Are we encouragers or discouragers? If we encourage will we be encouraged, if we discourage will we be discouraged? Do we get what we give?

If we encourage will we be encouraged, if we discourage will we be discouraged? Do we get what we give? Are we encouragers or discouragers?

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Be an encourager the world has enough critics already. Unknown

Six o’clock is very dark these mornings. My husband cautions me about going out for a morning walk. Can I write earlier and walk later? Or will I take the extra time and write longer?

Do we hold people back when we voice our concerns? We may caution them not just about going for walks in the dark, but about decisions they make we second guess. You know it’s really an expensive city you want to move to. The crime rate is high. What if you can’t get a job because you are too young, old, inexperienced, too experiences, too uneducated, too educated, too naive, or trusting?

The worry is not unwarranted, but it also holds people back. People don’t have to move far away to be taken advantage of. It takes a certain degree of boldness to build a life we want. The intersection where boldness and fantasy meet may be where magic or disaster happens. If we are worriers we will see disaster looming, if we are visionaries we may see the potential.

We don’t know where fortune will lead us when we take off with our bundle on our back forward on our hero’s journey. It is our journey and we are full of hope, optimism and ready for adventure. When it is someone else’s journey we may see the dangers, obstacles, and pitfalls ahead of them as they move toward what they want to do, and where they want to go. We may offer what we think is good advice.

Do you really want to give up your good job to take a chance on… We don’t mean to dash their dreams, but what if… We know they have to risk failure to risk success but what if they fail? We aren’t trying to hold them back just give them a reality check.

In The Motivation Manifesto, Brendon Burchard tells us there are three types of people who instill fear in us, the worriers, the weaklings, and the wicked. Could we ever be accused of being one of these to other people? Whose dreams have we unknowingly trampled on? Who have we made second-guess becoming whatever it is they see themselves becoming?

Today will never come again. Be a blessing. Be a friend. Encourage someone. Take time to care. Let your words heal and not wound. Unknown

What if we became a cheerleader to something unlikely to work out? Their plan is not thought out enough, they don’t have the kind of talent likely to succeed? What is the correct response? Perhaps if we encourage them to define what they want to do and how they will achieve their goal we will help them clarify their path. Perhaps we can encourage them to prioritize their actions. Maybe we can help them work out alternatives in case there are obstacles they cannot see or the path to success is longer than they anticipate. We can celebrate their achievements.

If we can encourage people’s dreams, ambitions, goals, and desires we can be a help and not a hindrance as they strive to do better, be better, and achieve more. When we help other people reach success are we being helped on our path toward success too?

No one becomes a success at anything without helping people in some way. The more people we help the more successful we become. If we can help others determine what their gift to the world is, what the purpose of their life is we can be a great help to them. We may have no clue what their gift is, we can still encourage them on their journey in some small way. We can all be mentors and coaches to someone.

We may find sometimes we are the worrier, we are afraid the path they’ve chosen is too hard and fraught with difficulty. We may be the weakling thinking we couldn’t do it, so they probably can’t too. We may even fall into the category of the wicked.  We are only telling it like it is. Sometimes it is being told they can’t do something that propels people forward. Proving someone wrong has more power than listening to the cheerleaders.

We won’t be perfect working toward our own dreams or encouraging others towards theirs. Accepting our imperfections as people, parents, siblings, sons, daughters, friends, acquaintances and co-workers are part of our journey. We can only do the best we can and know when we look back we may wish we’d said something, or done something different.

Are we encouragers, or discouragers most of the time?

A word of encouragement during failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success. Unknown

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The Motivation Manifesto: 9 Declarations to Claim Your Personal Power by [Burchard, Brendon]
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Growing as people, growing in love. Isn’t growth the point, and isn’t progress over perfection what’s important?

Isn't growth the point, and isn't progress over perfection what's important? Growing as people, growing in love.

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

There is only one happiness in life, to love and to be loved. George Sand

Is the most important person in our lives our self? Then isn’t the most important thing we can do is make ourselves as good, strong, resilient, kind, and compassionate, and loving as possible? If we can only give what we have then if we are not kind to ourselves, we are unlikely to be kind to others. If we cannot forgive ourselves, we are unlikely to forgive others. If we do not know how to love ourselves, we will not have an abundance of love to shower on other people. If it is true, hurt people hurt people, then it is probably also true that loving people, love people.

A definition of love comes from Quora. It means you love without romantic or sexual harmonics. It means that when someone you love falls in love with someone else, you are happy for them both. It means you can give someone advice without hurting them. It means you will do less damage to those around you and the world in general than otherwise.

Connection with others is they say the key to happiness. What does being a loving person look like? When we try and make other people more comfortable is that loving? Can we laugh at a joke no one else finds funny? Can we get in the puddle with people as they go through the challenges and hurts of life? Can we be there for them and maybe help lead them out of the puddle?

We often don’t know what the best approach is. Can we make the decision to be more loving? If we decide to act in more loving ways, will we look for ways to be more loving, to give a kind word, encouragement, and include people when we can? Is there always one small thing we can do?

We need to be careful that we are not using love as control, manipulation, trying to make decisions for others they need to make for themselves. Sometimes we need to be tough in our love if we tend to be enablers. Helping people to stand on their own feet make their own decisions, and live with their own consequences is sometimes how we show our love.

No matter how many fights you may get into, if you truly love someone it should never matter in the end. Unknown

We won’t always feel loving toward others, not even our own families. We will have to forgive ourselves, and them. We may have to apologize or accept an apology or not take offense when none was meant or overlook it when it was. We will have to forgive ourselves and others, often. We need to forgive our frailties, faults, weaknesses, anger, hate, and feelings of being misused, misunderstood, and not loved enough. We will have to forgive ourselves for not being as loving, kind, understanding, or compassionate as we long to be. We are not perfect, we will never be perfect, and when we can forgive ourselves our own imperfections we can perhaps extend that to others.

Can we look at every opportunity in life as a chance to be better, do better, and think better? One of the things we need to give up is the fantasy of love. We may think in our fantasy that when people love each other they never fight, say anything hurtful, look at them the wrong way, get a hard tone in their voice, become impatient, or upset.

We are the only person we have control over. We are the only person we can change. We can ask ourselves if our behavior demonstrates love. If we realize we are not acting as loving as we thought we were, or know we can be, we can find ways to add a kind word, an act of service, a touch, a hug, a small gift, or spend more time with them. When people feel appreciated, respected, understood, valued, and important, won’t they also feel more loved?

Can we be more loving without thought of reward for our self, without keeping score? Can we aim for progress instead of perfection? No matter how much we try, we will not always feel loving, compassionate, kind, or forgiving. We may have to own feelings we do not like, we may need to process them over time. We may have to grow, and isn’t that the point?

Love never dies a natural death. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. Anais Nin

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Is better communication the balm needed to fix relationships? Can we listen and ask questions and hear what someone else is saying instead of just reacting?

Can we listen and ask questions and hear what someone else is saying instead of just reacting? Is better communication the balm needed to fix relationships?

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. Bryant H. McGill

Do we let anger rule our lives? How many bad relationships are created out of anger that no one knows how to fix? Once we’ve said words we can’t take them back. We can apologize and heal, but many of us don’t know how to do that. What if we don’t believe we are totally in the wrong? We don’t believe we said what someone thinks we said. How could they take that innocuous comment as something so hurtful?

We thought we healed a breach, we were on the mend and now they aren’t talking to us again, and we don’t know why, “what happened?” If we have siblings there are probably some contentious issues, sensitivities, and angst. If we are alive we have sensitivities. Something gets said and we wonder, “What did they mean by that?” We feel our actions, our words, our attitude, and our whole being can be misunderstood and viewed in a negative light.

We can read something posted on Face book and wonder, “What do they mean by that? Is there some hidden message?

Can we try and look at others with empathy and compassion, and try and understand what they are going through? How things might look from their point of view? But, how could they think that of us? We ask ourselves, why don’t we get the benefit of the doubt? What if how they deal with things is by thinking “What is the worst that can happen? But, by doing that they almost treat us as if we’ve actually done the worst, or at least that is how we feel.

We may take offense where none was meant, and they may interpret offense where none was meant. How do we fix this? Hurt feelings on both sides. How do we apologize for things we don’t think we did or didn’t mean in the way they were interpreted?

Last night talking to friends our host recounted going to a wedding where what the groom said to the father of the bride in his speech left everyone with their mouths hanging open. The groom and father of the bride appeared to have the kind of relationship where the groom could call him a name most of us cringe at and they would laugh about it, instead of taking offense. How did that marriage work out we wondered, our host didn’t know.

I’ve heard of this, friends saying all the mean hurtful things to their friends so when someone else says these words to them, the sting has been taken out. Does it work? It might be better than being so sensitive to every tone of voice, inflection, and off the cuff remark we hear.

If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk. Robert Baden-Powell

We sometimes don’t see things as they really are. We think we are one thing, but we find out we are something else. It happened to me; I thought I was “the good” mother. It was a bitter pill to swallow when I realized I fell into “The controlling mother camp.” When I quit telling my kids what they should think, how they should feel, what they should do, and instead started asking questions and listening to them things got better. By changing my attitude, other attitudes seemed to change. I began to have the impact I’d hoped for not by telling, but by listening. Not by trying to control other people but by giving them space to feel their own feelings, think their own thoughts, and choose their own path. By asking questions they thought about what they wanted instead of being told what to want.

People need to be heard, for some people, this is the greatest gift we can give them. To listen to them, to really hear, and understand what they have to say. They say we should first seek to understand before seeking to be understood. Sometimes we have to get over “how things are said,” and start listening to what is underneath the words.

Can we get over our own sensitivities to understand someone else’s? Can we step into their shoes and see things from their point of view? Is there another side of the story we aren’t seeing? Is our need to be right, worth the price we are paying?

Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Karl A. Menninger     

Thank you for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you will come back and read some more. Have a blessed day filled with gratitude, listening, and love.

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How to Listen So People Will Talk: Build Stronger Communication and Deeper Connections by [Harling, Becky]
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Listening so others talk, talk so others will listen.

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I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening. Larry King

We can only talk if someone else is willing to listen. We can only listen if someone else is willing to talk. How can we become a great listener, encouraging others to talk, and the great conversationalist enthralling our listener?

Is there anything we hate more than hearing our idea put forward by someone else and getting praise for such a great idea? What was it that made our idea fall on deaf ears when we said it, and everyone’s ears prick right up when it came out of someone else’s mouth?

It might have to do with the way it was presented or the credibility of the person presenting it. The way they spoke with authority, expecting to be heard, expecting to be respected, expected to be the one with a good idea.

We hardly notice our speech patterns. We need to watch the clichés and phrases we use. Also keep in mind how many umms, ahs, likes, basically, frankly, honestly, extremely or really slip into our sentences. Do we speak like we are apologizing for taking up space?

We need to know who we are speaking to. Our style of speech needs to be adjusted depending on who we are addressing. We don’t speak the same way to our kids as our spouse, our friends, and the boss.

What is the main point we want to get across? Many of us are not as quick as we’d like to be thinking on the fly. Taking the time to think about what we want to get across can help us say what we mean to say.

We need to get to the point. Often we try to over explain and we lose our audience. Sometimes we make the mistake of using big words when simple ones will do. We need to get to the point and be as clear and concise as possible.

If we want to get serious about this we can record our self and listen to our speech patterns. This is an exercise that makes most of us cringe. It is useful especially if we are going to do any public speaking, we want to see how we come across in an interview, or see how we use eye contact.

When we are the listener we need to fully listen, giving them our full attention. We can acknowledge we’ve heard with “oh…mmm… I see.” Instead of asking questions or giving advice we should just listen. It can be hard to finish our story when we are questioned, blamed, or advised. Encouraging sounds and a caring demeanor are invitations for people including children to explore their thoughts and feelings.

Encouragement to others is something everyone can give. Somebody needs what you have to give. It may not be your money; it may be your time. It may be your listening ear. It may be your arms to encourage. It may be your smile to uplift. Who knows? Joel Osteen

It can be helpful especially when listening to children to give a name to what they are feeling. That sounds frustrating, scary, unfair, etc.

What we are hearing people and children say may be things they can’t have right now. It might be small things or big things. The harder we explain why we can’t have fairness and justice in the world the more they protest. Sometimes we just need to understand how much they want something, and being understood makes not having it easier to bear.

When we want to impart information to people so they will change, blaming and accusations are not helpful. What is also not helpful is name calling, threats, commands, lecturing and moralizing, warnings, comparisons, sarcasm, or dire prophecies.

It will help if we describe what we see as the problem, without making it a criticism about them. “The snow being tracked into the house is not good for the hardwood floor,” is more effective than, “you are ruining the floor.”

When we express our feelings without attacking character and we state what our expectations are we are giving them the information they can work with. We can show them how to make amends, and how to make a choice between two or more acceptable choices. Making a choice is not the same as being told what to do.

We teach others how to treat us. Others teach us how to treat them. When we treat each other with respect we get respect. If we criticize others we will get criticism and judgment back. If we are mean and petty and can’t overlook little things, they will be nitpicky too.

The patterns of communication we grew up with travel with us through life. We can change them if they aren’t working for us, but first, we have to recognize what they are. What works well with one person may not work well with everyone. We are all different. If we are willing to adjust to different personalities in our families, workplace and the greater community we can talk so others will listen and listen so others will talk. We can seek to understand and seek to be understood.

Are there people in our life we can seek to understand better? Can we listen to their point of view without telling them why that point of view is wrong?

When people express opinions that differ from yours, take it as a chance to grow. Seek to understand over being understood. Be curious, not defensive. The only way to disarm another human being is by listening. Glennon Doyle Melton

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating by [Alda, Alan]
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Friends and laughter. Laughter is the best medicine.

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Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. Helen Keller

Last night we had our book club meeting. We usually meet at a coffee shop. We started doing that years ago because no one has to spend the day cleaning, no family members have to find something to do while we laugh and giggle, and it is so much easier to watch what we eat.

One of our members broke her ankle this summer, she just got the plate and screws taken out yesterday and thought it would be easier if she didn’t have to take herself to the coffee shop. We laughed over pumpkin pie, German cookies and English tea. She had wine but we all drove so we did the responsible thing and declined. We didn’t need wine, only togetherness.

We read books we would never read if we weren’t in a book club. The book pick is a birthday gift from a daughter who works in a book store and loves books as much as her Mom.

Another members is going through family stuff and said she can’t read, can’t concentrate maybe we should do a movie night. We are all up for that. When she heard the book recommendation she thought she might be able to read it. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal. We are all intrigued by the title; after all we enjoyed Fifty Shades of Grey.

We are able to talk about everything in our book club. If we can’t make sense of nonsense at least we get a few perspectives on it. Life is complicated, everyone is going through something. We help each other by being the listening ear; we see things from different views. Because we aren’t knee deep in each other’s lives it is easier to talk about some stuff.

There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship. Thomas Aquinas

I was listening to a talk on YouTube and the commentator was saying we used to get from a village what we now expect from our spouse. It is too much to expect our spouse to meet all our needs. Widening our circle of friends is especially important as we age, when our circle could easily be shrinking instead of expanding.

It seems that after age sixty five friends make a bigger difference in our lives than when we were younger. Strong family ties are linked to happiness, but their importance stayed about the same over our life time.

Valuing our immediate family is good for our health and happiness at any age. The older we become the more important it is to have strong friendships. We are happier and healthier when our friends are happy, and we are more likely to be sick when we don’t value friendships or our friendships are in trouble. Friendship quality, often predicts health more than any of our other relationships.

Joining groups is a good place to meet likeminded people who become friends. Investing in friendships that inspire us to stay healthy gives us a better chance of being healthy. We often have the same habits our friends have. Healthy friends, with healthy habits mean we are more likely to be healthy with healthy habits.

I see this in my mother and her friends. She walks with a friend almost every morning. They met when they bought houses side by side. Mom at ninety three would not be as healthy without the walks or the friendship. If the last new friend we made was years ago maybe we should rethink. We can widen our circle at any age, as we get older it is more important than ever.

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed. Khalil Girbran

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Dogs and love. If you want more love in your life, get a dog.

Photo of Lulu by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Everything I Need to Know in Life I Learned From My Dog

Never pass up the opportunity to go on a joyride. When loved ones come home always greet them. Never pretend to be something you’re not. If you want something, look at it until your get it or it’s gone. If what you want lies buried, dig until you fine it. Take every opportunity to run. Take every opportunity to nap. Delight in the simple joy of a long walk. When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body. Never pass up the chance to snuggle. Always kiss the ones who are mad at you to make it better. Listen attentively and don’t offer solutions. Be brave, optimistice and completely present. Give and accept love with every breath.

I saw a miracle last night. My little dog was sitting by my son in law and he reached down and petted her. He didn’t grow up with dogs and doesn’t like them. Lulu barks every time he comes in and goes out of the house. Sometimes she makes a fuss when he goes to the bathroom. She is ever vigilant keeping us safe from our selves.

The one thing my daughter worried about was her husband’s dislike of dogs. When she was little she asked how old she had to be to get a dog. We told her six years old and so close to her sixth birthday – not a birthday present – we acquired Krypto a Scottish Terrier puppy.

He scared me when he was still little. He growled at me when he was outside and I called an Animal Behaviorist. He said, “he’s a dominant dog and you need to get him into puppy school and he will likely be a good dog.” I took his advice, the four of us and Krypto attended puppy school.

He was a great dog. He was my son’s confidant. I heard my son say to Krypto one day, “no one listens to me but you.” Too soon Krypto was fifteen years old, he could no longer walk well enough to go for walks, bathroom problems were frequent and we didn’t think he should face another harsh winter. We made the tough decision pet owners face when their loyal friend is in so much pain its heart wrenching to watch them struggle to walk.

My dog does this amazing thing where he just exists and makes my whole life better because of it. Unknown

My daughter and I were ready for a new dog before my husband was. I think my son was more ambivalent than my daughter and I. When my husband said okay we were on the hunt. We had one requirement. We didn’t want a dog with the doggy smell Krypto had. No amount of bathing got rid of that doggy smell. He was good for allergies but he was stinky.

A Cock-a-poo came up as being what ticked all our boxes that’s a Cocker Spaniel Poodle cross. We found her and once again became a household with a dog. We should have taken her to puppy school but she’s a submissive dog and in my hubris I thought we didn’t need puppy school.

Her only bad habit is she barks when people leave the house and when they return to the house. She doesn’t chew shoes, she isn’t destructive in any way. If she gets a chance to chew on a paper towel, she can make quite a mess.  She is easy to groom and very good about it. She doesn’t have a doggy smell; she can get stinky if we don’t bath her often enough but that is not the same thing. She is good when we leave the house. If no one is home when we get back she is quiet. If someone is home then she needs to protect those at home from those coming home.

She is a bundle of love. I can see she is winning over my son in law. It makes my heart sing because I know having a dog is high on my daughters list of things she wants in her life.

Dogs are work, they can be expensive, they can be messy, they can be smelly, but they bring a dimension of unconditional love we humans should emulate. Our dog is never too busy to accompany us on an adventure. She is never more interested in something else than a snuggle on the couch. She never fails to greet us at the door. Her world revolves around ours. We have our own world and don’t always make those we love a priority. She has no such problem. We are her priority, every moment, of every day.

Getting a dog is not a small decision. We need to be sure we have the patience, resources, willingness to train or live with the results of not training the puppy. Puppies deserve a forever home. When we moved into our house it was a new sub division. I noticed a lot of families got puppies and then those puppies were gone. It broke my heart.

When we were newly dealing with the loss of Krypto my daughter and I found the perfect rescue dog. My husband wasn’t ready and the dog was quickly adopted by a family. I looked at the Humane Shelter for dogs but I never found one I thought was a good fit when we were ready. I saw a cock-a-poo that I saw as a four month old puppy returned to the same Humane Society as a two year old dog. I spoke to the woman at the Humane Society I asked why he was back. “Not because of anything he did,” she said. The timing wasn’t right, he seemed like a sweet dog, but my husband wasn’t ready to look at a dog yet.

Bringing a pet into our family should never be on a whim. We need to carefully consider our life and how a pet can fit into it. A pet can live a long time, they deserve a home with a family that wants them, will care for them and love them. Pets should never be a gift unless we know for sure the person receiving the gift is ready for the commitment. Even then choosing a dog is an experience that getting one as a gift eliminates. Dogs like humans aren’t perfect. We need to make a decision and stick by it through the happy, annoying and sad times.

Poem from an untrained puppy

My family brought me home with them, snugly cradled in their arms. They cuddled me and smiled at me, and said I was full of charm.

The walks stopped one by one, they said they didn’t have time. I wish that I could change things, I wish I knew my crime.

So they brought me to a shelter, but were embarrassed to say why. They said I caused an allergy, and then kissed me good-bye.

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Finding love. Love them imperfections and all.

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We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly. Sam Keen

I’ve been watching too much YouTube and have learned about a group of men called Men Going Their Own Way. These MGTOW men dislike feminism so much they are staying away from serious relationships with women especially marriage.

I might be crazy but I think marriage benefits men even more than it benefits women. Married men are healthier, more successful, and live longer than unmarried men. I really think marriage benefits women but we can still have our children and a family without a man. Men may hate this about us; we only need them for a short time in the procreation process.

Now we can make our own money so we can financially support our family. It would be harder alone. It would be lonelier alone. How lonely are these men going to be later on? Society has always managed without some of our men. How could we have had World War 1 and World War 11 and not suffered much as far as population growth. Because the women still had children.

I grew up in an area where we had (or so it seemed to me) a lot of bachelors. They were to me sad, lonely men, who sat on a plot of land and didn’t do much with it, while beside them married men built a life with their wives, had children and prospered.

In Jamaica we were surrounded by a group of happy young people. Most of them coupled in serious relationships. You hurt yourself when you are too picky to find a real person and build a life with them.

Love is not just about finding a good partner. It is also about being a good one. Unknown

I’ve heard of women who wouldn’t go on a date with someone because she didn’t like the shoes he wore. Really, you couldn’t take him shoe shopping? I remember being picked up at the airport by my husband wearing a short sleeved brown shirt. I hated that shirt. It wasn’t a deal breaker. He had it before we got together; he never bought another one like it.

We mostly buy clothes the other likes. If I had met him with that shirt on I don’t think it would have been a big enough thing to not go out with him. We women are overlooking diamonds in the rough because someone hasn’t gotten them the perfect haircut yet, or the best cut of clothes for their frame, or into a fitness routine.

They might need to get their teeth fixed. George Clooney needed to get his teeth fixed. We need to look past the imperfections to the real person and the possibilities in a potential relationship. I think both men and women like what they see when men and women are in happy relationships. They don’t want to take the chance and build that happy relationship out of the person in front of them who isn’t in one yet.

We have to see the potential in people. Many women who are married to successful men didn’t get him when he was successful. They married or at least started dating the guy with potential.

It seems to me if by the time we are thirty we haven’t found a good potential mate then what are we looking for? From sixteen to thirty and I think twenty five more like it, we meet a lot of people. How could one of them not be a good potential partner?

I understand people who haven’t been married by a certain age have less chance of marrying than a divorced or widow/widower has of remarrying.

According to a National Health and Social Life Survey, 51 percent of married men were extremely satisfied with their sex lives, while only 39 percent of cohabitating men and 36 percent of single men could say the same. Research shows that men are more sexually satisfied when they are in lasting relationships because both spouses are making a long-term investment in intimacy.

I understand that six men to one woman want non committed sexual relationships. Six women to one man want committed relationships leading to marriage. We have a serious conflict here. Women need to make sure they are getting into relationships where both partners want the same thing.

Perhaps women have to quit having sex with uncommitted men to screen out the potential marriage partners from just sexual partners. There are numerous books advising women how to do this.

Men and women need to go after what they want. When I was young I thought men and women mostly were after the same thing. Finding a partner to build a life with. A lot of young people still feel this way at least this is what I hear from my two kids. The problem arises I think when they don’t find the partner before thirty and are now jaded, wounded, and disillusioned.

When I was growing up my mom used to say “don’t get married too young.” She doesn’t say that any more as she sees some young people not bothering to get married at all. I don’t say it anymore either. Young people don’t need to get married so young as find the partner when they are young. When they decide this is the person, plan a wedding, don’t  just move in together.

I think both men and women thought when we got the risk of pregnancy out of the equation we could play with relationships. The bitter harvest of broken, hurt, disillusioned men and women shows me we are more fragile in this department than we thought.

You don’t need someone to complete you. You only need someone to accept you completely. Unknown

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Commitment and choice. Loving what is.

Photo by Belynda Wilson Thomas of Two Day Lilies

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You must love in a way that makes the other person feel free. Thich Nhat Hanh

Marriage gives us the freedom to explore a deeper commitment than any other relationship. We get to know our partner warts and all. They know our weaknesses and we know theirs. In a good relationship our strengths and weaknesses build something better than either of us could apart. We are stronger together.

When he wins, she wins. Children don’t see a perfect marriage they see two people working things out. They see the peaks and valleys that come in life. Their mother is there for their dad in his grief and he is there for her in hers.

Two people navigate careers, each others families, holidays. This is going to be a challenge for my daughter and her husband this year. Christmas a time of togetherness can pull people in two directions, trying to satisfy everybody they satisfy no one. Not even themselves.

It’s too early to talk of Christmas. First they need to get the thank you cards out. My husband and I had free tickets to a youth choir Christmas Concerto. We couldn’t bring ourselves to go to a Christmas event this early. We went to a movie instead.

Personal freedom is something we foster; it is not something handed to us. It is our emotional work that heals the binds that tie us; we also have to let our partner heal the binds that tie them. This only happens from a place of emotional maturity that owns and accepts, but does not blame.

A strong relationship requires choosing to love each other even in those moments when you struggle to like each other. Unknown

We create confining feelings within relationships to give us a feeling of control. Being “right” often makes us overly controlling. We begin to create prickly borders around our hearts. We put this controlling mechanism in place to protect ourselves from being hurt. That barbed wire fence around our heart hurts ourselves as it hurts others. It’s as hard for us to get out as it is for someone else to get in.

We yearn for connection and freedom. Commitment is that freedom, if we do it right. Through connection to someone we can explore honest, genuine and authentic love.

When we are in denial of our deepest pain we lash out, build walls and blame the world. Our lives and relationships suffer. We need to shift our energy, unlock our heart, give our self the gift of compassion, grace and forgiveness and heal the wounded parts of our self.

We need to deal with our feelings of insecurity,  being unlovable, pain, and shame.  Life has let us down. We have let ourselves down. The people we love have been let down. We are human. We are not perfect.  Still, we are worthy of love from our self and others. Often before we can accept forgiveness from someone else we need to accept it from our self.

We are enough. We are not perfect; we don’t need to be perfect. We need to be accepting, warm, compassionate and vulnerable. We may get hurt if we love. We hurt our self when we don’t open up to the love being offered. If we rebuff the other person often enough they no longer offer.

They start to pull into themselves, protecting their heart. Soon you have two lonely, isolated, hardened, unfeeling people sharing a space. Some couples live their lives together two broken souls, hardened, bitter, unloving. Other couples are still two broken souls but they help each other mend the broken pieces, they are open, loving, vulnerable. They become strong in the broken places. They don’t expect each other to be perfect. They love what is. They find it’s enough.

Love is a decision.  We need to honor our commitment. When someone does something wrong we need to be careful we don’t forget about everything they’ve done right.

A true relationship is two imperfect people refusing to give up on each other. Unknown

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Laughing through tears. Talking to mom. Going forward, onward and upward. Dealing with what is in my circle of influence.

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Almost every problem people face in their lives are all the result of not taking enough action. Unknown

Laughing with mom is one of the things that usually happens in our lengthy phone calls. We have three provinces between us. It is a lot of distance but our relationship is close. I can talk to mom about almost anything. I hope my kids will feel they can talk to me the same way.

Mom has lived a lot in her 93 years. She has seen all the progress technology has brought us and she has seen the problems as well. She lived through the Great Depression and World War 2 – two of the defining periods in Canada. She was a homesteader with her parents; she helped shape a community out of wild Saskatchewan land.

She raised eight kids and I have to go to work to figure out the grand children, great grand and great great grand children count. I think my mom has lived her live dealing with “what is”. She didn’t live a life of pretense. Living on the farm I think she thought her life didn’t compare to her sister’s city life. I think in the end her life exceeded theirs. I think she ended up better off financially. I think her relationships were better.

The bitter tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone. Harriet Beecher Stowe

Mom is my role model. A model of how to live your life with truth and grace. I have tried to live up to the example she set. I try to behave in ways I think she would be proud. This is why we can talk. I don’t pretend things are better than they are with mom. Things have always been pretty good in my life, but I don’t pretend they are better than they are. I’ve always thought if you start living a life of pretense, how do you fix what’s broken if you don’t acknowledge it?

We all fall short of expectations we set for our self. As we reach a certain age we realize those expectations will never materialize. One day I realized I am never likely to be “rich”. Except when I looked at my life I was “rich” in all ways except being able to spend exorbitant amounts of money. I was rich in love, I live in a safe and happy home, I have a great husband and happy productive kids, I have enough financial resources to meet my needs but perhaps not all my wants. I have time to be creative, space to be creative and the resources to be creative. I am fit and healthy, not as fit and healthy as some but for my age I feel good about my health and fitness level.

This is the time to take stock of my life. I am pretty happy with it. I don’t have any public recognition for great deeds. I am not a philanthropist building hospitals or feeding the poor and disenfranchised. I am not a millionaire, but I believe I am a “realionaire”. I live in peace and plenty. I can deal with the realities of my life; I can look forward to the future with optimism. I can feel proud of the life I’ve built, the person I am the roles I have as wife and mother. I am proud of the business my husband built with my help.

Could we have done things differently, could they have worked out better? Who knows, we did what we knew how to do. How do we know we aren’t exactly where we should be, learning the lessons we are to learn, becoming the people we are to be. Learning lessons we can learn no other way.

Sometimes I feel I live in a self involved bubble. Everything is alright with me. Is this a problem? How should I be living my life? Taking on everyone’s problems? I try to see problems from different angles. I have felt for a long time that happiness is an inside job. We choose to be happy in whatever circumstances find us. I think this is how I live. My husband sometimes says, “as long as everything is alright with Belynda.” Shouldn’t things be alright with me? Shouldn’t I be dealing with “what is,” and be at peace?

We can make things better, or we can make things worse. We can deal within our circle of influence. This is where I think I deal. If my little world can be okay then things can radiate from there. If my little world isn’t okay because I am trying to deal with things that aren’t mine to deal with. How does that work for anyone?

The measure gave was the measure we got back. Alcoholics anonymous

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Memories. Why do we remember some things and forget others? Can we trust our memories?

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“Is your life story the truth? Yes, the chronological events are true. Is it the whole truth? No, you see and judge it through your conditioned eyes and mind – not of all involved – nor do you see the entire overview. Is it nothing but the truth? No, you select, share, delete, distort, subtract, assume and add what you want, need and choose to.”
― Rasheed Ogunlaru

Have you ever tried to remember something and all you draw is a blank? Have you ever been called a liar because you couldn’t remember something and the other person was incredulous that you didn’t remember something that was so important to them?

Why do we remember some things and forget others?

Some things are relevant to our life. We remember the relevant things. If something is likely to help with our life goals it is more likely to be remembered.

We remember emotional pain. If something or someone causes us emotional pain the event is more likely to be remembered.

Our subconscious mind makes us remember the things that are important and useful to our life. If our subconscious mind makes the deduction that something isn’t useful or important to our life it will not remember it.

It is easy to see that two people could experience the same event and one of them would remember it and the other would not.

My husband thinks I remember everything. I do remember a lot of things he doesn’t remember because they had some relevance to me. He is remembering things I don’t remember, but he thinks I should remember them because they are so important to him. It is easy to see how when people are having disagreements what each remembers can be very problematic.

It may even explain why witnesses do not witness things exactly the same way and all are telling the truth as they see it. When we are upset we do not stop to think that there is another side to the story. Why can’t you see what I see? We don’t trust the other person who doesn’t see what was so plain. How could they not see it? Are they lying?

Remember just because you think something happened, doesn’t mean it did. This is what therapists call projecting. Unknown

It could be that no two people ever see anything the same way. It might depend on their emotional state at the moment, experiences they have had in the past, how they interpret things. Eye witnesses are notoriously unreliable, but probably through no fault of their own. I have always hoped I am never called on as an eye witness. I couldn’t tell the little girls apart on the soccer field. Little blonde girls with ponytails all looked alike to me. I can’t imagine a line-up.

Some say the brain does not store information as data but by association. What we do know about memory is it is processed by the hippocampus and stored continuously in our cerebral cortex. We will store a memory if it is important and has emotional value in our brain forever.

The rashomon effect is a phenomenon where different people have contradictory accounts of the same event. In fact research shows that implanting false memories can be as simple as asking someone to recount an event that didn’t happen. It also seems that each time we remember something we rewrite it in our brain. If that recollection contains errors, we’ll strengthen those errors until we are positive they are correct.

How can a couple tell who is remembering things correctly? Research suggests they may not be able to. Couples often remember things differently because of cognitive biases and the influence of mood. Experts suggest focusing on the emotions of an argument to move past a disagreement. Couples should accept our memories are flawed and not be so reliant on what we remember is right and what the other person remember is obviously wrong.

Faith is not about everything turning out okay. Faith is about being okay no matter how things turn out. Unknown

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