My Favorite Place To Get Lost

This is actually a prompt from the Creative Writing class I am currently taking. I decided since school and music have been consuming most of my “free time”, it would be fun to merge the worlds into one and share one of my recent pieces. The prompt was to write about a place that is dear to you without revealing what it was and to create the world in a camera view (so it starts as a long shot, moves to a middle shot, and ends on a close-up). Enjoy! 🙂

The land of ten thousand lakes, though I think they stopped counting now. Here, we grew up going camping for our family vacation. We didn’t travel to exotic places or even tour other states. We went to State Parks. We hiked, biked, swam, had campfires, ate s’mores and hot dogs over the fire, and played. We played from sunrise to sunset. During the day, I loved to walk to the lake and skip rocks and find the pretty ones. They were all pretty. My pockets full of what I thought were precious stones. In the evening, we told ghost stories and sang silly songs around the campfire. I was never quite ready to leave.

When you grow up in a loud and constant city, it is nice to get away to someplace more peaceful, where the pace is slow and easy. It’s amazing to be able just stop moving, sit down, and smell the forest or hear the trickle of a stream. It is sometimes hard to get away or make plans and coordinate with others as you get older and everyone else has families of their own. One has to improvise.

I look around the busy streets, but no one else is taking the time to appreciate where they are, because they are too focused on where they are going next. Stop lights that never seem to turn green quite as fast as you want them to. Someone else is always in your way. It’s always someone else’s problem. There’s never enough time and always one more thing to get done.

So I make time, on a Sunday morning, to sip on some coffee and go for a little walk. I often go to my favorite place. Even if it is special to others and I am not alone, I still feel like it is mine.

Tucked away on the other side of the river, they kept its cobbled stone sidewalks. The narrow path by the river with benches to sit and admire the beauty of nature in the middle of the city or maybe see the delicate balance of each intertwined. Two of my favorite cafés are waiting for me, like old friends.

One of the cafés has live music, mostly in the evenings, but also Sunday for brunch. I walk in and say hello to the faces that change constantly yet this café and I remain. I order my coffee, with extra sugar and cream, and I sit to watch as the band plays swing music on stage and lively couples get up to dance. I smile at them, joyfully and longingly. My desires, they are well known by these walls and by this place. I often bring my pen and notebook to write my thoughts or any song lyrics that may pop into my head.

Last spring, before it warmed up and the patio was full of paying customers, I would order a beer in the afternoon and sit out and play my guitar. I would stare out at the river and into the city and watch everyone walk by with their dogs, friends, partners, and kids. Some would turn to smile at me while I played and some did not even seem to realize I was there at all. Neither bothered me. I was in my own world of creation and admiration, anyway. Nature is the place I go for peace and the city is where I feel connected. Here, I have both of what I crave, of what I need. Even if I am alone, I am not alone.

A Winter’s Storm

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It is so easy to get caught up in a storm. The winds are blowing, the snow is falling, the roads get icy, and the sky becomes a confusing, white haze. What do you do? Slow down and try to drive through it or stop, pull over and wait it out? Do you fear the winter storm or do you admire its beauty? The grass has turned brown, the trees have lost its leaves, and the once bright and colorful world has turned grey and lifeless. But then, something marvelous happens, the snow peacefully falls and covers it all. The sun glistens off the snow and you can see the individual snowflakes glisten.

I recently sat in my car, at work, as the snow began to fall, and watched one by one as each snow flake landed on my window. Each snowflake was unique and majestic in its own way. I can’t remember the last time I watched the snow fall, so intently, that I was able to see the delicately detailed and intricate design of each one. From far away, the snow falling may appear as little, white, round balls falling from the sky, uniformly, and the same. But this is not the case; not one is the same. As I sat and thought about this amazing miracle, I thought about people and how when grouped together we can appear to be the same, but when looking closely we each have our own unique features, our own personality, and our own path.

It made me wonder…

Why do people try to group each other as one? Why do so many people want to “fit in” and be like everyone else? Why, if I am placed into one group, can I not fit into another group? We fear being different and we fear the differences we see in others. Our egos feed off of feeling superior over one another.

Why can’t we also sit in awe of our uniqueness and celebrate its beauty? A snowflake does not compare itself to the other snowflakes or try to exclude other snowflakes from its natural grouping as it falls. I think it is natural for humans to pick out similarities and differences and come together and that is okay, but why must we be exclusive to others? Our fight-or-flight response kicks in and we feel the need to defend our honor, but in reality, there is no real danger. The only enemy we are usually facing is ourselves, our ego.

I think nature helps to remind us of how things may have been intended. I was grateful for this reminder that we are not groups, we are individuals. I think it is important when thinking this way to also treat people this way. We are not all the same. Just because one person in a certain group chooses to do something you do not agree with does not mean that everyone else is also going to be a threat.

When I was young I was taught in church that we are all sinners and imperfect and that only God is perfect and that we can never be. But now that I am older, I am learning more about who I think God is, and I am realizing that it is not so. We are all perfect just as we are, because we are all created as such.

Sometimes I catch myself going to open mic nights or performing with other singer/songwriters and I start comparing myself to them. My lyrics are better or their guitar skills are way more advanced, or why do they have more fans? I feel really silly later that I let these thoughts enter in my mind. A friend recently reminded me that we are all on our own journey and that where I am today is exactly where I am supposed to be. I know this to be true, but when those thoughts take over, it is difficult to remember and apply these truths when your ego is telling you lies. My ego says things like, “You aren’t good enough” and “they are making it and you are not.” Or “you will never get paid to play your music and “people want to hear covers not your songs.” How awful is that! Why do we listen to these lies? What lies are you telling yourself? How can you change your thoughts? Why do we allow these thoughts and fears to control us?

Then another reminder came from a friend, she said, “You may not be where you want to be, but look how far you’ve come! You’ve got to celebrate your accomplishments and be proud of what you do have, instead of being hard on yourself for what you do not have.” It’s a funny and karmic thing when your friends are feeding you back all of the same advice that you have given them. So from one harsh critic to another, be gentle with yourself and be patient. You can’t accomplish everything overnight and those that do usually find it doesn’t last. You either fall as fast as you arrive or you want more and are never satisfied. So celebrate the now, be grateful for being here, and be happy with what you do have.

My take home point is this: We are all wonderfully made, like delicate and ornate snowflakes and though we may look alike, none of us are the same, not one. We are all made beautiful and special in our own unique way. Cheesy or not, it is true. I forget that from time to time, so I thought I’d remind you as well. You are so extraordinary and you are perfect just as you are. So don’t be so hard on yourself. You are worthy of love and you are enough.

 

HAPPY THANKS-GIVING

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I have a lot of ideas brewing right now. I believe I have about four or five saved drafts for all of the various topics I want to explore with you. As I racked my brain for which topic really struck a chord this week, I remembered tomorrow is a holiday. This being said, I want to take a break and instead say thank you. Thank you, for being on WordPress and taking time to read my blog and also for having your own blogs. Thank you, for taking risks and sharing yourself and your thoughts with the world. It is not easy to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. Keep up the good work and enjoy your holiday. I hope you get to spend this time with loved ones or maybe even in solitude, appreciating what you have and being grateful that you are alive. Take care and hopefully, I will have hashed out my ideas into a new post by next week.

Lots of love,

~ Karen

Assume Nothing

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My mom recently visited me from out of state and gave one piece of advice to my partner and I. She said, “Sweetie, no matter what you do, do NOT make assumptions that you know what each other is thinking.” My mom reminded me this was one of The Four Agreements, a book by Don Miguel Ruiz. She shared her own stories of how it hurts when others put words in your mouth and do not take the time to actually talk with you and listen to find out what you are truly thinking.

The old saying rings true, “To assume makes an ass out of you and me.” At least this is how I feel when I wrongly accuse or guess something on which I have no grounds to stand on. There have been several instances where this advice would have come in handy since it was given to me, but did I listen? Noooooo! Okay. No. I didn’t. But did I learn my lesson? Yeeessss!

I’d like to dive into the idea behind making assumptions. Where do we get these ideas in the first place? Well, I know for me, my thoughts about what will happen or how someone else may respond to something has always come from my past experiences. Even though, sometimes we are often accurate in our guesses because of the past, this does not mean that every time we will get the same result.

Another way that people make assumptions is based solely on appearances. Let’s say there are two students in a high school science class that you can choose between to pick as your lab partner. One is dressed in sweatpants and a concert t-shirt and their hair is a mess like they just got out of bed; while the other student is wearing glasses, has their clothes neatly tucked in, and their hair is styled and combed. Just by this alone, one might assume that the student wearing glasses is smarter or cares more about school because they bothered to look nice. For all that we know the student who looks nice may be smart and well dressed but maybe their best subject isn’t science. For all that we know, the one that looks sloppy is super tired because they stayed up all night reading the science homework and is ready to ace this project. Why do we make judgement on appearances? Perhaps, if we took the time to talk to each student and ask them the same questions, it would be clear which student we would want to pick as our lab partner.

Silly example, maybe. But we do this as adults all the time. We make assumptions because of appearance, cultural background, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc. We label and name call, we judge, and make generalizations and stereotypes. It has become second nature. Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we? How do we change something that is so ingrained in us?

Well, where does anything begin? It can only begin with yourself. Our judgments come from our own personal beliefs. Some of these beliefs are passed down from our parents and our grandparents, others from mentors like teachers, and then of course our peers. These are our influences as we grow into adults and then it is simply through our own experiences that we develop new thoughts, but most often we hold on to our deeply-held beliefs from childhood. So one very important tool that we must observe constantly is our mind. Besides judging others, are we constantly judging ourselves? Listen to your “self-talk” and what you are saying. Are your thoughts self-defeating or self-empowering? Do you put yourself down or build yourself up? Are you judging or honoring yourself? Again, if we can learn to understand where these thoughts come from and why we might be thinking them, then we can begin to re-train ourselves to stop doing that or to re-place the negative thoughts with more positive ones.

Let’s move on to the scenario of our interactions with others. Let’s say the interaction is with a significant other (or a family member). Are we making assumptions because it is easier to guess what the other is thinking and so we put our own twisted thoughts into their mouths rather than actually walk over and talk with another human being? Are we afraid to be vulnerable, to be wrong, to bruise our precious egos? Sometimes, we think the worst and so we try to avoid conflict all together and decide it is best to just keep it to ourselves, but as a result we turn passive aggressive and resentful when we don’t ask questions and vocalize our concerns. Often, it turns out the other person was not thinking anywhere close to what we assumed they were and if they were it is usually good to get it out into the open where both people can feel better once they are each heard and take time to listen to each other. The best option of all is to just talk with one another and find out the truth instead of  talking about the problem to everyone else or making assumptions about our distorted reality.

Lastly, I’d like to discuss the idea of mindfulness. Something, I am eager to practice more of. The practice of mindfulness is to observe without judgments. We may be sitting on a park bench and notice someone is walking past us with white tennis shoes and a red backpack, but we make no judgment about who that person is or where they are going. We just notice. We see geese eating in the grass and squirrels running up and down the tree trunks, and kids playing in the park, but we make no judgments. We see couples holding hands, many cultures coming together to enjoy one park, but we make no judgments. This is a wonderful practice to clear your mind of all judgments and just notice everything around you without assigning thoughts and stories to them.

Since everyone struggles with making assumptions, I knew it would be good to get more insight on the subject, so I discussed it with my partner and the ideas came pouring out as we talked. We too struggle with communication at times until we choose to be vulnerable about our thoughts and our feelings. Once we do tell the other what our needs are, we make a lot of effort to meet each of our own needs either together or separate so that once again we feel valued and whole. When you feel afraid to speak with someone, remember that the best result will come from talking with each other and asking questions instead of making assumptions. Go to the source instead of asking everyone else what they think, besides the one person. I struggle with this one when I am wanting to avoid conflict, but in return, it comes out as gossip when I am simply trying to work through something. I need to go to the source and ask or talk instead of worrying about all the thousands of things it could be. Assume nothing. THE END. 🙂