Tag Archives: purposeful perception

How Forgiveness, Death & Dying Taught Me to Love Infinitely Bigger

Recommended Reading Soundtrack:  Dark Matter by Andrew Belle on Black Bear

Is it really 2016 already? Clearly I’ve been out of the loop with my writing and once you pass a certain timeline it’s like you’re Jerry Seinfeld in that episode where he can’t remember the name of the girl he’s dating but it’s too late to ask her. What did it rhyme with again? Awkward!

In the spirit of the New Year, I thought I’d come clean on my online absence and connect with y’all on what’s been clouding my own purposeful perception. Last year I was gifted with an abundance of dreamy opportunities to reevaluate how I authentically support my passions. In a way it was one of the most illuminating years I’ve ever experienced in finding my voice. And, it’s not that my voice was lost. It was simply ready for a bit of refining around the truth behind my art.

Sometimes our minds have so much noise in them it’s like we have a microphone loudly spewing static in our heads. And suddenly, REM’s Michael Stipe has taken over everyone’s voice box shouting “What’s the frequency, Kenneth!” over and over again until you just can’t stand it anymore. Our mental static acts as a truth deterrent.

buddha-grief-quoteLife, Cancer & Death

It’s those deep troughs in life that make us stop and question our choices and how they support what we say we want in life. At the beginning of last summer it was shared with me that my ex-husband was delivered a grim diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer that had spread into other vital organs.

Only a few months later I learned that his cancer progressed and he suddenly passed away, leaving behind his young daughter and many shocked, devastated friends. When we divorced there was a lot of anger that fueled a regretful and sorrowful separation from his daughter. It was never addressed between us again.

And now, it never will be.

Spark_of_Light_by_Swift218“Unforgiveable”

Sadly, my heart had harbored a spark of hope that one day it would resurface in the form of forgiveness. Instead I found myself reliving my divorce with the added bonus of painful, lingering memories. I grieved alone the death of someone that I loved, despite all the crap that we slung at one another. I went to the dark side and found myself scanning through old emails only to find the last words he ever said to me, “What you did to me and my daughter is unforgivable.”

What we choose to say to others, even in our lowest points, has consequences. In reading these words I felt a profound sadness different from the past. I felt distraught that even in facing death we can allow our stubbornness and the need to make someone wrong get in the way of forgiveness. Our mortality is irreversible.

It is easy for us to take for granted the miracles that abound from every little connection we make in life. The support of our relationships can collapse around us at any moment with life’s endings. Every word we share with another is an opportunity to be kind and practice love. We can choose to live life as a prayer of self-forgiveness that heals our hearts and frees others from the chains of past judgments. The challenge arose for me in forgiving myself without any possibility of forgiveness from the other party, a one sided conversation.

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So I went on a little journey and after weeks of carrying around the emotional weight of his death, our past, and the inability to tell his daughter that I loved her, that I was sorry- I reached a general consensus with all the voices I’ve invented in my head. It yielded a new commitment to never compromise my truth again. Life is a collage of precious moments worth much more than the value our ego places on it. This includes what we tolerate from others.

My self-declaration forced some positive, life altering changes.

Six months later, I am now ready to get back in the twinkle light parade. What does that mean, exactly?

Welcome back, my dear friend. Welcome back the sun.

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Julianne Kuko, 9, holds a drawing of the sun as she and her classmates perform a song to welcome the first sunrise in 58 days. Rebecca Hersher/NPR

I heard a touching story the other day on NPR about a tiny town in Greenland called Ittoqqortoormiit that has been without sunlight for 58 days. The town’s seasonal cycle of darkness recently ended and as the sun rose for the first time since November children gathered in a circle on top of a hill with colorful cutouts of the sun.

Together they sang their traditional song, “Welcome back, my dear friend. Welcome back the sun.” Hearing the song reminded me of how I feel coming out of the wormhole that was my last 6 months. Every now and then we are gifted with a glimpse into the magnificence that we are through the abundance of love and lack thereof bustling around us. It’s what we do with this personal glimpse of light rising out of our darkness that matters.

Today, and forever- Let’s Rock Big Love! Jess

If you want to sing out, sing out! Just do it.

Recommended Reading Soundtrack:  Whatever it is by Ben Lee

As I was perusing the world of Facebook this morning I noticed video post from a recent Ellen DeGeneres interview with the ever so diverse and hilarious actress Melissa McCarthy (Think sink and Bridesmaids? I’m already laughing!). Well, the interview took place on May 20th, so I guess that is considered pretty far behind in the world of media- but I’m just not one of those people that is always quick on the uptake with “talk show gossip”. (Insert smiley face here, if you get my meaning.)

I couldn’t resist taking a look at it. What piqued my interest was the topic and how McCarthy presented the discussion with a harsh critic. The journalist had written a review of a 2014 film that starred McCarthy last year. The film had received a lot of “challenging” attention. This particular journalist was very hard on McCarthy- and it wasn’t for the integrity of her performance. It was for her appearance.

walking in someone else's shoesMcCarthy was affected by the critique, but instead of being rude and critical to the journalist when she was given this unique opportunity, she savored this golden apple with a little talk about perception. She turned the conversation around and asked the journalist to look at the other side of his narrow minded equation. She asked the right questions, asking him how his type of critique could potentially affect someone that he loves- like his daughter. And, it worked.

I felt like this interview was testimony to how turning stories inside out can really create major shifts in our hearts and give us the opportunity to demonstrate kindness and compassion for another’s ignorance. Sometimes we need a little helping hand to see the flip side. Not everyone will be open to it, and that’s where our acceptance can have an even greater ability to heal inner conflicts.

Before I had this little moment with the internet this morning, I was walking through my office and noticed I was wearing a shoe that was squeaking with every step. It made me laugh- because I’m always reflecting on how to walk in someone else’s shoes, much like McCarthy encouraged this journalist to do. Sometimes we just have squeaky shoes, and it takes initiative and a desire to change what is inside of us to look at the cause of our squeaky shoes. Maybe we love our squeaky shoes, but we simply have to throw them away because their appearance does not outweigh their usefulness.

Image via http://meetville.com/quotes/tag/empathy/page9
Image via http://meetville.com/quotes/tag/empathy/page9

In the famous singing words of Cat Stevens,

You can make it all true. And, you can make it undo.

It’s easy. You only need to know, well if you want to sing out, sing out! If you want to be free, be free. Because there is a million things to be, you know that there are.

I’m with Cat Stevens on this one. There is nothing more powerful than the knowledge that you have a choice. You have a choice to be kind. You have a choice to see the other side. You have a choice to be free and sing out. The road may be a little squeaky while getting there, but if you take a moment to look around you, I think you’ll be surprised at how much people are trying.

What’s Going to Be Your 2015 Top of the Pops?

Recommended Reading Soundtrack: Hold On When You Get Love, and Let Go When You Give It by the Stars on album No One is Lost

A directionally challenged life

The beginning of a new year, the end of another- an opportunity marked by reflection, honoring and engagement with our personal dreams and intentions. It’s a special occasion where the vision for our future, and the present state of our hearts holds a deeper meaning. As we live day to day there seems to be an inner compass within us continuously directing the traffic of our choices. Now is the time to look at how well we’ve been listening to that inner compass, or better yet- where we’ve been living a directionally challenged life.

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Like the new season of a favorite show (Hmmmm…., can you say “Downton Abbey!”), the release of an album by an artist we’ve been following for most of our lives, or the opening of all those end of year movie gems- we get to have our own refreshing personal premier of something reflecting our annual personal growth.

I don’t believe in types, I believe in people. Tom Branson, Downton Abbey, Season 4

If you are a die-hard fan, preparing for the first episode of a favorite show’s new season actually takes some work. There’s nothing like turning on the first episode after a year and feeling like you are asleep in one of those adult nightmares where you show up for your senior year in high school and basically have forgotten EVERYTHING. I decided to dig up some Downton Abbey in my own preparation for the U.S. Sunday night’s highly anticipated 2015 season 5 “coming out” party. As I listened and enjoyed all the drama taking place, I noticed a line that had a profound effect on me.

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Downton’s progressive character Tom Branson was enjoying a conversation with an attractive and potential romantic interest, a teacher who shares many of his socialist ideals. She was expressing her opinion about “types” of people during a time when classism was beginning its big dive in early 20th century England. Branson rejected her notion that “types” of people existed in his heart with a great line, “I don’t believe in types, I believe in people.”

I’ve been dwelling on this line for the past few days as it is a perfect reflection of not only the last year of my life, but probably the past 25 years. Seeing past the stereotypes and labels of the world around us frees us from the expectations of our lifetime of brainwashing. It frees us from all the pressure we place on ourselves to be a certain way, or meet some society’s expectations of what a “good” or “successful” person is supposed to look like.

attitude-blue-choices-color-life-Favim.com-287558As we get older, we tend to play this out in different ways. Usually in our immediate post-high school years we experience freedom from the cliques that held us hostage from loving all those wacky aspects of ourselves. But then we start to put a new kind of pressure on ourselves like career and relationship successes. Next, we hit a wall with age 40 and berate ourselves for not fulfilling all of those “dreams” or “career deadlines” we were “supposed” to fulfill (Think Billy Crystal in “City Slickers”!).

But you know what’s awesome about your life? You have a choice to either go down the path of great expectations or take the path less traveled from your heart. The cool thing about this choice is that you get to determine what this path less traveled is and what it means to you. You get to determine you. You are that rock star that sits down to write a new album; you are that writer that gets to create a new series about what’s important to you. You are the leading lady or gentleman in your film.

There is a great conversation in the film “The Holiday,” where very old in body character Arthur played by Eli Wallach is out to dinner with Iris, Kate Winslet’s character. As she talks about her rather dysfunctional relationship, Arthur looks at her and tells her, “In the movies we have leading ladies, and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady. But for some reason are behaving like the best friend.” Iris responds, “You are so right. You’re supposed to be the leading lady in your own life for God’s sake.”

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So the big question remains. As we embark together into 2015, what do we want our “Top of the Pops” line-up to be? What do you want your greatest hits to be? Remember, whether you choose the path of great expectations or the path less traveled, neither one of them will be easy. But I have an inkling that one is more rewarding. Being the lead in your own life is about authenticity. It’s about owning all of you and making choices that reflect your greatest hits list.

Like the song by the Stars says, “It’s time to take the weakest thing in you, and then beat the b$#@%#$@* with it!” Cheers to an awesome 2015- from my heart to yours.

The_Killers_I've_Got_Soul_in_2009

I Can’t Sing, But I’ve Got Soul.

Recommended Reading Soundtrack:  Let Your Love Grow Tall by Passion Pit on Manners

It was a Saturday night at a popular karaoke bar, and I found myself getting geared up with the great abundance of songs offered by the designated “karaoke professionals.” Is that a real title?  I couldn’t help myself- I actually went on stage and sang a specially chosen song from the Disney film, The Little Mermaid. And even though I totally put everyone to sleep with my mediocre interpretation, I had fun fulfilling several years’ worth of karaoke fantasies.

What am I trying to communicate here, you may ask? Well, keep reading.

The film Shallow Hal – pretty silly and not too complicated in its message.  But simplicity aside, I actually took away something meaningful from the film which included Gwyneth Paltrow, who typically appears in waif like form, dressed up to be an obese woman.

In an interview that took place with Paltrow after the film was released, she talked about how she kept the fat suit on one day to see what it felt like to be an obese person in life. One of the things that she noticed was how people were afraid to make eye contact with her. And that experience yielded a feeling of loneliness and an understanding of how isolating it is to be extremely overweight in our modern culture. The world around us is pretty ego based, and the “judgment thing” can definitely make us feel alone or give cause to isolate ourselves so we don’t have to experience it from others.

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Judgment, stigma- whatever it is that we fear, let’s face it. Somewhere in our lives we have given our power away to it and allowed that fear to hold us back from either doing what we love, are passionate about, or shield ourselves from experiencing our destiny- joy. But, there is this line in a U2 song that stood out recently during a monotonous drive home in rush hour traffic even though I’ve probably heard it a thousand times. The lyric is from the song Elevation, and it goes like this:

Can’t sing, but I’ve got soul.
The goal is Elevation.

With that line, flashbacks of embarrassing and exhilarating karaoke streamed through my mind. And there I was again, singing a song from The Little Mermaid on a Saturday night to a buzzed crowd that was waiting for something a little more “dance” inspiring. And so it goes, I can’t sing- but I’ve got soul, baby. In my head, Damon Albarn from Blur was next to me on stage in concert in Japan yelling, “Karaoke! Karaoke!” (Obscure live concert reference alert, I apologize!)

Acknowledging that you’ve got soul, baby!

It may seem like a little thing. The way we make choices based on what others will “think.” But truthfully there is no such thing as a “little thing.” All experiences are relevant to both our heart and our mind. Consciously connecting that mind with the heart requires a frank complexity in our self-created world of modern love. Acknowledging that you’ve got soul is an important step in reaching that goal. So, where have you shut out soul in your life in places that you have it?

Soul reaches beyond the technical. It is about heart. It is personified in our experiences with one another as we navigate a world of opportunity guaranteed to also spark fear. It’s worth it, to acknowledge the fear but not let it dictate your choices. You never know where you will end up.

In the famous words of Jimmy Rabbitte in the awesome (and sometimes inappropriate- excuse the bad language below, please!) film The Commitments about a group of talented Dubliners, AKA “The Blacks of Ireland,” come together to show that they’ve got soul-

“Soul is the music people understand. Sure it’s basic and it’s simple. But it’s something else ’cause, ’cause, ’cause it’s honest, that’s it. It’s honest. There’s no f*%$^#& bulls$%#. It sticks its neck out and says it straight from the heart. Sure there’s a lot of different music you can get off on but soul is more than that. It takes you somewhere else. It grabs you by the balls and lifts you above the shite.”

Ladies & Gents, Let’s Rock Big Love with some super soul! (I know you’re hiding some in there, somewhere)

http://refreshingwatersblog.com/2013/06/19/healing-pt-1/

Limitless? “Get Real!”

Recommended Reading Soundtrack: “More than Life” by Whitley on album The Submarine

There are those moments tied to places from our past that emit a certain electricity. Times where we have felt right on our game, and nothing was going to get in our way of accomplishing our “Mission Impossible.” Growing up, ballet class was not one of those places for me. There were times in ballet class when I just wanted to disappear; when I ruthlessly compared myself to the “tiny” pretty girls and made unconscious decisions about my own “potential.” But I loved to dance so much that I continued in my Marcia Sue School of Dance class off that country road behind a donut shop from the time I was a smiling naïve kindergartner to a crazy teenager in high school.

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I remember one afternoon while we were stretching our teacher asked us as a group what our dream was for our future. There were lots of “classic” answers. One of my classmates that I had known for years stated the trendy answer for girls in the late 80s/early 90s, “President of the United States.” I remember thinking, “why would anyone want that job!” I still feel that way, honestly. But I digress.

To me, the idea behind our “potential” as human beings contains a lot of emotional and sexist rhetoric. Defining what our greatest potential really means is a topic that intrigues me, especially as I engage in analyzing my own root belief systems and negativity.

The Quest to Define Our Potential with the Ego

There is a lot of talk out there about our inability to acknowledge the limitless nature of our potential as human beings. There are movies about it with titles so simple, how could we question their content? Titles like, “Limitless.” Or, one of my favorites? “Phenomenon!” We place a lot of limits around ourselves regardless- and they constantly transform. Stubbornness, and the need to make someone we are angry with wrong, is probably one of the most common limits I see in my work on myself, and with others.

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But recently, I saw a film that blew my mind when I least expected it. As I sat in silence after the end of this heart wrenching story about a tortured soul and their abuser, I thought to myself, “Wow, now there is a man that truly lived his greatest potential. I can only hope I can love as big as he did.” The story was based on the autobiography, The Railway Man, by Eric Lomax. Lomax was a British Army officer who was sent to a Japanese POW camp in 1942 with the surrender of Singapore and forced to participate in building the well-known “Death Railway” in Thailand.

While in the camp he was tortured for telling the truth, and although he physically survived the torture and war, his heart was tormented and in pain for most of his life. In the early 80s he fell in love and remarried a woman that loved him so deeply, she was willing to risk losing her husband to help him heal his psychological wounds. This involved confronting the darkness that he was not able to reveal, even to her.

Lomax’s closest friend and also a former POW from the same camp located the interrogator that largely participated in his psychological and physical torture. His interrogator, Takashi Nagase, was living in Thailand and as part of his own personal atonement for participating in the war, had financed a Buddhist temple and museum near the bridge at the River Kwai where he gave tours. Lomax was determined to go to Thailand and kill him, but what ended up happening is an incredible story of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Owning Our Inner Freebird!

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Lomax ended up becoming good friends with Nagase, a man that lived in his head as his greatest enemy for 40 years. How is it, that something so extraordinary, can happen? This is the truth of our potential as human beings. To be able to recognize that ignorance can cause someone to act out wrongly and truly see that their ignorance was not their truth. To be able to reconcile with our enemy is the greatest gift we can give to our self, and will enable us to move beyond beliefs that keep us stationary in life. Freedom in our hearts, that “Free Bird” if you will (having visions of a papier mache bird on fire comically flying over the heads of memorial attendees in Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown here!) has the potential to take you to unimaginable heights. These heights are only determined by you, and your own purpose in life. It is up to each of us to question what brings us joy- even if that means being the “President of the United States?”

Time to Get Real

The idea of embracing our limitless potential is about getting real with ourselves. If you can’t look into the mirror and question yourself, “where am I putting up a big STOP sign in my heart,” then you will continue to experience limitations behind the inability to forgive. I do believe it exists, this limitless potential, but without one another we can’t get there. Each of us has a gift to give to the world, to one another- it just may not be what you “think” it is. Now then, let’s REALLY get real!

In Hope Let Freedom Be in All of This

Recommended Listening Soundtrack: All of This by The Naked and Famous

As I walked out the door to the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison. Nelson Mandela

Julian Assange. Chelsea Manning. Edward Snowden. Palestinians. Israelis. You. Me. Everyone. What do we all have in common? This question vexes me, and is one I have been unable to ignore since a run-in with one of my favorite songs, an interview on Democracy Now and the US’s most recent national holiday on the 4th of July.

When the song by The Soup Dragons titled I’m Free came out, me and 2 of my best friends with a new license to drive would whirl around town blaring that song over and over again (when I say over and over again, I really mean OVER AND OVER again). It was perfect teen Saturday night fodder that fed our perception of delusional freedom- or was it delusional? We bonded through that song, and I still love to pretend in my own delusional reality that this white girl can hang during the Reggae outburst toward the song’s end.

Waynes-WorldBest singing in car scene ever, courtesy of Wayne’s World!

As I was singing along to it again recently, it coincidentally fell upon my ears following the US’s national 4th of July holiday. A holiday that is supposed to be about celebrating “freedom.” And, as I later was listening to an interview with WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange the same day, I found myself confused at a clogged up intersection of questions and fate in my heart regarding this mythological word we use quite frequently, freedom. Personal freedom. Freedom of choice. Freedom of speech. Freedom of press. Freedom of expression. Our freedom. Their freedom. It all started a big racket in my head, with ideas and images honking at other ideas and images to just get out of the way!

photo from NPR story July 2nd 2013, Louise Gubb/CorbisNelson Mandela imprisoned, photo from NPR story July 2nd 2013, Louise Gubb/Corbis

After being imprisoned for 27 years, Nelson Mandela was quoted as saying, “As I walked out the door to the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”  This statement is so profound, as it points out that imprisonment is beyond our physical world, it starts in our mind, and ripples outward like a broken dam. Yet as I write this, I can hear in the back of my head a distinct argumentative voice blabbering on, “Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. We’ve all heard that before.” All of us are engaged in the same challenge of deciphering between the imprisonment of the mind’s demons, our past and what it means to not be a slave to our thoughts.

What a challenge. To coexist in a world of hatred and a need for love and human contact.   My younger self asks questions that really can’t be answered like, “Why does everything have to become so complicated?” As a teen, I was given the simple luxury of being able to drive around with my friends when I was in high school and sing along to a song like “I’m Free” by a group that actually, really called itself The Soup Dragons. And that memory will always make me laugh, and feel sad at the same time.

I had the option to question freedom and not worry that something could happen to me for speaking my mind or that someone would be listening to my telephone conversation and peg me as a troublemaker just because I questioned my government. But so many others don’t have the freedom to live in the naivety of the “teenage dream.” Many children and adults are still faced with painful challenges like, will their house still be standing by the end of the day or will they be kidnapped and even killed today because of a thousand year old belief system?

smileConclusion?  Our commonality outweighs the perception of “different.”  Toward the end of the Amy Goodman interview she asked Julian Assange, whose been living a life of his own imprisonment in the London Ecuadorian embassy, “What gives you hope?” He answered, “Well, hopefully the greatest legacy is still to come.” No matter what we believe, we can all choose to meet in that place of hope and be a part of that legacy. It’s making that choice instead of empowering the ego driven “need to be right” that holds the key to finding that freedom together.

But for now, I’ll just rock away to the Soup Dragons and envision what it will feel like when we can collectively cross our self-imprisonment border of bitterness and hatred, see ourselves in one another, and smile without hesitation that anything is possible.  “All of This” does not have to tear us apart.