Tag Archives: “standing up to fear”

Some Love Stinks

"You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I'll rise!" -Maya Angelou

“You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise!”
-Maya Angelou

His odor was unbearable. His wretched bird-breath was just another indication of how rotten to the core he was. As they neared the hole, she felt her grip loosening, on purpose…

Ginger let go. She gave a small twirl of celebration as she did a free fall into the hole. She descended into darkness. Her constant fear of him was replaced with a fear of what might await her at the bottom.

Her thoughts were moving slowly, struggling for clarity in a surreal fog. The air was damp, kissing her cheeks with salty lips.

He’d come into her life so quickly, he seemed to eclipse her very existence. He took charge, and he made assumptions that were not accurate. Had she been more secure, she bravely would have disagreed. But he was an overwhelming and powerful presence, so sure of himself, as if he were a gift. Ginger blamed herself for being too cautious—there was no stopping him—still something made her feel uneasy. He seemed so interested in her. She was swept away, literally felt like she was floating. They were “dizzy in love,” he’d said.

He quickly professed his love for her and gave her a nickname, Toad. He told her Ginger was just too long to say all the time, so he would be calling her Toad. She thought the name was degrading but was sure he didn’t mean anything by it. Perhaps it was just as he had said, and she should look at it as a term of endearment. She didn’t want to hurt his feelings or spoil the mood.

He called to her constantly—wherever she was, he seemed to be hovering nearby. She was flattered but had an underlying feeling of being prey to his predator. Never had anyone cared so much where she was and what she did. She lost count of how many times a day he told her he loved her. “I love you, Toad. Do you love me?”
“Yes, I love you too,” she always responded, as if under a spell.

It was not long before they were nesting together. Soon he told her she was his perfect soul mate. She thought he really didn’t know much about her—he never asked or seemed to care. She decided it didn’t matter—he could make her laugh with his quick wit, usually at another’s expense. He seemed to be more important than her, to have everything she thought she lacked. Assertive, brutally honest about what mattered to him, intolerant of other beliefs, bold—even brazen and insulting in his speech—somewhat intimidating. He constantly bragged about his accomplishments. She had to admit, the list was impressive. How lucky she was he loved her. He was actually impossibly accomplished. Although…she saw no evidence of his past accomplishments anywhere. At times she felt more like an assistant to his life and his grandiose plans for them. She learned all she could about things he cared about, even if it didn’t interest her much. He didn’t know her interests—she was just Toad.

It was all moving so quickly. Soon they had their first fight. She was tidying up the nest, as she often did. He demanded it be neat for someone of his stature. That day, he escalated a benign conversation into a needless battle, accusing her of horrible thoughts and intentions. She was shocked at the shear velocity of anger being leveled at her! The accusations and insults came at her, rapidly firing with what seemed to be a studied precision. Each one a direct hit on her heart. She watched him rant, deciding there would be no defense. To engage him would just enrage him more. She didn’t have to win every battle. She had only known him a short time. She never could have imagined he was capable of so much anger at her. She thought she had only tried to please him.

Then she smelled it. It permeated her nostrils as she witnessed him vent. She could still hear him, but the smell was overpowering. His voice became chatter in the background of his horrible stench. She silently fielded accusations as they sailed at her. They didn’t even sound like anything she’d done, all twisted as they were with his malice. She had abandoned him when she was talking to the neighbor; she should never leave him alone. She was selfish, uncaring, ungrateful, and didn’t really love him. His face was filled with contempt as he went on to tell her she was just like all the rest. He told her she was lucky he loved her because she had all kinds of things wrong with her. Her face was not quite pretty. He’d had much prettier share a nest with him. She never said the right things. She didn’t do a good job on the nest—as a matter of fact, she was a pig! Her clothes were wrong, and she was fat. Until, finally, he explained he was only trying to help her because he was so much smarter.

He stopped as abruptly as he’d begun. A look of smug satisfaction broke out as he saw her fear, the tears rolling down her cheeks. She was crying because along with being awful, he smelled so freaking awful. Skunk, onions and old tobacco. He acted sweet again, as if nothing had happened. But her emotions—and his smell—remained raw, keeping her steadfastly in the fear zone. Why had she never smelled him before? Perhaps she didn’t want to. She wanted to believe the illusion he’d created for her, a brainwashing of sorts. All she saw now was a very bad situation.

He interrupted her thoughts calmly now, but with a threatening undertone: “Toad, I want to go out, and I want you to come with me.”
She was afraid not to agree, so they took off.
He always had her hang on to his talons. He told her she needed to “hang on,” while he reserved his strength to concentrate on navigating and flying. Also, that she should not bother him during flight. She was not sure what she was supposed to do if she ever got tired. He had become so cold, so fast. It seemed more natural for him, being mean.

She welcomed the wind rushing her face. She had noticed the hole on previous trips, but this time it really got her attention. She didn’t know where it went, but it didn’t matter as long as it went away from him. She no longer felt she lacked what he had—she didn’t want it. She just wanted to be Ginger again.

As she fell, suspended in darkness, emotions arose and dissipated like waves. She felt strong by choosing to save herself. Her fear quieted down. She decided calling fear love, as he did, didn’t make it love. A different kind of love filled her as his spell was broken. She felt connected again to who she was—not Toad. She was overwhelmed by her feeling of wholeness. She had learned her lesson. The feeling of love swept through her in a safe, warm vibration. She would be fine. She loved herself enough at that moment to know that she only needed to stand up for herself. That she lacked nothing. She felt perfectly unique—exactly as planned.

The entire experience seemed part of a larger picture of her life, somehow intentional. She was good enough to do and be whatever she decided. Nobody could take this feeling away from her without her giving it away. It felt like such an indestructible strength, a super power! She didn’t need approval or anyone to tell her how to live.

She was almost blinded by the bright light as she was gently deposited on a shoreline. Colorful shells glistened in the sunlight. The smell was gone. Ginger was Ginger again, only better.

Jens has perfect music to go with this story, lots of wisdom on her blog if you have not visited yet!https://3wwwblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/30/for-christina/

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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.

Bernice post card

“We’re our own dragons as well as our own heroes, and we have to rescue ourselves from ourselves.” -Tom Robbins

Bernice wanted to be the one who would get up and dance with crazy abandon when the music moved her. No matter who was watching or disapproving.

She didn’t know when she’d become so afraid to live. She’d done everything the others told her she should do to be happy.

Yet it all fell painfully short of making her happy. She could stand on one leg for hours, but so could everyone else. She lived in what the others called the “Safe Zone.” A place where nothing new happened, every day.

She always did exactly as she should, for fear she’d lose the love of the others if she didn’t. She didn’t want to be ostracized. Those were the conditions for maintaining her position. She worried she’d say the wrong thing and offend someone, so she stayed quiet. She stuck to safe conversations about the weather and food.

 

One day, while members of the colony were all pecking for invertebrates, Bernice thought she could hear music. Kettle drums to be exact. She wandered off to see where the music was coming from. Once away from the others, her solitude—combined with the beautiful music—inspired her to strut her stuff.

She did a head flag move stretching her head as high as she could. She turned it from side to side, in rhythm to the distant music. Then she performed a majestic wing salute, spreading her wings and enjoying the feeling of empowerment in the pose.  As she made a savvy move into a twist preen, she closed her eyes, lost in the music. Then she heard the roar.

She stood paralyzed with fear, eyes closed, head buried. The music drummed on cheerfully in the distance. She opened her eyes and watched the lion lick his lips. This was bad. Very, very bad.

They locked eyes. She could smell his breath. Her thoughts raced, and she felt she would burst from the trembling and her beating heart. As she felt the fear, acknowledging it and that it was not going to help her, something came over her. The music played on, and she thought about how she had felt a few minutes ago, dancing to a power that moved her. Her power.
With all the calm she could muster, she said to the lion,

“Would you like to dance?”
“I thought you’d never ask!” he said excitedly.

“You are quite a beautiful and graceful dancer. Maybe you could teach me to do that thing you do with your neck?” he suggested.

They danced under the Banyan trees late into the evening when the music stopped. They thanked one another and parted ways, promising to do it again soon. The lion was a very charismatic partner, Bernice thought to herself. Not what she expected at all.

As she headed back to the lagoon and the colony, it struck her that all of her fears were an illusion. They were based on the preconceived idea that anyone outside the colony was bad news—no exceptions. The others had put that idea in her head because it’s how they were raised too. The lion—Russell was his name—was lovely. The others would definitely not approve, so she definitely planned to tell them all about it!

Bernice decided from then on she was going to live her life fearlessly, no matter what. That’s where she was going to find happiness, in loving her life and approving of her own way to live it.

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