Dull Your Sparkle

Have you ever noticed when you meet new people, start a new job, or go into a new situation, you try to tone down your personality? I know I do. I am often quiet, dress “normal” and try to be as bland vanilla as I can. It is only after I know people for awhile that my sparkle starts to break through and people get to see the “real me” – sparkle and all.

I’m normally a very talkative, sarcastic, and opinionated person. I am not one to bite my tongue or agree for the sake of agreeing. I do like to keep peace or find middle ground. But I am not willing to go against my own grain just to fit in. Which isn’t always been. I desperately wanted to fit in when I was little, and especially in middle school. I watch my youngest son struggle in 6th grade to find his niche. To find a way to fit in and yet still be himself. And it’s a little sad for me. He is a wonderful kid. He loves to make bad jokes, talk Minecraft, and laugh. He is fascinated by tons of subjects and loves to talk. He talks over his age because he has an awesome vocabulary. Which to me is a good thing. But apparently it is not so good to kids his age. So I hear him try to use the slang he hears the other kids use. Not always successfully. But it is amusing in a sad way.

I think it was about 5 years ago when I stopped really caring what other people thought of me. But I’m also getting up there in years. I dyed my hair blue, let my sparkle shine, and stopped worrying who knew I was a Pagan. I started talking about my beliefs, my opinions, and my life. I stopped worrying so much about what people would think or say about me. Because “those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter”. My youngest son told me one day “Mom, I’m so glad you are so brave.” I asked him what made me so brave, as I was simply sitting at the table doing bills. Now I realize that trying to manage our bills with our income is akin to slaying dragons, I didn’t consider it brave. So he told me “You must be brave to go out each day with blue hair and not care what people say”. Hmm, I guess to him it was a pretty amazing thing. I personally just considered it part of being me.

The saddest part to me is that I had to wait until i was almost 50 to sparkle. I know not everyone worries about fitting in. I also know that there are many who sparkle all the time. But for many of us it is a struggle to balance letting their light shine and not blinding those around us. At least not before they know us. We are not an accepting society. We as a whole are judgmental and critical of others. Especially as children. Elementary and Middle school can be cruel and harsh times for kids. Not that high school is a cake walk. How do we teach our kids to accept others and let their own light shine? I guess it starts with adults who are comfortable enough to let their own personality sparkle.

Remembrance

Usually on 9/11 I try to remember. I try to remember those who lost their lives, those who gave their lives trying to save others, those who survived. I don’t try to figure out why it happened, hate those who did this or figure out whether our government was involved. I don’t try to fear if it is going to happen again. I use the day to be grateful for those I have in my life who I love. I try to look at the world around me and feel blessed.

Yesterday I was working my 15 hour shift at work. It is a long, challenging day in my work week and I have a lot of paperwork to do. The kids I work with keep me very busy and don’t allow a lot of time for reflection. My day starts at 6am and often doesn’t end until after midnight. But each time I wrote the 9/11 date on a piece of my paperwork I remembered again what day it was. It seems so long ago. Another place, another time, almost a whole other life. Lots of things have changed in my life and I don’t really think I’m the same person I was on that day. But one thing has not changed. I still have many people in my life who I love and hold close.

I try to avoid going on the social media sites and sifting through all the postings that happen on 9/11. All the pictures, videos and comments. Not because they don’t matter, but because I always end up crying. But I have noticed something – they seem to be fewer and fewer each passing year. We remember – how could we forget? But what do we remember? Has it just become a day to mark on our calendar? Another day when we honor those who were heroes? How many of us truly stop and remember. Stop and think about that day. Stop and replay the happenings in our head and in our hearts and truly feel grateful for our loved ones, our lives, and our safety? I’m not saying we should spend the day wallowing in sorrow or grief. Although I’m sure there are some who do feel the lose, the pain strongly. Those who lost someone close to them. Those who were touched directly. My heart does go out to those who did. I am sure the pain is still there.

But ask yourself – did you remember yesterday? Did you take any time to stop and reflect upon your life, your blessings, your loved ones? Since I didn’t get the chance yesterday, I decided to stop today and take some time to reflect back and think about my life. And remember that I am a truly lucky person. I have my family, my life, my job. I am able to reach out and hug my kids, tell my parents I love them, spend time with friends and family. Not everyone can say the same. So while the fear may fade, the posts may get fewer, and some may forget, I remember. Do you remember?

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

I have often lived my life thinking, when we get ahead on the bills. Or when things calm down. Or even when I have time. So I put a lot of things off. I planned them only to see them collapse when life happened. It has meant a lot of missed opportunities for life experiences. It has meant a lot of times when I wanted to do things and didn’t. It’s not exactly regret. I try not to live regretting things. But it does mean I have missed a lot of chances to do things I really wanted to do.

Some of it is responsibility. I had my first child when I was 20. As a single parent I had to work, had to support us, and didn’t have the freedom to take big risks or blow some things off. And now, I have 3 kids, two of them grown and one still at home. So I still have other lives depending on me, so it’s not quite possible to throw chance to the wind and do as I want. No living in a camper traveling the world…yet.

But I have also learned that if I keep putting things off and waiting for the right time, the right chance, the right whatever – I’ll end up dying with all of these should haves and could haves. The will have dangled just on the horizon of my vision with me sighing and wishing I could go there, do that, have that. So maybe the time is now, maybe I should do it now, go there now, get it now.

What I want to see and do has also changed. I have found that over time, I have wanted less “things” and wanted more experiences. I have come to treasure time more than items. I want more experiences to do more things than I want to own more stuff. But time is the one thing I can’t replace. I can’t go to the store and buy a few more years. I can’t set back my watch and get back some time I wasted. So maybe it’s time to slide down off the rainbow and start doing some of these things rather than waiting for the right time to do them. Because once my time is gone, there is no getting it back.

Paying It Backwards

I hear a lot about “paying it forward” or the idea that when someone does something nice for you, you should move along and do something nice for someone else. That’s an awesome way to spread good will and do good deeds. I strongly believe in doing random acts of kindness. You never know when you can make someone’s day with just a simple kindness. The world needs more of that.

But what about paying it backwards. Think back over your life. Think of all the people who helped you and helped make you the way you are today. There are the obvious people – your family, your parents, your friends. I hope that I have thanked all of them for all the love and support they have offered me in my life. They really helped me become the person I am today. The people I am talking about are the ones who didn’t know you and helped you or the people that passed out of your life. There have been complete strangers who have helped me when they didn’t have to and I never got a chance to thank them or return the favor.

I remember once when I had my first child – she was only like a year old. I had an old beat up car that I drove. I was driving from Virginia up to Pittsburgh and the car was having issues. I was on the side of the road, in the dark, with a young child. I had no clue what was going on with it. This was the days before cell phones. A trucker pulled over and got out. I was nervous as this tall dark man walked towards me. But he told me they called him the “Chocolate Snowman” as his handle. He looked at my car, fixed it, and then asked where I was going. When I said Pittsburgh, he said “so am I. Get in front of me and I’ll follow you in”. He did. He even pulled off with me when I had to make pit stops. He made sure I made it to the exit I needed safely. But I never got to thank him properly for making sure me and my daughter made it safe.

I also had an English teacher who taught me as much about myself as he did the subject. He was an amazing teacher who I absolutely couldn’t stand in school. As I got older I was able to appreciate not only what he did, but how he did it. He really changed my life. Unfortunately, when I had a chance to go back and thank him for what he did, he was gone. I was very disappointed that I never got a chance to go back and let him know that I finally got it. I understood what it was he was saying and doing, why he was such a jerk.

There have been many people in my life who have done small and big things to help me along the way. I have never gotten to return the favor. I sometimes wish I could pay it backwards, go back and do something nice for those people who helped me so much. But I have also learned that going back is often difficult or impossible. Maybe that’s because we aren’t suppose to go back. Maybe we are suppose to pay it forward and not backwards. I can only hope that somewhere in their lives someone did a great kindness to them that they were not expecting. Maybe that’s how the universe balances things out. I do know that all the stories of hate and anger and fear that I see these days, I sometimes stop and think of all the people who did a great kindness for me. It reminds me that there is a lot of people out there willing to do for others, help others, and lift others up. And often do it with no thought of payment or reward, because sometimes you just can’t pay it backwards.

Just the Way You Are

Do you ever wish that you could step outside yourself and see you how other people see you? I mean, it’s impossible to really see yourself as others see you. You can only have one point of view – your own. And that is influenced by everything you have experienced in your life. So there is no way to do it. But at some point in time everyone worries about it. Whether it’s as a little kid or a self-conscious teenager. Even as adults many people worry about what other people think about them.

So yeah, often times I wonder about how others see me. I have had some surprising moments where people tell me that they think something about me – like what an extrovert I am (I’m not!). Another time someone told me I was too intimidating?? I was amazed at that one since I think I’m very easy going and friendly. But, I have no way of knowing what they are seeing in me. Maybe somewhere in their life they had someone who looked like me or sounded like me and they were intimidated by them, so when they see me they are intimidated.

And you never know when something about you is going to strike a cord in someone else. It doesn’t even really have to be something you say or do. I had one child that seemed to warm up to me very quickly. They wanted to sit by me, hold my hand and came to me when they were upset. Then one day they told me that I reminded them of their mother. I asked if I looked like her and they shook their head no and seemed to think about it for a minute. Then they responded “You smell like her”. Hm, okay. I guess that’s a good thing. Saying I smell doesn’t have to be a bad thing LOL. Perhaps I wore the same perfume or used the same deodorant. But for whatever reason, I reminded him of his mother. You never know what is going to trigger something in someone else. Have you ever met someone who had the same name as someone you hated in your past? You don’t want to associate them with that person – but in some ways you do. Even if it is to not trust them right away. Associations in your brain is how  we learn. So your brain is constantly trying to make those associations. But it can also reason, so while it may first associate the person with the one you hated – as you get to know the person, if they are a good person, your brain will reason that this association isn’t valid.

Wanting to understand how people see you and where you fit into the world is something everyone wants to do at some point. Understanding yourself and your own self image is something many people struggle with. I know I use to worry all the time about what people thought or how I came across to other people. I was very self-conscious. It was very stressful worrying about what other people thought. So, I gave up doing it. I really just kind of stopped caring what other people thought. I adopted the saying I use often – those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. I dyed my hair blue. I started speaking up at meetings. I stopped apologizing for everything I said and did. I stopped living as if I was an inconvenience to people. I started living like my opinions and thoughts mattered.

Now maybe sometimes I go a bit over board. I can now be a little loud, a bit pushy, and if some are to be believed – I can be loud and obnoxious. But. Honestly, after living over half my life as a scared door mat, I think I’d vote for loud and obnoxious. It’s more fun.

You Should Be….

Every day we are bombarded with being told how we should feel, what we should think, what we should do, how we should vote. The media – from the news, to the radio, to the social media, to our friends, to our family. You should be afraid, you should be ashamed, you should vote for (Blank). There are constantly people trying to tell you how you should think, feel, and act. They are great at telling you what products you should buy, how you should spend your money, save your money.

Wow, with all these people coming at us constantly, it can get hard to decide what to do, how to think, and how to feel. We can easily be influenced, even when we don’t realize it. We can pick up on how others are feeling and feel the same way. Fear and anger can be spread like a wildfire. The media amps up a story, whipping people into a frenzy, making them angry and afraid for whatever and then moves on to the next story. Social media posts will make you laugh, cry, join, share, like.

But often times the one thing they don’t want you to do is think. Think for yourself, decide for yourself, be informed. Because if you do stop and think, do your research, find out the truth – you will realize that much of it is BS. That what they are saying isn’t true. That the information they are passing on to you is not the whole story or is complete lies. It’s being said to manipulate you, to influence you, to get you to do whatever it is they want you to do. That happens on a daily basis over and over.

But how do you stop from being influenced and manipulated? Well, you can’t stop it completely. We are social creatures. We listen to those around us and the media around us and we are emotional beings. But, there are things you can do. You can stop when you find yourself getting angry or afraid and think about it. Why are you feeling that way? Is there really a reason. Do some research. Is the president really a terrorist who wants to take prayer out of school? Probably not. Is there really a reason to stop eating a certain food or you will die? Probably not. Is the latest bacteria going to wipe out mankind in some type of pandemic? Probably not.

All of these things play on one big fear. Our own fear of our mortality. The fear that we are going to die. Big news flash. We are all going to die. Someday. No one here is immortal. So, when our time comes, we are each going to pass on. Whether you believe in heaven, hell, the after world, Valhalla, or reincarnation – we will all leave this realm for something else. We might get hit by a bus. We might be killed by an illness, or time, or choking on a piece of candy. But when our time is up, our time is up. We can’t know when that will be. But the fear is, we don’t want to go. We aren’t ready to go. It’s like the kid watching tv or playing a video game – Just 5 more minutes Mom!

But spending the time you have on this planet being afraid just takes away from the quality of that time. There are things you should be afraid of, things that do have an impact on your life. You shouldn’t eat unhealthy, you should do some form of exercise,  you should take care of yourself when you are sick. You should make each day count. But what you shouldn’t do is spend the whole time letting anyone else dictate to you how you should live your life or feel.