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happiness

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Metamorphosis: Not Just for Caterpillars...

About a million years ago (or so it seems - I was still at school), I read "The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka. I did not really "get it." But then, I was young, just beginning my own evolution - which, decades later, is still ongoing (exactly as it should be).

"The Metamorphosis" is the story of an unhappy man, Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman who lives with his family and awakens one day to discover that he has transformed into an enormous beetle-like creature. To make a long and very peculiar story short, no one takes the change very well. They avoid him, they fear him, and they shun him. They do not speak to him. His voice and speech have changed; he speaks to them yet they do not understand him, nor do they try.

There are attempts to treat him as they did when he was in human form. There are attacks on his body. There is ridicule, there is weeping. There is persecution and a stubborn refusal to accept who he has become.

Eventually, Gregor's love for his family makes him see that they will never accept him for who he has become. He sees that his metamorphosis is only causing them pain, embarrassment and unhappiness. He is unable to leave his room, or leave their home. So in order to spare his family any more suffering, he crawls into his bed and dies.

It seems most peculiar to me that I did not understand this story when I read it so long ago, when in fact, I was living it then, and I'm still living it now. I suppose I took it too literally and couldn't work out why someone would write a story about a salesman who turned into a giant beetle.

Throughout much of my life, no one understood me, or bothered to try. But then, for many of those years, I did not understand myself either.

Thankfully, this changed a few decades ago when I embarked on an ongoing journey of self-discovery. I've reinvented myself several times, with the most dramatic changes occurring in the last several years. I'm blessed to have some people in my life who welcome and embrace those changes, and who understand them and appreciate them.

For decades, many people have judged me rather harshly for making those changes. They seemed unwilling - or perhaps unable - to understand me, or the changes I was making. And they didn't even want to try.

It is one thing to dislike or reject change in oneself or one's own environment. But it something else entirely to stubbornly refuse to accept change in someone else.

This is where the first cracks appear between people, as change can signal the impending death of a relationship, a friendship, or a business arrangement. How each of them accepts the change - or doesn't - will determine the outcome of their association.

Others see in us what they want to see. A mother sees her grown children as her babies. A father sees his married daughter as "Daddy's little girl." Adult siblings still see each other as the pains in the neck they remember as kids - and sometimes still rival for the attention and affection of their parents.

Although it may seem sweet and sentimental to cling to the past, and to former identities and relationships, it is not a healthy way to live. Change is inevitable. For some of us, there is a lot more of it than for others.

Like many others, I've had a fair number of extremely challenging experiences and circumstances throughout my life. They have allowed me to continue to grow, to learn and to evolve, like a snake shedding the skin it has outgrown. And by sharing what I've learned through my willingness to change, I'm able to assist others through their difficulties or their desire for transformation in their lives.

Think about that word for a moment. "Trans" means across or beyond - so "transform" is rather like "beyond the form". The entire form or structure of something has changed, like a metamorphosis, in which something goes from one state to a completely different one - eg. a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.

For people who are experiencing this kind of transformation, or metamorphosis, it is beautiful, empowering, and freeing. But for those who are left behind, it can be frightening and lonely unless they choose to understand or at least accept and acknowledge the evolution.

There are those people who will be able to do this. And there are those who will not. Some people are simply unable to comprehend such dramatic changes. It is not a flaw, not any more so than needing change is a flaw. It is just one of many differences between people.

It is one of the most difficult ones because it means some people move forward and into new situations, new lives, new ways of thinking - and some do not. When this happens, two people who were once traveling at a similar pace and in a similar direction are no longer even on the same road. One will have wandered off down a side road, taking a detour, disappearing into the trees on another path to discover Parts Unknown.

Change, evolution, transformation, metamorphosis...these are necessary for life to continue. At a very basic level, our cells die, and new ones are created all the time. If not for this, our bodies could not grow. Nor could they heal from damage or recover from illness.

But think about how we began - two tiny little cells that merged into one. And look at us now. If that isn't the most astonishing metamorphosis, I don't know what is. As I said earlier, if we didn't change, we'd still be sitting around, waiting for Thag to chisel a wheel out of a chunk of stone.

Change is a part of life. Greater change allows a greater life. And if you want to go the distance and transform your life, you must transform yourself. There may be people who throw themselves on the path, grab you by the ankles and try to hold you back. But if you allow this, you will not be happy.

It can be painful to leave those possessions, those places, or those people we love, and move forward in our lives. But sometimes it must be done if we are to pursue our own freedom, express our own individuality and uniqueness, and discover our own greatness.

And if everyone did that, just imagine what a magnificent world this would be...

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Love Does Not Conquer All

Yeah, I know there are millions of love songs and romantic films and stories about the greatest love that ever existed. And I know that when you're in love, you think it will last forever.

I know, too, how it feels to believe that your love is so strong, it can survive anything, will withstand anything, and that no matter how much you or your partner might change you will overcome any obstacle that is thrown at you.

I know - all too well - about making a promise to love each other "for better or worse" and most of the time, people really mean it when they say it.

But I also know - all too well - that sometimes love is simply not enough.

There are a couple of very important factors that contribute to this harsh reality. One is the emotional baggage that we carry with us. Another is change.

First, the emotional baggage. My goodness, the damage it can do...bad enough when we know what it is, but when we don't - when we haven't spent any real time discovering what makes us tick, and overcoming past wounds - we will unwittingly contaminate relationships, despite our best intentions.

This gets us in trouble with the "for better or worse" part of marriage. People seem to take this to mean, "I'll love you even if you abuse me. I'll love you if you betray me. I'll love you if you disrespect me, cheat on me, lie to me, violate me, do things behind my back that you know you shouldn't do."

Frankly, none of that kind of behaviour has anything to do with love. I think "for worse" means when we lose jobs, or there are financial troubles or someone wants to change careers and it means a lot of upheaval for the family. Or perhaps there's the offer of a transfer to another city - or country - and one person doesn't want to go. Nobody's right or wrong; there are just obstacles to be overcome.

To my mind, "For worse" refers to the curveballs in life. It should not mean intolerable, unacceptable, unloving behaviour that undermines the whole point and purpose of marriage. Even without the legal tie, or that specific promise, those behaviours are still unacceptable. They are not about love. They have nothing to do with how we should be treating the person we say we love above all others on the planet.

We like to think that loving someone and trying to make a relationship work in such circumstances will bring about positive change. But, when the other person repeatedly refuses to seek help or make an honest attempt to change his or her ways, you're wasting your time.

I've been in too many relationships that were like that, each of us with our own issues that contributed to an unhealthy situation, one of mine often being that I did not respect or value myself enough to stop accepting unacceptable behaviour.

Change is another potential serial killer of relationships. It slaughters couples, silently, over a long period of time, divergence gradually poisoning their happiness until it exists only in their memories. When there is nothing much to talk about, virtually no common ground, a shared dream, a meeting of the minds - and more importantly, no desire to find a way to make it work in spite of the differences - it is time to move on.

And what about a couple that starts out in the same, but then one person changes and grows away from it and into something different, perhaps even something contradictory and then the whole foundation for the relationship is threatened? Should that person be forced to pretend and carry on living a lie, feeling suffocated and unhappy? Or should the other person be forced to change, too, even if it doesn't fit or feel good? I'm sure many people have found a way to make this work. But what about the ones who haven't?

No matter how much people love one another, we are not put on this planet to compromise and suffocate ourselves, or to tolerate disrespect. We are meant to thrive and to be happy, not to stay tied to toxic situations because of love.

What about loving yourself enough to leave a relationship that is destructive? To my mind, that's about the only kind of love that can "conquer all." Self-love automatically means self-respect. Combined, these help us to find our power and inner strength. This is what allows us to become truly happy and fulfilled. It is in this fulfillment that we will find deep and rewarding happiness and accomplishment. And it's from this place that we can offer the most love.

It would be wonderful if love could be as easy as the songs and poems say it is, and if that's all it took to glue two people together and make them happy. But it's not and I've seen it up close and personal more times than I care to remember. I know how it feels to walk away from someone I loved very much because to do anything else would be self-destructive.

I had always believed that as long as I loved someone, I figured I was obliged to keep trying to make it work. Even through abusive and dysfunctional behaviour, I kept hoping, trusting and believing that somehow, love would be enough to make it better.

And then I had a profound realisation that changed everything. Loving someone is one thing. But that doesn't mean you have to stay with that person and keep trying to make things right. You do not have to continue to beat your head against a wall, attempting to resuscitate something that cannot (and should not) survive.

You're wasting your time. Because sadly, love does not conquer all.

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Delicious Bits

The smell of freshly mown grass. Or lilacs, roses or freesia. Or my favourite - star-gazer lilies. Their powerful scent is intoxicating and fills a room for several days.

Bread baking, or a spice cake full of ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Or rich chocolate brownies, warm and gooey just out of the oven.

A slice of lemon - oh, and eating the whole thing like an orange... yummmm... I know, it's not for everyone but my mouth waters every time I think of it. I love sour and am not keen on sweet except in small doses now and then.

Crisp, just barely ripe Macintosh or Granny Smith apples - oh, my... how I love them but they do not love me so I cannot eat them. But I do still love that delightfully fresh scent.

The crackling of a fire, quietly glowing and warming those near enough to enjoy its hypnotic dance. The silent drifting of huge, fat, fluffy flakes of snow, falling softly against a moonlit backdrop of winter.

The soft and sweet warmth of a little scrap of life in the form of a kitty, curled up and sleeping on my lap or nestled against my chest as I lie on my side...I miss this more than many things; it is not possible for me to have a kitty right now but I cuddle other people's kitties sometimes and let me pretend that they're mine.

Being curled up under a thick duvet in a darkened room, early in the morning and listening to the soft, steady sound of a summer rain lullaby. Pulling the duvet up a little higher, snuggling down a little deeper, knowing you can lie there as long as you want and listen to the sweet music outside...

Gazing at water, a lake with swans and geese gliding across it like tiny feathered sailboats. Watch them long enough and you become transfixed. Or an ocean, with beautiful waves gently rolling toward the shore, one after another, their rhythmic splashing against the sand the sweetest music you've ever heard.

The feel of your sleeping child's even breath kissing your neck as you hold that little person close, stroking silky soft hair and so filled with love you think you'll burst.

Warm sun on my skin, gentle, like a hug from the universe. Cheery little birds, going about their bird business as they chat and sing amongst themselves, decorating the air with pretty notes that drift and float. 

The sounds of certain words, especially Italian or Spanish words. They can make even the nastiest thing sound romantic, erotic, sensuous.  

Music. Sweet, sweet music.... found in words of love or the most tender caresses. Laughter, blissful smiles, a joyful heart singing a crystal clear, sparkling melody.

Hugs. Wonderful, squooshy, celebratory, passionate, warm, consoling, excited, I hurt more than I can stand it, I love you more than you know, I'm so happy to meet you, delicious hugs, hugs for every occasion, create an occasion to have a hug, have several and enjoy every perfect moment and let them heal your wounded soul.

Berries. Mmm, berries. Big, juicy strawberries, so sweet, and raspberries, or plump and perky little blueberries, bursting in your mouth.  

Water. Fresh, beautiful clear water, icy cold, life-giving, rejuvenating as it slides down your parched throat on a busy day, a dry day, a hot day - just any day.

Water. Hot, steaming, bubbling and scented as you slide your weary body into a huge tub and soak away all your troubles, your stresses, your aches and your pains. Thinking only of how wonderful it feels to lie there, in quiet candlelight as you rest a while.

Waking up and having been given another day. A glorious gift. Too precious for words. And the best way to acknowledge that gift is to spend as much of it in enjoyment and awareness of life's beauty and magic as you can manage.

They're everywhere.  All you have to do is notice.

 

Tigger Is My Hero

 "Hallooooooooo!" as my enthusiastic hero would say, whilst bouncing into the room on his spring-coiled tail.

If you haven't had the pleasure of 'meeting' Tigger, you don't know what you're missing.  He's one of the best role models on the planet.  He came bouncing (on his tail, coiled into a spring) into the Hundred Acre Wood one day, bringing with him a colourful burst of energy and a zest for life that Christopher Robin's friends had never seen before.  "I'm Tigger!" he announced.  "T- I- double-guh-err.  Tigger!"

He sums himself up quite well in the Tigger song... (Do yourself a favour and enjoy this delightful one minute video before reading further!)

One of Winnie-the-Pooh's best friends, Tigger is about as extroverted and cheerful as anyone can be.  Occasionally, there is one mishap or another because of his excessive enthusiasm, or his overly optimistic beliefs about what he can do - without ever having tried, and when he does, it often goes awry.

All the others who live with him in the Hundred Acre Wood have varying reactions to his boisterous bouncing.  Pooh is patient and tolerant of pretty much anyone and anything.  Easy-going and non-judgemental, he accepts Tigger for who he is, including his faults (and Tigger is not aware of any of them).

Always saying that Tigger is very large, Piglet is a little nervous in his presence (but then, he's always a little nervous about something).  He's never quite sure what Tigger is going to do next and worries that he'll cause some terrible disaster (because...well, it's a common occurrence!).

Roo looks up to Tigger with hero-worshipping adoration. Eeyore, as gloomy and depressed as anyone could be while still drawing breath, is quietly envious, wishing he could be as happy as Tigger but believing - and accepting - that misery is his lot in life.

And then there's Rabbit. Not all sweet and cuddly like you'd think someone called Rabbit should be. Oh, no. He's a curmudgeon of the first order. As curmudgeonly as they come. Short-tempered and irritable on his best days, he's got absolutely no patience for Tigger's enthusiasm and bouncing and is always telling him to go away, or stop bouncing, or both. But Tigger is oblivious to Rabbit's dislike of him. He carries on being his lovable Tigger Self, unaware that his effervescence is driving Rabbit over the edge.

One day, Tigger excitedly bounces his way through Rabbit's garden, accidentally ruining it while innocently being himself. Thoroughly fed up, Rabbit devises a plan to lose Tigger once and for all in the misty woods. But Rabbit is the one who ends up lost (and frightened - and with a lot to think about) when it is Tigger who rescues him "...because Tiggers never get lost!"

And aren't we lucky that they don't! Think of the Tiggers in your life. You know the ones. Those delightfully cheerful, ever-optimistic people who brighten up even the most miserably dark day, sometimes just with a few bubbly words and a big, broad smile. Or those playful, childlike people who love a good dose of silliness, and who do their best to make you giggle. How do they do it? How do they put on those big smiles and seem so genuinely happy all the time? Don't they have problems, too?

Of course they do. And Tigger does, too. He takes a lot of criticism and gets a lot of grief from his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood, and bad things happen to him, just as they do to his friends. But he's got a great attitude. If things ever get him down, he refuses to stay there. He chooses to look at the bright side, to focus on finding the joy in life, to see the good in all situations. He's a brilliant role model for children and adults alike.

Many of us could stand to be a lot more like Tigger. Personally speaking, I work at that every day.

And to that, my fuzzy striped hero would say, with his big Tigger smile, and an even bigger Tigger bounce, "Woo-hoo-hoo-HOOOOOOO!!"