Karma is a Bitch and Other Pleasant Thoughts

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Most people would agree that anger and rage are not the best emotions to hang onto. Laughter, joy, pleasure, empathy, peace, and appreciation are much healthier and will make you happier in the short and long run. How do we get there? What do you do when those dark, negative feelings begin to surface?

Your Belief System

I’m fairly cynical about just about everything. I was taught that it is important to be a critical thinker at all times. However, there is one thing that I truly believe in and there is no proof that it really exists and that thing is:

kar‧ma noun   1 the belief that all the good and bad things that you do in this life affect how good or bad your future lives will be, according to the Hindu and Buddhist religions

2 informal the feeling that you get from a person, place, or action good/bad karma

Yes, I am a true believer. I have this gut feeling that the universe offers us complete balance: the yin and the yang, the peaks and the valleys, positive and negative energy; you get the picture. Realistically, I am aware that some people get away with all sorts of things without ever being held accountable. Perhaps I am wrong about that; perhaps they are somehow at some time, held accountable and we’re just not aware of it.

Belief in karma helps me sleep at night. When I think of politicians committing horrible atrocities, or people physically abusing or killing other people, or stealing, being emotionally harmful, rapists, I usually turn to karma for comfort.

42 Best Karma quotes - Quotes and Hacks

Trusting Your Truth

Whatever you believe is your truth; your truth is your integrity and where your strength comes from. If you waiver from that belief system or cave to someone else’s truth, you lose faith in yourself and your world becomes unsteady.

Distancing Yourself

I have found that confrontation can be unfruitful and/or personally damaging. Unfortunately, there are some people you cannot talk to. They are either so righteous they cannot be objective or they do not have the capacity to listen. The art of listening is lost on so many these days. The ability to clear your brain of all static and just hear another person’s words is extremely rewarding. Try just staying quiet and listening to another person, it truly is amazing.

[Disclaimer: Not true for everyone. Some people just go on and on and say nothing; others only speak to hear themselves speak, and still others speak only to offend others. These individuals should be avoided and shut down.]

Manifesting Positivity

Some ways to remain positive:

  1. When your thoughts begin to turn negative or move in a dark direction, stop whatever you’re doing and focus on a new thought. Not so easy to do when you’re in the middle of a crisis. Come up with some sort of code/buzzword that triggers a new thought. It can also be an action (e.g., going into a different room, cook, make the bed). This is a way to distract your mind from negative thought(s).
  2. Exercise. Releasing endorphins and doing something good for yourself usually helps initiate positive thoughts.
  3. If you can, travel. Getting away from your everyday environment helps put you in a different headspace.
  4. Do good deeds and make big deposits in your karma bank. I don’t mean just monetary donations (these are good too), I mean get out there and do something good.
  5. Meditation is a true gift anytime, but especially times like this. If you have Alexa (Echo) in your home or a similar device, you can just ask her to play meditation music. You can meditate for hours or minutes — your choice. The benefits are difficult to quantify, but trust me, it will help.
  6. Self-help books or articles may often seem trite and a waste of time; however, there are many good ones out there that will offer some good tips. I also find Ted Talks (Youtube) to be informative.
  7. Talk to a good friend or family member. People who care about you want to help, but be careful not to abuse their good naturedness.
  8. Cooking keeps me positive and upbeat; as does a good meal out. I turn on music, pour a glass of wine, set out some fresh ingredients, and create something delicious and healthy. This does wonders for my piece of mind. And . . . I do it for me. You don’t need an excuse to be good to yourself.
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Your “Go to” Responses

We are creatures of habit and some of our habits are not-so-good for our health and well-being. For example, when I see people do something really stupid, my go-to response is to tell them what I think. A recent thought: Put on your face mask you fucking idiot. The outcome if I follow through: I have found one of two things might happen:

  1. People who do stupid things, usually have a stupid/unreasonable reaction to criticism or feedback.
  2. You often end-up more frustrated and full of rage.

Look the other way or keep your mouth shut. Trust me, you’ll forget all about it in a few minutes and you won’t be taking years off of your life. Ignorant, despicable, horrible people, will not suddenly become educated or wiser because of your words or action. Allow karma to take care of the situation. Another alternative is to do the right thing for yourself and stay away from people or situations that might create problems for you. For example: I’m not sure going to a political rally will yield a positive outcome right now. There will be lots of time for that sort of thing sometime in the future. Staying away from crowds is a better bet.

Recruiting Others to Help

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I have been know to recruit friends and family to help me react in a more positive way or to assist me in letting go. People who love you and want to see you happy will gladly put a hand over your mouth to muzzle you or handcuff you to a coffee table to keep you from overreacting. A good friend will keep you out of jail or the doghouse.

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Resources:

Karma: http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/karma.htm

7 Tips for Staying Positive: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/wise-mind-living/201501/7-tips-staying-positive

Stay Positive: https://www.mhanational.org/stay-positive

Thank you karma.

Letting Go Can Be Difficult

It’s been a difficult week of reflection. I imagine some might say that every week in one’s life is difficult; however, I would argue that there are times in one’s life when thoughts are more negative, more self-critical, and harder to sort out. Sometimes the yin & the yang seem out of balance and it has more to do with your brain doing a number on you than anything else. Rebooting only works some of the time. Sample thoughts like:  am I enough? What do I want for my future? What role am I playing in somehow making the world better for others? These are all normal thoughts for those who think and have a conscience. For me, at least at this point in my life, what I choose to let go of versus what I hang onto, is taking up more thinking time than usual.

 

 

I know that I write about “letting go” often. At different times in my life, letting go has been my biggest challenge. There are numerous reasons that this particular defense mechanism is important to me. When I have something weighing on my mind, it tends to be all consuming. I find it difficult to focus on other things in my life and it disrupts my sleep and interferes with my desire to be in the moment.

Getting older has been a gift in a way, in that maturity has helped me put many things into perspective. Things such as what is most important in life and why hanging on to things or people we cannot change, is destructive. When you have a fair amount of success “letting go” of a thing, an idea or a person, it helps you to see how freeing the process can be.

At one point in my life I was quite certain that I could never live outside of New York City. I could not imagine leaving the people and experiences I loved most. I forced myself to relocate by telling myself that I could always return to NYC if that’s what I truly wanted. Because most of us can adapt to almost anything, once I was in my new environment, I was able to see the benefits of being in that place. We tell ourselves that we’d miss certain “things” and that’s why we should remain. Then there is that other voice that tells you that if you leave, you are running away from something. In my case the theatre was keeping me in New York. I have always loved Broadway and could not imagine living far away from the Great White Way. In reality, even though I left New York almost seven years ago, I have returned to New York to attend the theatre every year. Now when I get tickets for a play, I am much more thoughtful about what I see and because I’m making a special trip, Broadway has become even more precious to me.

[I could go off here about how Disneyfied Broadway has become; however, I think it’s best that I spare you the rant. It only forces you to be more selective about what you choose to see. Most things can be traced back to the almighty dollar.]

Now that I am living much closer to London, I feel as if I get to enjoy a bit of both theatre meccas. The point is, when you care a great deal about something, it should not prevent you from letting go of something else; one does not preclude the other. There were of course factors tugging at me to remain in New York; I cannot same the same for Maine.

People are more complicated and that presents greater challenges. I met an older woman here in the Algarve who was originally from Ireland. She lives about 30 minutes west of Faro. She’s worldly, smart, loves food, and we got along fairly well. At one point in our friendship I realized that she was putting me down quite a bit. It was subtle, but she would often be condescending or passive aggressive. She a tiny woman, however, she’d raise her voice to speak over me or she’d tell me that something I felt or vocalized, was nonsense. I decided that I did not have to tolerate such behavior just because she’s older. I spent a good deal of time on a letter explaining how I felt. I thought a letter would be more effective because she could read it and consider my words (I know a lot of people prefer in-person conversations, but I believe that particular method is sometimes better as a second step). In the letter, I was careful not to generalize and I was clear and kind. I told her that I cared about our friendship and that I was hoping she would consider changing the way she sometimes treated me. One has to be very careful not to use absolutes in these situations. She responded fairly quickly, however, she did not acknowledge the contents of the letter. She basically told me that she was leaving town and that we would speak when she returned. I accepted her email as a positive sign. I thought this would give her time to consider my words. Obviously, it goes both ways and I was willing to listen and alter my behavior as well.

And then nothing happened.

It’s been eight months and I am not caving. This is the letting go moment when I say to myself is this woman worth my time and consideration? I tried and failed. There are times in your life when you just have to walk away and cut your losses — sound a little harsh? I think it’s a defense mechanism I have developed over time. The former me would get all worked up, make an angry phone call or send an angry email. I would beat myself up for saying anything at all in the first place. Then at some point I decided that if in fact I was going to be true to myself, I would have to come clean and say something. Keep in mind that when you are living in a foreign country, there are a limited number of people who speak your language and truly understand your culture. This sort of empathy is important for social interaction. I do enjoy having people around I can share experiences with.

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Journaling your feelings helps when putting situations and interactions into perspective. It provides the ability to step back and process.

One of the things that I have starting doing is to cultivate good relationships and show gratitude for those that are nurturing and positive. For example:  I have been in the process of getting a tooth implant for a year. There have been complications that are too boring and tedious to discuss here. Through it all, my dentist and her assistant, have been patient and supportive; I am beyond grateful that I found them. I’m a month away from getting the actual tooth, which I know will improve my life — chewing is essential. I have a visit today and I plan to bring flowers to both my dentist and her assistant. I’ve known them long enough now to know that they will not misinterpret this gesture. They will know that I am showing them my gratitude. Letting people know that they have had a positive impact on your life and that you do not take them for granted, is essential for building strong relationships. Replacing hurtful and toxic relationships with rich, fulfilling ones, helps in the letting go process. For some people it’s almost like getting over the loss of a pet, some people go right out and get another. It’s not something I personally can do, however, I do appreciate that for some people it is a way to let go.

By the way, I am not advocating for simply dismissing people in your life. Communicating, giving people a second chance, making sure you did not misinterpret someone’s behavior or words, and being aware of your own behavior, is very important. Letting go should happen when all else fails and the level of toxicity or pain is hard to bare or out of balance.

 

Practice, Practice, Practice

At times the thought of walking away from a relationship is much too difficult to even consider. It might be a parent, a sibling, your boss, a long-term friend; you get the point. In a case like this, you might have to let go slowly. Putting distance between yourself and another can be a good first step. If you normally speak to someone daily, you can try skipping a call here and there. If you go out every Friday night, you can suggest cutting back due to schedule conflicts. This is not dishonest. There is nothing wrong with protecting someone else’s feelings or being kind. Some people have no sense of self and others cannot see what is right in front of them.

 

What Happens When You Walk Away

A friend once told me that when you walk away from someone or something, the shadow (memory) of that person or thing is left behind. This will have a lasting impact. She used a wart as an example:  if you have a wart on your hand for 20 years and you have that wart removed, your memory of that wart will be so strong it will feel as if it’s still there. If you choose to let go of a relationship, you will occasionally think about that person; in this way, you’re not totally letting go, but is it possible to completely erase someone from your mind and would you want to. If you believe as I do, that all of our life experiences and relationships are necessary in order to grow, then embracing that they were a part of your history and therefore, a part of who you are at this moment. It’s better to be grateful that you one, have the ability to learn from a person or thing and move on, and two, that our past leads us to the present.

 

Grieving Loss

Sometimes letting go of a person might be the best recourse; however, be prepared to grieve the loss. Even if the relationship was highly toxic, if it’s been a big part of your life for a long time, you will miss aspects of it:  routine, company, validation; whatever it might have been, you will lament the loss. Allow yourself the time to grieve and know that when it’s over, you will be far better off. Congratulate yourself for taking care of yourself and for enriching your own life.

 

Side Bar:  I have been enjoying a new show on Netflix called Terrace House. It’s a reality show, however, what makes it different is that it takes place in Tokyo and you get a sense of Japanese youth and the culture. I find myself laughing a lot and wanting more. Check it out.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7776244/

 

A Kitchen Accident on Thursday

Thursday evening I decided to have a big salad for dinner. It was a beautiful night and I wanted to eat out on the terrace facing the water. I opened a local red wine I had not tried before and I noticed the bottle seemed heavier than usual. I thought that maybe it was larger than the normal 750 ml and I did not think about it again. I poured a glass and put the bottle in the refrigerator on the side door. During the warmer months I refrigerate red wine so that it will last longer. When I’m drinking it, I take it out about 30 minutes prior to pouring so that it’s just a little cooler than room temperature.

After dinner I decided to have another half glass instead of dessert. I opened the refrigerator to retrieve the bottle and the entire shelf went crashing down. There was wine everywhere; the walls, the cabinet doors, the refrigerator — everywhere. The cabinet doors had just been painted last week and I was concerned that the wine would stain the doors. I acted swiftly and cleaned the cabinets first. Next, when I started picking up the large pieces of glass I discovered that the bottle of wine was not larger, but thicker. This explained why it was so heavy. Two things happened to my new kitchen:  first, the bottle put a chip in the tile floor below the refrigerator and second, the refrigerator shelf cracked in six different places. The cleanup took me over an hour and I was sweating from head to toe. I walked into the living room, sat down and thought about the incident. It started with:  why did I have to put the bottle into the refrigerator? I was fully aware that this was about to become a “let’s beat the shit out of Chris” session. I decided to practice what I preach and to let it go. I showered, read a bit, and went to bed. I slept like a baby. My kitchen is no longer in pristine condition and that’s okay. It’s sort of like the first scratch on a new car; you just have to accept that it happened and move on.

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My new urbano azul cabinet doors; they survived the crash without red wine stains.