched that he would share such profound last words. That is what she had done with Chester, left for greener pastures. She thanked him as she watched him die. And with tremendous gratitude, she dined solemnly, accepting that she was still a lion. One with a greater understanding of life and how connected everything and everyone seemed to be. It seemed she already knew what she had just learned—that all paths lead home, to the same amazing universe within everyone, no matter their role in life.

SKYVAC 1.1

"Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim." -Nora Ephron

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”
-Nora Ephron

Lola sat on one of the intake ramps of the SKYVAC 1.1. She sipped her wine as she stared at the culprit, the murderous intake facilitator. She was a failure. All she could feel was the intake sucking her dreams out of her. She felt all her fear and anxiety rush in to fill the void. Ten years of her life a waste—a failure. The test cities, New Delhi and Beijing, wanted nothing to do with her now.

She had invented the SKYVAC 1.1. It was a sophisticated vacuum cleaner for the sky. It was intended to float above the world’s cities with the dirtiest air, quietly sucking in polluted air and expelling clean and filtered air out the other end. Thinking she had considered everything, she had forgotten the birds. Curious birds were sucked in too. Not good. Now she had P.E.T.A. on her back. The self-flagellation continued to chatter in her head as she stared at the intake. How could she have been so stupid?
Lola thought aloud, “Who decided it was a failure?”
“Everyone,” she answered.

Something nagged at her though. It was that “don’t toss the baby out with the bathwater” thing. The rest of SKYVAC 1.1 worked perfectly. She looked heavenward.
“Some help for the bird murderer, please?”

It was all Lola could think of, as a tear rolled down her cheek. Everything sucked everything.
She took another sip of wine and watched a small bird land on the rim of the intake. A moment later, a larger bird landed on the other side of the rim, scaring the little bird off. Lola froze. Her mind raced. She was able to picture exactly how to make the SKYVAC 1.1 into a giant bird! It would have giant flapping wings that would scare the birds. They’d never want to come near it in the first place! She had to do this! She prayed they would give her another chance once they saw it.

A few months later, the ArgentaVac 1.2 was born. Named after the largest known pre-historic bird ever to exist, the Argentavis. It had a wing span of 25 feet and weighed about 200 pounds. She invited the reluctant and doubtful clients to the hanger and was grateful for another chance.

Their jaws dropped in unison as she rolled the concealing screen to the side, revealing the enormous bird. They were speechless; she couldn’t tell if they loved it or hated it.
“Say something,” Lola said under her breath.
Beijing smiled and nodded in the affirmative, saying, “This is brilliant, it will work!”
Pretty soon New Delhi was smiling too. “This will be something tourists will come to see—and it will not only clean the air, but it will help our economy too!”

Lola let out the breath she’d been holding. She breathed deeply and smiled along with them.
Word spread quickly, as orders from dirty cities all over the world poured in. Everyone wanted the spectacle of the giant bird flying over their city, cleaning the air and delighting children. It wasn’t long before it was ironically nicknamed the Bird Fart. F-resh, A-ir, R-elease, T-ransformer.

One evening, as she lay in bed, she thought about her supposed “failure.” She was sorry for the birds that were lost. She saw the whole story in a way that boggled her mind. Birds had ended her life as she’d dreamed it would be. Then, birds also led her to an inspired new and better life, for everyone. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes. It was not a failure after all, but merely a direction correction. She never would have come up with the ArgentaVac 1.2 had the SKYVAC 1.1 not been such a ghastly experience. What if she had quit then and there?

As she lay there thinking, it occurred to her that the most significant lesson in all of this had been when she had surrendered and asked for help. Then she watched the answer come to her, as if on the wings of birds.

“Remember your dreams and fight for them.  You must know what you want from life.  There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure.”

-Paulo Coelho

Awesome

“Dying seems less sad than having lived too little.”
-Gloria Steinem

Lila tossed and turned in the poppies. Finally, after an hour of staring at the moon, she rolled over, opened her book and tried to read. But Lila couldn’t focus. Not so deep down anymore, feelings of dread struggled to the surface. She knew what she had to do, and she begged for the timing to feel right.

How had her life gotten away from her? How did she have a job she hated and a lazy, unsupportive mate? Working for Awesome Life, Corp. was depressing. They bought life insurance policies from those who were dying so they could cash them in, sooner rather than later. She was Head Field Investigator. Her job was to check in from time to time to see how the clients were doing. She felt predatory and cold.

Company policy was strictly enforced. When anyone was asked, “How are you doing?” “How do you feel about the company?” or, “How was your weekend?” they were to reply, “Awesome!” Or they would be fired immediately. She hated it. Compensation was excellent, and she felt guilty for feeling ungrateful. Her mate was unsupportive of her quitting, as he had no intention of working, ever.

One day she was checking in to see if her young client might die soon. She was shocked to find him swimming laps in the pool. Her files indicated he should have been on life support or receiving hospice care by that time. She had not seen him in six months.
“Hi, how are you? So sorry to just pop in like this—I hope I’m not interrupting…” Lila watched him emerge from the pool with all the energy and musculature of an Olympic athlete. Giving her a huge grin, he replied, “I’m awesome!” He laughed.
Lila laughed along as if she’d never heard it before. “You look good—so healthy,” she said with mixed emotions.

“Thank you,” he said, still beaming at her. “I’ve made a full recovery since our last meeting. There is no sign of disease anywhere in my body—it’s all gone. Isn’t that amazing?”
Suddenly Lila felt a change come over her; she felt his happiness, and she actually was happy for him. “Yes, that is amazing. What changed?” Lila asked, genuinely interested.

“Well, I found myself at a crossroads without much time to choose. I fast-forwarded my thoughts to me on my deathbed, one day in the not so distant future. I wondered what I’d regret once it was all over. The answer came so fast and so simply. I was going to regret never using my gifts to make a difference for others. I worked at a job that paid well, but I hated it. My relationship was over a long time ago, and that was how I would die. In a sea of regret over the two things I spent the majority of my life doing. I would regret not living my life. Doing what gives me joy instead of doing what others think I should do. So I quit. I ended my terrible relationship where I felt used and abused, and I started my own business. I now do what I love and make others smile.”

He wrapped a towel around himself, and she followed him into the house. Her nostrils filled with the most soothing scent. She watched as he pulled a tray off of a rack and proudly handed Lila a gorgeous, chocolate butterfly, its wings resplendent and artfully decorated with tiny, ornate and delicate designs.

“This is a work of art,” Lila said, sheepishly taking a bite out of one of the wings. It melted in her mouth as chocolate and orange did a succulent dance on her tongue. Lila closed her eyes and smiled.

He continued. “I’m making more money now than I ever dreamed of, but that’s not the point. I’m doing what I love, so it doesn’t feel like work at all. But what I didn’t expect was how good I would feel about myself for taking action before it was too late. As I felt better and better, I felt a shift: I love being me—all of me, unconditionally. All my life, every person, every event, was perfect in what I learned. It all prepared me for what I needed to know, to be here now, doing this. The doctors are baffled. Three weeks after starting my business, my symptoms vanished. Sure there are some struggles, but they are small compared to watching others feel good by me sharing what makes me feel good. I feel I have a purpose for being alive—it all makes sense.”

Lila felt like a mirror was being held up for her to see her own life in his, only she didn’t like what it was reflecting. It was everything that kept her up at night. Everything she knew she had to do but needed the faith and courage to do it. Right there, she decided she would do what he did—and before it was too late. She too felt a shift of exhilaration fill her as she saw her current struggle with new eyes. She felt powerful as she thought about going back to the office and seeing how “awesome” they thought his story was.
And then she would quit.

They talked for a long time before she left with two more chocolate butterflies in her briefcase. Lila was excited about the idea of living a life created especially for her, by her.

She arrived at the office late, having spent a beautiful afternoon with someone living rather than dying. Sitting down across from her boss and his “Yes, sir” assistant, she told them the client’s story. She watched their faces drop at his good fortune. Then she told them that she would be leaving to open her own sleep disorder clinic.
“Isn’t that awesome?” she added, smiling as she walked out the door.

As she arrived home to find her mate sleeping in the sun, she calmly informed him she’d quit. She listened to him go into a rage that carried on well into the night. Oddly, she felt so utterly calm inside—like she would be fine because she was finally doing the right thing for herself. After he calmed down, she told him it was over. She realized it was a lesson that needed no further teaching. She got it.

As she wandered out to her poppy field she could still hear him. She slept fitfully for 10 hours. Life really was awesome.

“I’ve learned that making a living is not the same as making a life.”

-Maya Angelou