Tag Archives: “life lessons”

Hearing Without Listening

"I need to listen well so that I hear what is not said." -Thuli Madonsela

“I need to listen well so that I hear what is not said.”
-Thuli Madonsela

Her captor looked on as Annabel became more and more fatigued from her struggle. He laughed and looked at one of his eight watches.
“I can wait.” He grinned.
Annabel saw her mistake so clearly now. He lured her in by appealing to her desire, milkweed. The promise of revealing a secret location where milkweed grew so huge and lush, it was like a forest. He’d lied.

He’d kept telling her to come closer, he couldn’t hear her. Raised to be polite and agreeable, Annabel found herself impossibly stuck now in his web of lies.
After so much useless struggle, she stopped struggling. “Why didn’t I listen to my gut? I knew it sounded too good to be true. If I ever get out of here, I will teach the flock to trust their intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, that’s enough—don’t hang around to figure out why.”  She was chattering aloud, nervously. He smirked and laughed some more, rubbing several legs together. She looked around at her surroundings and took it all in. So this is where it ends, she thought.

To blame him for her predicament was useless. He was just doing all he knows how to do. He really was quite good at it, she admitted—he told her exactly what she wanted to hear. A small part of her prepared to die.

Movement. Out of the corner of her eye, a huge rat blinked at her.
“I can reach you from here,” he said, very matter-of-fact. “I can detach the tethers that hold you in place and destroy the web, but why should I?”

Annabel was shocked at his bluntness as well as his callous attitude. “Uh, because it would make you feel good to be of service to another living being?” she replied, with a hint of sarcasm. She decided to take the friendly route.

“I’m Annabel. What do you like to be called?”
“Sam. But I have never actually helped anybody. I like to figure out ways that I could, but I don’t,” he said, scratching his belly and leaning on the roof gutter.
Annabel seized the moment. “Oh, you need to carry it a step further! Nothing feels as good as helping someone out of a jam. I would be so grateful—and please, I don’t have much time.”

“Stay out of this, you ugly rodent!” said the spider.
Sam took offense at being called a rodent. “I’m not afraid of you, Sedgwick! Your deceitful conning and pretentious nature are legendary around here!”
The spider watched as Sam took a swoop through three strands of web, partially freeing Annabel.
“Apologize,” demanded Sam, as he poised an arm over more of the web that held the now very excited Annabel. She struggled to free herself as Sedgwick said, “Never apologize. It’s a sign of weakness. How you deal with my insults doesn’t concern me—you’re hypersensitive. I am doing what I do.”

“As am I.” Sam took another swoop through the remaining strands of web that still held Annabel.
Annabel flapped awkwardly as she freed herself. Filled with the joy of freedom once again, she fluttered over to Sam and kissed the top of his head. “Thank you! Bless you, Sam—and may good fortune soon come your way for your random act of kindness!”

He smiled as he watched her flutter away and thought that it did feel good to help someone so beautiful out of a jam. He turned his attention back to Sedgwick. Sitting, all legs crossed, very angry, not as bold, in the center of his partially-destroyed, now empty empire. Gently tugging on a strand of web, Sam slowly reeled in the spider, like a fish on a line.

“She was mine, rodent! You had no business interfering with my affairs. I lured her by offering what I knew she desired—what’s wrong with…” On and on Sedgwick’s tirade went, up until Sam opened his mouth wide and ate him.

Annabel never could have imagined such a wildly orchestrated outcome to her seemingly hopeless predicament. She realized that she not only had to hear her little inner voice, but listen to it as well.

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Can I Help? Wait, Never Mind

"If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing." -Margaret Thatcher

“If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.”
-Margaret Thatcher

Norma had scheduled herself to be in three places at once again. She couldn’t say no. She was afraid nobody would like her—or worse yet get mad and think she was selfish or uncaring. But this time it was worse, so much worse.

She’d tried on the headgear she was to wear as a chaperone for her nephew’s comic book party. Now it was impossibly stuck on her head. But first, she was trying on the dress to wear to the cocktail party her boss expected her to attend. Now it had a jammed zipper that wouldn’t budge. Somehow between those two events she was supposed to take her neighbor’s daughter to ride the ponies. At the stable, an hour away.

She was dizzy with stress and terrified of disappointing anyone and everyone. She didn’t want to get a reputation for not being dependable. She started to feel disconnected from everything, sort of a floating sensation. Something had just snapped.

She left the house with no plan, leaving the front door wide open as she wandered down the quiet street. It was late afternoon when she poked her metal clad head in the door of the restaurant. Too early, good, no maitre d’ on duty to greet her yet. A flight of stairs to the right caught her attention. She navigated the climb awkwardly in one cowboy boot and one sexy, ostrich feather slide. She scanned the empty room feeling like R2D2 in drag, and plopped down at the first table. Warm, salty frustration spilled involuntarily down her cheeks. Her life was out of control—one steaming, hot mess.

Why did she always say yes? It was like the word “no” wasn’t in her vocabulary. Saying yes is what a loving and compassionate person does for others, right? She was not that bothered by the fact that she never really felt like others appreciated her efforts. That wasn’t the point. What was the point? She just never felt she could do enough. She felt guilty, even when she helped.

Norma continued her muffled rant to the Universe until she noticed her outstretched, gesticulating hand, warmly being licked. She maneuvered her head to look down and met the very understanding face of a Dalmatian sporting a red scarf.
“How do you do?” said the dog.
Norma sat in stunned silence. Surely this was not happening. A talking dog? Seriously? Finally Norma decided to participate in the surreal moment—what did she have to lose?
“What’s your name?”
“Helen Dalmatian,” she replied.
“Perfect. I’m Norma.”
“You know, Norma, I’ve been listening to you for the last five minutes, weeping, ranting, raving, flailing your arms about. Lots of anger really. I’d like to give you some advice if you would permit me to.”
“Go for it,” said Norma, somewhat amused.
“Well, a life of love and compassion does not mean you take on the burdens of others. Those are their burdens, their life—just as yours has your burdens. You are not to interfere with their burdens. Those are where their life lessons come from; how else will they learn if you take them away? They will eventually be seen as a gift for them. At least, that is how it is supposed to go…but you know, everyone has free will. Your challenge Norma, is to love yourself, faults and all. It’s part of being a human—it makes you whole. Next, embrace every traveler you meet on your path with love and compassion for their unique perspective and challenges. Just accept them, regardless. You don’t know what their story is. You can agree or disagree, help or choose not to—but only with their load, not their burden. Love yourself for whatever choice you make, regardless of how they react—that’s their choice. Radiate love from within yourself for them and their situation. Inspire them. If someone is capable of doing something for themselves, let them. But always radiate love for them, like a dog.”

Norma pondered the advice. It would make life so much easier if she didn’t have to please everyone to be a good person. She could love others without pleasing them—what a concept!
“By the way, very cool dress, Norma!”

After discerning Norma had no treats on her, Helen Dalmatian padded softly down the staircase.

An intermittent beeping woke Norma as her faithful companion, Cleo, a three-year-old pharaoh hound, was incessantly licking her hand.
“Wow, I don’t even have a nephew,” Norma said.

A Burden, A Gift, A Purpose

“Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” -Golda Meir

Daisy stretched and turned to the skin she’d just left behind. As she let out a little cough, a tiny spark escaped, much to her surprise. She watched as her exuvia shriveled and burned, fell off the stem and onto the surface of the murky swamp.
What an interesting thing to be able to do, Daisy thought. She wondered if all the dragonflies could spark. She quickly discovered they could not, and she wondered why she could. I enjoy it, but of what good is it? I don’t see that the other dragonflies can spark; I don’t like to be different. They might not like me if they knew, she lamented to herself. Daisy decided things were not off to a good start. Best to keep it to herself so she would fit in. It wasn’t long before she discovered she actually loved to spark! She started to make excuses to go off alone so she could singe small things.

One day Daisy was on the swamp practicing burning little leaves, giggling with delight. She heard someone say, “My, what a gift!” She detected a smile in the voice. She looked around and saw nobody.
“Where are you? Who are you?” Daisy asked, looking up into the trees and scanning the swamp. “And why is this a gift?” she added.
A giant scaly and bumpy head arose from the swamp.
“I’m Adora.”
Adora was a most captivating, white crocodile.
“It’s a gift because I see it gives you so much joy. Everyone has a gift, but some go through their entire lives never knowing what it is.”
“What am I supposed to do with it?” Daisy asked.
“Like any gift, you share it to give others joy as well.”
Daisy thought about it.
“But I’m afraid to show the other dragonflies. I won’t fit in anymore.”
“I’m sorry, but you don’t have a choice if you want to have a happy life. Have gratitude for your unique gift. It is part of the puzzle that will help lead you to what your life purpose is.”
Adora smiled sympathetically.
“But who cares about a spark? I mean, it’s pretty cool and everything…” Daisy trailed off, confused.
Adora rolled her eyes and said, “You nurture it. You see what makes it flourish and thrive. You may combine it with other talents, desires or life experiences, and when you’re ready, you share it with the world! No need to be afraid—everyone has a gift. Be grateful for yours. Some will appreciate your gift and some won’t. It doesn’t matter as long as it makes you happy and gives you great joy. Now, go practice and don’t worry about how it will work out. If you get all caught up figuring out the details, you won’t do anything, which you will deeply regret.”

Adora’s big smiling head was gone, sinking under the soupy, green water.
Inspired, Daisy went off to a private area of the swamp to practice. She ate a variety of swamp delicacies to see if they made any difference, but no, still just a little spark. She found when she was tired or frustrated she just couldn’t spark at all.
After much trial and error, she’d hit upon the magic formula.

First, she needed to be really excited about what she was going to burn. She found if she vibrated her wings to create heat, the spark became a torch! She discovered a talent for architecture. She gathered small twigs and built elaborate floating castles which she then sent into a spectacular blaze of glory.
“Now, this is a wonderful gift!” she said.

She went off to find Adora and show her.
“Bravo!” cheered Adora, as she gave Daisy a big, toothy grin. “Now how will you be of service to others with your special gift?”
Daisy was proud of how hard she’d worked and persevered…but also a little dismayed that she wasn’t quite there yet.
“What if I fill the castle with something? I assume I’ll have a group watching. What if I have everyone write down something they want out of their lives on a scrap of paper? Maybe they put down relationships, situations or just something that pisses them off. Whatever they think no longer serves a purpose in their life. Then they drop it into the castle, and I torch it! How cathartic that would be! But how do I share it with the world?”
Daisy’s mind was racing.

Adora had many contacts in the entertainment industry from before her retirement to the swamp. She winked at Daisy, “Baby bug, you’re ready for Vegas!”

Illusions

"Drag your thoughts away from your troubles...by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it." -Mark Twain

“Drag your thoughts away from your troubles…by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.” -Mark Twain

Maisie tasted the dirt coating her tongue as she tore away at the earth beneath her twitching paws. Rocks, twigs and roots were hurled aside as she pulled the earth up like flimsy wall-to-wall carpet.

Maisie was lost in her dream world where she was in charge. Again in foster care, again ignored and given minimal attention. Food, water and a pat on the head. She was left to her own imagination during the frequent naps she took to entertain herself.

People always said, “Oh, is she a pit bull? That’s scary,” blah, blah, blah… She had been adopted three times by someone wanting her to fight other dogs. She had become a very adept escape artist, but her survival skills fell short. Here she was in foster care again. It was the same movie. She wasn’t mean. The mean people wanted her to be mean, to fight with other dogs for money. She couldn’t do it—she was a lover.

There were four other dogs in the foster pack. Millie, a four year old red Queensland heeler, who was adorable and truly was mean. Mandy, a quiet, sweet mix of shepherd and at least three other breeds. She had a soft, long, golden coat and was afraid of her own shadow. Sadie, a working girl always looking for something to do, was a Catahoula. Maisie had not seen a Catahoula before. Her short coat was covered with different colored spots in all shapes and sizes from head to toe. She was also very bright, fearless, and a smart conversationalist. And lastly, Banjo. A big, handsome mixed guy with one floppy ear and stripes like a tiger. All the dogs loved him, and he loved them. But the problem was people. He snarled a snaggled tooth grin and growled when they came near him—then laughed as they ran away. They never hung around to hear him laugh at his silly game. He meant nothing by it.

Maisie had seen several other dogs get adopted during her stay. She longed to get adopted by someone kind who would love her and make her a member of their family. She didn’t know how to be loved. She always had to figure out how to survive her owners—and escape.

The doorbell sounded. Chimes echoed through the house. She watched as the foster mom distractedly fixed her dark hair in an invisible mirror, and opened the door. She adjusted her tight shirt, pulling it down over her belly as she ushered in the smiling young couple. Maisie didn’t move from her spot in the corner. She had a perfect vantage point to see all the commotion. The others rushed the nice couple, jumping on them, barking and competing for attention.

Except for Mandy. She sat in front of them, quietly, with her deep brown eyes focused like lasers on the woman. She never took her eyes off her. Maisie felt invisible as she watched. The foster mom was extra charming as Millie nipped the woman’s calf. The woman was still smiling but rubbing her calf as she locked eyes with Mandy. Banjo growled, sending mixed messages with his tail wagging. Sadie tugged at the man’s pant leg in an effort to herd him somewhere. The couple seemed to like Mandy’s ladylike demeanor, and soon asked what the next step would be. As they separated Mandy from the pack, she seemed a mix of nerves and excitement. Her tail whipped back and forth as she walked out the front door with all the humans. The others quickly stopped the performance and went back to what they had been doing. Bone chewing, sleeping, grooming. Mandy was brought back in after a few more minutes, and the next day they came to take her home. Score for Mandy!

Maisie pondered how Mandy had created her future by being totally different from the others. She had quietly let her focus do the work. She created a new life for herself with just her thoughts! She focused on what she wanted. Not on what she didn’t want. She acted like it was a done deal. Maisie realized she had been focused on the fear that another mean person would adopt her, and that was what always happened. How could she learn to do what Mandy did? After all, she was still a “scary pit bull.” Maybe she could make herself look “not” scary?

A couple of days went by before another prospect arrived with the chiming of the bell. Maisie felt she was ready as she focused on the life she wanted. An attractive woman in yoga togs, and a similarly attired little girl—about seven years old—with beautiful red curls entered. They seemed nervous as they followed the foster mom into the house. Maisie got up from her corner and slowly walked towards them, letting the others rush them as usual. Suddenly Millie had pummeled the little girl to the floor. The little girl burst into tears, filling the room with high pitched screams of terror and lots of barking at Millie.

Maisie walked over to the little girl with her biggest, goofiest dog grin and started to gently lick her tears. The little girl hesitantly started to giggle, alternating between a pouty mouth and a smile trying to break through. Pretty soon she was laughing. She wrapped her little arms around Maisie’s neck, announcing loudly, “Mommy, this is the one. She’s so sweet!”

Maisie’s grin got even goofier. The girl’s mother watched the bonding episode with a smile on her face. Then, the smile was gone.
“Oh, is that a pit bull? They scare me.”
Maisie kept her grin as she leaned into her new pal and gave her another sweet kiss, watching the girl’s brow furrow with worry.
“Mommy, I love her! She’s not scary—she kissed my tears and made me laugh!”

Maisie watched the mother’s face now as it softened, unable to see fear in the gaping, coast-to-coast grin. She knew she’d won her over!

The woman turned to the foster mom and said, “That dog clearly loves Maggie and Maggie loves her. There’s nothing left to do but take her home!”

Maisie reclined on the overstuffed, buttery soft leather couch in her new home. Her head resting in the lap of her beloved Maggie as she stroked her ears. Maisie thought about what had happened. The journey of her short life up to this point. How it seemed like a series of lessons, each one necessary. Up until the point she realized that as long as she had the same thoughts, she would keep having the same life. What power she had! She had created a whole new life simply by deciding what she wanted, staying focused, and taking action to get there. So it was all an illusion, like her dreams, created by her thoughts and perceptions.

Maggie asked, “Maisie, do you want to go outside and play?”
Maisie rushed the door with her paws dancing on a hot griddle of excitement. And they played with reckless abandon.