My daughter said, “I’m reading a book you might like, it’s a love story, but written well.” I’m more into historical novels, but hey, why not read something “light” for a change? I’m in the first chapter and came across a great quote:
“But just look at all the fake smiles and sour faces
around here. I’m going to have to take a bath
with a wire brush to get all the negativity
off me when I leave.”
The author was referring to a mandated family party. But it could be any scenario. Back in the day when I was in leadership, I used to keep a role of duct tape on my desk. It had a great purpose for keeping myself sane. When someone would call or come into my office with petty complaints, I would just look at that duct tape and think, “It would only take 6 inches” [over their mouth] to SHUT THEM UP! Of course I never followed through, it was enough to think I could. When I taught leadership classes, I actually gave participants the chance to cut a piece of duct tape when they came in. There was much curiosity and then laughter when I explained how this common “tool” would be so useful to them.
How do you handle negativity, pettiness and, well your common complainer?
(An excerpt from “Moving Forward Through Life’s Shit Without Stinking! A Book About Learning to Smile Again” –Urbanski)
I have always loved antiques and even had a little store for a few years. There’s terminology in the antique world called “patina”. What patina means is that there are chips, cracks, bumps, bruises —- character marks that may give a greater beauty and value to a piece of art, collectible or furniture.
An antique piece can be refinished, or painted but the ones with patina, although marked, have incredible appeal. The piece with patina has withstood the test of time and may be ugly to some, unique to others, and have that “the perfect look” for someone’s decorating. Antiques with patina that have value are still functional. Sometimes people will invest quite a lot of money, knowing that a particular piece is one of quality; or, one of strength that will still be around for a long time to come. Patina is considered beautiful, valuable and appealing. Patina varies on furniture or a collectible, so each piece is one of a kind, although there may have been many like it in the past. Each piece is rare and has its own unique character and value. Patina is often loved and admired.
I like to think of people who have stood the test of time, no matter how young or old, to have the beauty of patina. Those extra character lines around your eyes, the silvering hair and wisdom from your experience can be thought of as life-patina. You are unique! You may have bumps, bruises and stories. You are a person of terrific value and you are stronger than you think. However, you might not yet know your strength and value. Possibly you have forgotten how wonderful you are!
There are many different characters that come into an antique store. Some customers want their purchases to be absolutely perfect. They examine each piece they are considering and even bring a loop with them (small magnifying glass). They have high expectations for their purchase and regard anything with the slightest mark as worthless.
Then there are people who understand that a small scratch can be easily hidden, turned or simply dealt with. They know they are getting a great quality piece at a reasonable discount. They understand and work with the piece.
The crafters and re-purposers are fun. They look at items and see something different for their future, with hammers, paint and a bit of vision they can re-create something incredibly beautiful for their home or to sell again at a profit.
The Patina folk just love stuff for what it is.
The antique store is a great analogy for relationships. There are people who will never understand what you’ve been through, how many years you’ve suffered. They don’t get why you’re still mourning or have PTSD. All they want is their definition of how your life, your emotions, your decisions should be. They want you to be perfect by their definition alone. They aren’t bad people, but they can be pretty hoity-toity about you. They don’t take into account that you were dropped, bumped into or broken. They don’t mean to be an ass, but they can’t help themselves. Take this into account. They simply can’t understand. It is impossible for them. When you are forced to deal with them, try to let them walk around the store, let them pass over the stuff they just can’t handle and then walk away. At the same time, know you will never change them, they are who they are, don’t be offended by their (unreasonable) expectations.
At the same time, when they express their dislike for something, be brave! Politely let them know that all things are not perfect, some people have scratches, marks and bruises that others can appreciate. Be proud of who you are. Each thing that has caused some imperfection in their eyes has not defeated you. You are still standing, breathing, surviving. You are of great value . . . too bad they can’t see that, but don’t you dare allow them to let you think you’re something less-than! Let them walk away . . .
Then there are people like the customers who understand that there are pieces in the store that will have great appreciation for the artistry and craftsmanship that antiques offer. They simply accept the fact that there might be some “flaws” but know you are very strong, they will love you for the fact that you’re still able to function. They might not be able to handle the deep wounds, but they can still be great to be around. When they receive life-wounds, you are the one they will come and sit with and find comfort.
The Crafters and Re-purposers can see a beautiful future for you! Their visionary abilities are so refreshing, and they can help you to realize that you need to stop dressing like shit because you feel that way. They will encourage you to get out, and to re-adjust to the new life-situation. They will show you something you are unable to see yourself. It doesn’t change what happened in the past, good and bad. They help you to take that broken part and use it in a different way. They help you to freshen up, or maybe even try something you never have tried before. They are fun, they push you to your limit.
When I re-purpose a piece of furniture, for instance, I sound like a freak when I say, “It has to speak to me.” I carefully observe the lines, the current structure and possibilities of what it can become. I enhance the beauty and burn what becomes totally unusable. Sometimes a piano becomes a shelf, a press-back chair becomes a necklace. I know, but it’s what she told me she wanted to be! —I just helped her realize that! I’ll be the first to admit, sometimes re-purposers can get out of hand. Be open to their suggestions, but don’t let them push you into something that you don’t want. Let them help you enhance who you are. Let them give you suggestions that allow you to enjoy life again, to think about the future in a new way so you can enhance the wonderful things about you and have the bravery to throw the broken, hurtful bruised up nasty parts into the fire! Did you know that the Ancient Greek word, katharsis, means purification or cleansing came from fire? Maybe it’s time to light a candle, and ceremonially throw some things in the fire. Then allow your repurposing crazy life crafters help you rebuild yourself without all that crap holding you back.
Lovers of patina. They simply take it as it is, and so can you! Wear those scratches, cracks and bruises proudly. They give you character. They were difficult to receive but have helped to make you the strong survivor of life that you are! Put yourself in a prominent room of the house and allow people to marvel at your strength, tenacity and ability to still be so beautiful!!!! How can I say that . . .? Because you are!
Look around! Appreciate the beauty, the smiles, and even the Spirit of Christmas outside of retail. It seems that there is a movement today, at least here in America, from many different aspects to look for (and sometimes create) a very negatively based existence. Stop! Smell the roses, not the dog shit. Life is not fair, never was, never will be.
I believe that we are at a turning point in history where we are teaching children to have a victim mentality rather than be hopeful. People are wearing themselves out worrying about trivial little issues that actually do not make us more aware of the suffering of others, but overwhelm us to the point where were can’t see real suffering due to the vast ocean of pettiness before us.
Let’s be grateful to be on a wall (for now) and love the view.
There will be enough time for (real) shit to deal with.
Please don’t be offended if you are going through your own personal pile of shit right now. My hope is that if the world would stop obsessing over the small stuff, so that your big stuff will actually be seen.
Early in the morning, before the crickets begin to sing, silence calls me. The sky is dark, no distractions, no cries, no pressure other than the coffee cup by my side. The world is still asleep and not ready for the noise of the day. I can begin to hear my own thoughts, or sit and do nothing without boredom.
Somehow there is a naive peace in this silence. Possibly it is the world calling out for the voices to be stilled. Why is it so strange that the “natural” silent noise of the earth seems so unusual. We are so used to noise in this generation that I wonder if we are able to hear anything at all. Silence scares us, why?
Why did I not wake up earlier? I now begin to hear the low roar of the Hwy 101 bypass, soon the beeps, the vibrations and voices will overtake this unnatural natural peace. A new day is here to work, to play and to love. The silence reminds me to choose what noise I listen to. The silence reminds me the world doesn’t need to be so loud. Even in a crowd I listen for the voice of silence, she is not far away. Eventually she will quiet the anger and stress, that consumes our attentions. It is good to remember that our noise is temporary. The silence of the earth will live on long after our noise is done . . . maybe we can find peace if we would only learn to listen.
I’m simply intimidated by numbers. Those numbers are 911. Last Tuesday I was all ready to start a pithy little blog about this watermelon I cut. I noticed there was a heart shape in the cut, so I took a photo. As I was writing a short blog with a message something like, “How can you not be positive after cutting into a watermelon and finding a heart?” I looked down at the date. 9.11.18. I found that anything I tried to write fell short of inappropriate, maybe even stupid on this particular day.
I also had a very weird intuition about that Bitch in the Atlantic, Florence. Why intuition? Why did you have to be right this time? I’ve come to trust intuition —-sometimes it’s helpful, other times, you just wish it was wronger than wrong.
Considering positivity, one must acknowledge there are times of serious remembrance and fearful anticipation in the world. Additionally, when that anticipation becomes reality, a sense of empathy for the suffering and loss in the aftermath is in order. Sweet little stories need to be quiet. There are reasons to be less than positive aren’t there? At the same time, I constantly wonder, thus this blog, why look for and embrace the negative? How has it become good marketing technique to emphasize negativity? There are enough things that happen in life that make me want to quote something from the book, “Alexander’s Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” without the constant barrage of negative marketing.
When crisis occur whether that be world, national, weather related or at home, there is nothing positive about it. However, our response can be.
I’ll write about 911 in “Numbers” (Part 2). However for today, let me tackle flooding.
I’ve lived in Central Pennsylvania since 1995. For a Jersey Girl, it was quite surprising to me that there would be a great problem with flooding in the mountains. Yet, creeks rise, run-off happens and, wow! I’ve seen homes destroyed again and again. The Red Cross, churches and civic groups all collect much needed funds to help the victims of flooding. Yet, what I have found to be even more rewarding is volunteering. Whether it be along the Susquehanna River in Shickshinny, or a helping a year after the flood in a town up high in the mountains, help is needed. Often by folks who fall between the cracks where assistance is granted. Or something as terrible as Hurricane Sandy, or now Florence, getting involved with clean up, rebuilding walls and helping those who just happened to be in the path of something awful is incredibly helpful and personally rewarding.
The urgent aftermath is daunting, but trust me in months, even a couple of years from now, people will still be picking up the pieces of their lives and homes. When I was working with Penn State students we did quite a few trips to help others that were affected by devastating storms. What we found was very grateful recipients of our attempts to help. What I also found was a great sense of humanity at it’s finest. I saw students that never picked up a hammer before helping to stud-out a room. I saw others climb under crawl spaces in what looked like space suits pulling insulation out of the floor joists of a home that had been flooded (6 months after the storm). The results were wonderful. A sense of pride in a job well done. Statements like, “I never thought I’d ever do anything like this!” or, “I can’t wait to tell my Mom!”
I think anyone would agree with me that there is nothing positive about any crisis. Nothing. However, our caring response is priceless. Knowing there will be folks that will give of themselves in coming months and years to help gives me reason to celebrate humanity. Looking at first-responders risking themselves for others is the beginning. However, I see those who will be last-responders too. There are many unsung heroes who will respond to crisis in very practical and helpful ways. For this I’m grateful.
When I think of these good things that will happen in the near and far future in response to crisis, my heart is full. (Maybe a heart in my watermelon isn’t inappropriate after all).
Today’s blog is in response to a request. “Karen, can you write about change?” Oh my, change, no matter what the change is can bring different responses. Change can bring great joy, ambiguity or great stress. Even change that we ask for can cause us to be unsure, afraid, and excited all at the same time. Change is usually coupled with new responsibilities and differences which can be hard to identify at first.
When we experience changes in our lives, some are greeted with a sense of relief. Only you know those times in your life when things were tough and you made a decision to do something about it. Possibly you threw your hands in the air and said, “Enough is enough!” I have made the decision that this will not happen anymore and you became the catalyst for change. As much as you know this was necessary, there were more questions than answers, more mystery than common stability.
Oftentimes change surprises us. The event may be celebratory or filled with grief. But, no matter what, we are different afterwards. How can I write about the essence of change? Because, like every other human being, I’ve experienced it too. Over and over, some change was welcome, some vilified. I think the ability to handle life-change may have a lot to do with our personality type or possibly how we were raised and our life experiences. However, I do know we all handle it differently. I’ve taken many classes to learn about life change. I’ve had my own life experience, and have also helped others to either welcome or learn to live through change. I don’t much appreciate it when there is an expectation that everyone will respond to the same thing similarly. None of us truly knows all the dynamics that bring us to today and today’s response, or for that matter the thought of tomorrow.
For me, most change is welcome. I have always signed letters and now this blog, “Enjoying the Adventure!” Rather than think of change as imposing it’s way upon me, I look ahead wondering, “What’s next?” Therefore, when change occurs, I’m more likely to embrace it. Although, there are some very serious instances where I just wanted to tuck my proverbial tail between my legs, shiver, hide under the carpet and hope that I would wake up only to find that I was having a nightmare. I’d be a fool to pretend that all change has been welcomed and it would be deceiving to write in such a way.
Let me give an illustration through a gift I recently received. While away last weekend, we had the opportunity to watch a demonstration of a tree being sliced into slats of wood. It was a poplar tree. The event was amazing to me as I have been a woodworker most of my adult life. The tree itself had a very light colored wood, not a whole lot of character, other than a knot in the wood every now and then. It is pretty, and it could certainly make a nice piece of furniture but not extraordinary.
Then the next slice was made. The stunning piece of wood hidden deep inside this tree was so fantastic that they stopped the demonstration so that the folks gathered could walk up and see it’s beauty. I am an observer of people and what I noticed is that after about a half hour of gazing at what had been hidden by the mundane, the people were in true community. They were talking about the beauty of this wood, then conversations evolved. The people were talking and laughing together, some knew each other well, others were total strangers, but this revelation of beauty brought peace in the woods that day. There was beauty within that we all enjoyed and were touched by. May I remind you that this beauty was revealed by a huge band saw cutting 2 inch slices into this tree? Is it even remotely possible that our life band saws cutting into our ordinary stable lives may feel quite painful, but also have the opportunity to bring about something incredibly beautiful?
Please take a look at the board pictured above.
Now, let me reveal what the next slice (The other side of the above board) revealed.
How can something with such nice, but not extraordinary character have such beauty so close, so hidden. This basically white board had deep mahogany, purple, gold and gray colors. Somehow that basic pattern of wood became one of the most unique and beautiful specimens I have ever encountered. I feel so privileged that it was given to me as a gift. When I make something with it, (I’m not quite sure what yet) I think that it will have to be displayed in such a way to see both sides to remind me that there may be incredible beauty hidden in the most surprising places.
So, what about change? It happens. If we think that all will remain “as is” we kid ourselves. Sometimes change brings great pain and grief. Even that pain can be something we look back on and say, “Wow! If I only knew that it would lead me to where I am now!” If we walk in the reality that we know change, good and bad, will come so that we are not surprised by it
, we may be more able to accept and possibly even walk through even the most difficult change knowing that we can do it! We can adjust! We can find our lives rich and full once again.
I hope that as you experience change that you can look forward, find peace and yes, know it will visit us again.