Monthly Archives: April 2014

The difference between Needing and Wanting.

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I really enjoy the work that I do. It is a balance between meeting with people in person that have mental health or addiction issues; and doing things behind the scenes. I also get to do a lot of training and teaching others, which I also enjoy. And, my work place is one of many examples in my life, where I have gotten to distinguish between having a want, and having a need.

I have always loved to be needed by others. Being available to someone fully felt like the right way to be, whether as a social worker or a partner. I felt intensely that I needed to be needed, that it helped me to define who I was in the world. As a social worker, if I was needed, desperately, then I would always have to be at work, or otherwise my work would not be done as well. I had to be the one to conduct a training on a certain topic, because certainly I was the only one that could do it right. Same in my personal relationships; I loved for those around me to have a need for me to be around, to take care of them. I needed to be needed by others.

When I focus on needing something in my life, it is a real desperation. When something in my life is seen as a need, rather than a want, I feel myself desperate if I don’t fulfill that need. I feel lost if those around me can function without me doing something for them; I don’t see my identity as anything other than the person who has to be there for someone, because it is what I do. There is a sense of clutching onto something out of fear of the unknown. There is also an arrogance to it all; that I am the only one that can take care of what needs to be done.

What I enjoy much more is the focus of wanting something. When I express something as a want, rather than a need, I am embracing my choice. I get to say Yes, or No, in a powerful way. Just listen to the difference of “I need to go to work”, and “I want to go to work”. There is no freedom in the need. When I say that I need to do something, I immediately feel like my freedom of choice is gone; there is most likely some form of guilt lingering behind the scenes, that will grow as I cater to that as a need.

When I say clearly what I want in my life, I am open. I am calling it into myself by declaring it. When I focus on something as a need, I am closed, and clutching myself, and desperate for my life to stay a certain way, rather than being open to change, opportunity and magic. When I state my desires as wants, rather than needs, I am saying yes to my life.

It is a way to declare who I Am in the world.

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Guilt, Freedom, and Peace.

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Over that last two or three years, there are many different ways in which I have gotten to know myself better, and ways in which I have learned to be more kind and loving toward myself. One of the biggest ways in which I have loved myself more, is by learning to let go of guilt.

Guilt is a real imprisonment when we grip onto it, for whatever our reasons are that we think make sense. The big, juicy guilt triggers for me are food, alcohol, family, parenting. With food, my guilt is not only about the amount of food I eat, but what I choose. I love to guilt myself the most about chips, fried foods, and desserts. Alcohol? Well, that just speaks for itself; the desire to drink, and to become impaired, leaves traces of guilt all around, especially when I consider spending three years in AA. My favorite guilt trips I like to take in relation to family and motherhood, are related to spending enough time with family members, staying in touch with them or not, and whether I am parenting my daughter in the right way. The guilts are all just lying in wait for me, when they seem most appropriate to call up.

I still have my share of guilt ridden moments in my mind, although the frequency has been reduced a great deal in my life in the last few years. I have discovered, gratefully, that holding onto guilt destroys my soul, and never allows me to look at myself, or others for that matter, with a heart open with love. When I seize myself up with guilt, about what I consume or who I am with, or with any other version of guilt, I am definitely not loving myself. And, I am more likely to judge the world around me, and the people in it, more harshly. So, if my flavor of guilt today is one related to the foods I am eating, it is a sure fire guarantee that any person around me who seems to be eating in a similar way will be judged.

Guilt creates a prison of sorts for me, that when I am in it, I find it hard to see the light on the other side. I use it to stay trapped in a loop of self loathing and judgment, toward myself and others. So, in my ability to let go of guilt, more and more in my life, I am finding such a feeling of freedom. When I stop feeling guilty about enjoying foods of any kind, having a couple of glasses of wine, or not calling my family members or friends, I am free to enjoy whatever it is I am partaking in. I am free to love myself, just as I am.

There has been a part of me in the past that believed that guilt was the self imposed way to keep myself from just going completely over the edge, and drinking wildly, eating rich foods every day, and isolating myself from the world at large. I saw guilt as a way to keep my wild behaviors in check. I know now that is just a myth that doesn’t really exist, and guilt doesn’t do anything to build me up; it is meant to destroy anything that is alive, spontaneous and in the moment.

I used to think that my purpose on this earth was to live in, and help to pass along love in the world. That is there for me, for sure. However, I believe even more deeply than that, that I am here to let go of guilt, love myself more deeply, and to be peaceful. Because on the other side of guilt, there is always freedom and peace.

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I Knew before I Knew.

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I can remember being a teenager, maybe 13 or 14 years old. I started getting deeply in tune with my Native American heritage. At that time, all that I really knew was that we were Creek Indian, and that it was a southeastern tribe. I enjoyed buying books that were about various aspects of Indian history. I enjoyed looking at the faces of the old Indian warriors, and chiefs, and reading their words of wisdom and reflection. When I looked into those faces, I saw a story that I told myself, which included pain, sorrow, and pride. I also saw such beauty in those photos, long hair, beautiful dark skin and outfits that I wished I had. I enjoyed having jewelry that had turquoise in it, silver that shimmered. I wanted to own a pair of moccasins.

As I got older, that heritage and its importance in my life stayed with me. I felt curious at various times about all aspects of my family’s history, yet the Native American roots felt most deep and true to me. I have always loved nature; I have always felt close with animal beings as well as humans, and enjoy being by the water, walking through the woods, and having my bare feet on the earth. More recently in my life, I have also enjoyed gardening, being out in the world, and walking in silence in the beauty of nature. I cherish Mother Earth and all that She offers up to me on a daily basis.

Back in my teens, the importance of my Native heritage seemed to be mostly because I knew it was part of where I came from. But even then, the depth of the meaning that it held for me was somewhere within.

Today, when I describe myself as a spiritual being, or what it is that I believe in terms of a power greater than my own, I often relate it to my Native roots. Whether it is the power of drumming and how it elicits such strong feelings within, or being by the water and taking in the beauty of it all. Or, even the omnipotence of the world that goes to sleep every fall, and reawakens each spring. I know that I don’t have to go far from whence I came, to know what it is that I believe.

And, I know now that I even knew back then, at the age of 14, that it was more than my lineage. Before I knew how connected I am to the earth, sky, and living creatures around me, I knew that there was something significant, special and deeply meaningful waiting for me within it. As I grow older, and hopefully wiser, my connection to my roots, and my spiritual path, will always bring me back to my Native heritage.

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Passion.

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Ever since I wrote a career paper in high school, or maybe even junior high school, I have wanted to be a social worker. When I was fourteen, that meant helping other people that needed my help, because they couldn’t do it for themselves. When I was in my undergraduate classes, I learned that social work meant to assist others in learning how to help themselves, empowering them to do it on their own. Since that time, right up to now, I have believed on and off that I have the answers for someone else, and that I want them to be able to sustain themselves, without my assistance.

The one thing that was always present, however, has been passion. Passion for the work, and passion for the right for persons to be able to live a life that is happy, free and secure. My passion has taught me how to be a fierce advocate; an open spokesperson; and a person committed to justice and equity. It has meant many nights crying about what I was not able to do; about what didn’t turn out the way that I had hoped. It has also meant moments of tremendous joy, and promise, and above all, hope for a better life for persons that I was helping, and a better world for all of us.

Today, it was no exception. I arrived at my job, full of promise of a new day; ready to take on any situation that I might face whether it be a challenge or one that came with ease. Just as I was ready to leave for the day, I got a phone call, from a parent that was distraught over something that she had been told about her child. I listened. I explained. I empathized and offered encouragement, and assured her that I would get her the answers that she needed. And, when I hung up, I felt spent. Tired. Discouraged. I felt like no one was listening to this person in the “system” that she saw herself up against, and I was her voice.

I love being an advocate. I love being the voice for those that aren’t ready to speak for themselves. I desire truth and demand it of myself and others. Yet, I get tired. I get judgmental. Not too long ago, I would have been judging that parent for not taking “proper” care of her child, rather than today, judging the system that was giving her bad information. So, today I judged the system instead. I cried. I learned some valuable lessons about the persons that I serve, that I support, and that no one of them, whether they are in the system, or a family, or a co worker, are no different than myself. We are all trying to figure it out, asking the questions, getting the answers, fighting the good fight. Today, I understand yet again, how important it is for me to speak up, but also to remember that we are all in this. Whether we are representing the person who is oppressed, the oppressor, or a bystander, we are all learning. We are all trying. We are all only ever putting forth our best effort.

And tomorrow, I will wake up, ready for the day, and full of passion to go at it all again. And, if the day comes that the passion is gone, then I know it is time for me to go.

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We have the answers.

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Almost every day, at least when I feel inspired to do so, I draw a Native American medicine card. The cards have various animal or other creature beings on them, and each one represents a message or a reminder that I need to hear from the Universe. Sometimes, it is about letting go, or preparing for big change. Sometimes it is about letting go of arrogance, or the universality of us all.

Yesterday, I drew the Bear card. The card for Bear can mean many things, but there were two that struck me the most. One, is that I need to know my boundaries, and clearly say yes and no to things. The bigger lesson for me yesterday, is that it also represents introspection, and that in order to find the answers, we need to go into the Silence.

Just as the bear hibernates for the winter, so do we as human beings need to go into a type of silence in order to process what it is we need to do. This may sound simple to some of you, and impossible to others. There were two main revelations that came to me from drawing this card yesterday. Mind you, I have drawn this card several times before. Yet yesterday was the day that these particular lessons came to me.

First, it is not an easy thing to get our minds quiet, or better yet, to seek the quiet. At least not when we are not accustomed to it. My mind is often full of busy talk, lots of thoughts and worries that keep me so distracted, that I don’t have to deal with or feel ANYTHING. Yet, over time, I have been so excited to allow my mind to get quiet, and take advantage of times when I don’t have much going on in my life, and to actually create that kind of time. Every morning, before I leave for work, Brenda and I spend about an hour just reading, having coffee, and talking about various life circumstances and issues. And, we spend some of that time in quiet, just being with one another. It is one of the most powerful ways in which I start my day. We live in a noisy world, so to seek out quiet time intentionally can be quite a task; yet very freeing in so many ways.

The other revelation for me with my Bear card, is that even when we don’t believe it is true, EVERY answer for every issue lies within us. I know, I have sought counsel through various books, shows, speakers, and gurus of sorts. I have learned many good things, many things that have served me well over time. Yet the real story is, that even without my medicine cards, I know the answer to every life question within myself. Of course, I don’t believe that at times, and look outside of me. But, when I really get quiet, go within, and listen to what it is that I really want, need and desire, I find the answer waiting for me like a flower ready to bloom.

Isn’t is so much more comforting to know, that we need only give ourselves the time, and space, and quiet, to get to where it is we need to be? Please let this be a reminder, to each of us, that we all have within us the ability to answer every question, and to fulfill every dream and desire. We simply have to go the quiet, and deeply listen.

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