The sun rises with
Foreboding crow caws,
While the days brings
Sirens of uncertainty.
Well, for the lilac pansies,
And the daffodils…
Oh, and the tulips in all colors,
Beautiful and bold.
We see the sun
From behind the glass.
We hear the rain.
Upstairs, there is music.
Below we talk like survivors
Of dystopian madness
Taking shelter in a cave.
“Are you okay?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Are you?”
The days are longer.
Open windows let in the breeze.
Outside, the trees are tall and proud.
With all their flowers,
We are powerless,
Our illusion of safety
Violated once more.
Oh, but the birds chirp in a frenzy!
The earth is alive!
We need to laugh and
Everything is tragic
But some have no one to talk to,
Little, if anything, to eat,
No way to get well,
And nowhere to hide.
Others rise to an occasion
They never could have fathomed,
Working toward their lifelong dream
With infinite empathy.
Does it wreak desolation?
We don’t even know the extent
Of how harsh life can be.
People die for greed.
Dreaded knock on the door now.
No one should come here—
Maybe not for a while.
Behind masked faces.
Down the stairwells then,
One flight at a time,
I go beyond the door,
Where the world is.
Experience it once more,
For a short time.
The sun is bright
Across a vivid blue sky.
There’s the scent of fresh-cut grass
And the sweet caress of the wind.
It’s like a summer day
With pillowy clouds
The world’s magnificent beauty.
Then it’s back to the safe place.
Do you have one of those?
A safe place to be?
I hope you do.
Because the stars are still there at night,
Like the glorious moon.
I watch them as I hope
Things get better.
Like they always did before,
At least, for a little while.
“How Are You Feeling These Days” poem by Kyrian Lyndon
From the time I was a child, I’d heard that people born under the sign of Scorpio couldn’t forgive others. They held grudges forever, and these diabolical creatures, when wronged, were never satisfied with sticking the knife to their enemy (figuratively speaking, of course). They had to twist it from side to side.
Yikes! I happen to be a Scorpio (as if it matters), and this isn’t a blog about astrology. It’s about what I’ve learned about forgiveness, Pluto be damned. (Yes, Scorpio is ruled by a rock that is no longer considered a planet, so that tells you how much stock you should put into these things.)
Further, believing such a thing about yourself and committing to it is demoralizing, self-sabotaging, and self-destructive— not just for people born in the latter part of October and earlier part of November but for anyone.
The good news is, I was never doomed to be an unforgiving Scorpio or anything else I didn’t want to be, and neither are you! Nobody can tell you who you are, and you alone define your limitations. Our wills are more powerful than our experiences if we want them to be, and it’s a safe bet they’re more powerful than any effect the sun may have had on us at the time of our birth. The whole idea that we can’t help being who or what we are and have no control over it is utter nonsense. We can do whatever the hell we want, and we alone are responsible for what it is we decide to do.
Besides that, if we want to recover from our afflictions and tragedies, we need to heal and learn and grow and continue to evolve until our dying day. For this reason, we must come to understand forgiveness and the vital part it plays in our lives.
Those of us who’ve been in twelve-step programs for one affliction or another have likely come upon literature that explains the whole forgiveness thing better than I can. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states that, “Resentment destroys more alcoholics than anything else because deep resentment leads to futility and unhappiness and shuts us off from the Sunlight of the Spirit.” Addiction Treatment magazine notes that “Harboring anger can encourage you to be in a constant state of anxiety, which then can cause numerous physical health problems. Too much stress and anxiety can lead to cardiovascular issues, a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, and other potential ailments.”
Now, if you ask me … (You are asking me, right?) Forgiveness involves coming to terms with the truth.
For trauma survivors, like me, that’s not as simple as it sounds. All our lives, survival instincts had kicked in when necessary, leading us to strategize, justify, deny, etc.—whatever we had to do to cope. We may have even learned to deceive others with or without realizing, because we were deluding ourselves. That’s quite the dilemma when coming to terms with the truth is the only way to determine our level of responsibility for what happens in life.
Bear with me now because the first time someone told me I needed to own my part in everything that happened to me, I was royally pissed. If that included some horrific thing I surely didn’t deserve, it seemed downright cruel.
Well, when it comes to trauma survival, the idea of ‘owning our part’ is indeed cringeworthy, but it’s about addressing the issue of what we might do differently going forward. It’s the same question we’d ask in any other life-altering experience that leaves us shaken. The wording is appropriate when applied to the more typical betrayals or arguments—people hurting and rejecting one another in the way imperfect humans do. Either way, if we are the victim of someone else’s bad behavior, self-evaluation doesn’t mean the culprit is absolved of wrongdoing or that he or she is any less vile. It’s not to say that you or anyone else is okay with what happened, or that you are required to understand the reprehensible motivation behind what this person did.
The things that happen to us in life, good or bad, are learning opportunities that can increase our awareness about the world we live in, about others, and ourselves. No one says it’s fair or easy. Children can learn it from loving adults, what to do, what not to do, going forward, understanding that what happened wasn’t their fault. The acquired knowledge does not guarantee anything, I know, but it certainly helps. That’s what we’re owning.
You may have heard it a million times, and it’s still true: forgiveness is, first and foremost, for the one who suffers. It takes place so that whatever or whoever has hurt you no longer owns you or has control over your life. It’s a letting go that allows you to live and breathe and move on, survive and thrive by not allowing the perpetrator to cause you more suffering than you’ve already endured.
Excluding any justice sought in a criminal act, it didn’t take me long to see (even as an evil, menacing Scorpio) that retribution happens to abusive people without any help from me. They are their own worst enemies, and, sooner or later, the piper catches up to collect what he is owed. Some people balk at me when I say this, but I’ve learned to send love whenever these damaged souls come to mind. They surely need it. When I was at my absolute worst, I needed it, too. I still do. In fact, we all do.
However, despite all I’ve said here, nobody can tell you how to handle your feelings. We can talk about what works for us, with the hope that it might help someone else find the peace and joy that we’ve found, but that’s as far as it goes.
There were many times I’d witnessed a person expressing anger and grief over a traumatic experience, and others got upset about it. The others, in response, would say things like, “Well, I have a friend who went through that, and she had counseling, bla bla bla. She’s fine now, and maybe if so and so did that, he or she wouldn’t have to dwell on it and could move on.”
Well, no, people don’t necessarily react to trauma in the same fashion, so expectations of how people should behave are absurd. As for therapists, there are some who make it worse by revictimizing, or re-traumatizing because they don’t deal effectively with the repercussions of trauma. If you’re lucky enough to find the right counselor, therapy is excruciating work that leaves you raw and vulnerable to your very core. You have to be ready for it and strong enough to see it through.
So, yeah, no one has the right to decide for another person when it’s time to stop being angry, and to forgive and let go. Anger, like every other stage in the grieving process, must run its course.
If a person is never ready to stop being angry or forgive, it’s not for me or anyone else to judge. Healing is an ongoing process that, for all we know, may continue beyond this lifetime.
As I see it, we don’t forgive for the sole purpose of appeasing others. We do it when we’re prepared to rescue ourselves from the onslaught of continual suffering. And that’s where, in situations that are not so cut and dried as to who did what to whom, coming to terms with the truth helps determine our level of responsibility.
In any case, we cannot allow people to deny our reality of what we experienced or accept their spin on it if it has no basis in truth. We don’t want justification for what cannot be justified or for others to minimize the damage. We may be guilted and shamed into keeping quiet or making concessions, but to do so would impede our progress. Deciphering what is true and what is not is more important than appeasing others who need to deal with their own wounds. Their place in the healing process is different from ours, and we can’t wait there with them. We have work to do.
For us, the secrets and lies must end. It’s a fight for our well-being and our sanity. We’ve already endured the pain of silence. We’ve suffered too much already from the consequences of denial. We went through years of being protectively dishonest. We told ourselves we were okay when we weren’t yet. We said we’d survived while our brokenness continued and thought we were thriving when we were hanging on by the seat of our pants. We can’t afford more delusions about any of it. We have a right to be well and whole again.
It is critical that we stand up for ourselves and find out who we are as opposed to what other people want or believe us to be. It is crucial that we slowly and continually peel off every layer of the false self we present to the world, that we become more and more honest with ourselves and others.
After that, forgiveness exists at different levels, all of which amount to some form of healing and resolution. Perhaps it is forgiveness for resolving differences, where two people have worked through it, allowing the truth to sort things, and their relationship to resume with a clean slate. Maybe it’s forgiveness for peace, where you don’t have to trust this person again or have what you once had, but you’ve relinquished the hard feelings. And maybe it is purely for self-love and healing, and it doesn’t involve having to deal with that person again.
No matter how it plays out, we’ve taken our power back. It doesn’t mean we won’t be triggered when we see the same thing happening to us or to someone else in the future, especially when those people are silenced or dismissed. But we will be whole again.
All I can say is, if I’d bought into that nonsense of being unable to forgive, I’d be permanently screwed. It would have kept me from rising in my power and from the ability to summon my courage and my strength whenever I need it.
Brave Wings is a new online magazine that focuses on the human condition—whatever we experience in life that helps us learn, grow, and evolve. Sharing perspectives about healing and empowerment can be exciting and helpful, but we also want to provide entertainment and fun while sharing the beauty of creativity.
For entertainment, we are interested in short stories and book series (all genres). We’re interested in humor.
For creativity, we may be interested in photos, handmade products, something that showcases your talent.
Content for submission will include blogs, videos, audios, slideshows, and photographs. Please see the submissions page for instructions on how to submit!
We will not pay for submissions at this time. However, we will always share your work on our social media sites, and we encourage all contributors to share magazine contents submitted by others on their social media sites. Helping one another with exposure is what will make this site work.
In addition, we will provide the following for all contributors to the magazine:
A listing in the contributor section, where more information (links, etc.) will be added with each contribution. The most frequent contributors may also have a few of their books, products, or recommendations in the listing.
The opportunity by contributors to submit news that provides opportunities for artistic communities, as well as their own business events and significant personal news, all of which we will share on our social media sites.
Access to the chat room (as a moderator, if they prefer), and the ability to hold monitored topic meetings to promote their talent/business.
For those privileges, you must be a regulator contributor. There are no deadlines. However, you must have contributed at least twice with acceptance and publication.
We do intend to have a community that includes a discussion forum and chat room where we can present topics hosted by contributors.
Our Announcement page will provide news of available opportunities within the artistic communities, including contests and contributor events.
We will post book reviews that are submitted by contributors, but we don’t assign books for review.
We will post interviews by our contributors if they are relative to our platform. If you feel you are a good candidate for an interview, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If this venture is a success, we may eventually monetize and pay for content.
For those interested in getting involved, we may also need editors, site moderators, group moderators, page moderators, etc. who will have contributor status. Those most involved will be given domain e-mail addresses for the magazine. We have four more available, so if you love this idea, the opportunity is there to get as involved as you’d like.
Another thing I’m tossing around is whether we’ll have a group or newsletter for interested parties, so please, please, weigh in with your thoughts about everything! All suggestions are welcome!
“What other people think of me is none of my business.”
Yes, I’ve heard that, too, but I agree only in part. We still have to be accountable for our behavior, and it doesn’t help to stubbornly insist we are fine—and that whatever we do is okay regardless of how many people say otherwise.
It doesn’t mean we have to believe every negative thing anyone says about us. It’s more about the willingness to consider what others have to say, whether we like what they’re saying or not. It’s about our responsibility to learn, grow, and evolve.
Everything comes back to balance for me, but when you’re able to set aside ego and keep an open mind, discernment about what to take personally and what to blow off becomes easier.
You can surely tell if something is malicious or plain stupid.
For example, and speaking as an author now, we put our work out there before a world that seems divided on just about everything. Everyone has opinions, not all of them based on reality or given by someone who has a reasonable frame of reference. Someone may read about a tragic event and say it isn’t an accurate portrayal. You can write something that did happen or describe someone that was very real, and someone might see it as a misrepresentation because that’s not what they’ve experienced. People also have personal biases and triggers. And, yes, sometimes the reason they don’t like something has more to do with them than you. I have seen fellow writers get two-star book reviews for reasons that had nothing to do with the book. Some trolls will say negative things merely because they can.
But most of our antagonists or legitimate critics in life, personally and professionally, are people with their own agendas who may or may not have a vested interest in us. And sometimes, they are right on the money.
Unfortunately, however, some people fear criticism so much that they’re not able to live their dreams or find true happiness, They may put a toe in the water but never dive in.
What I have to say may help. It’s worked for me.
Change Your Relationship with Criticism
Years ago, I grappled with panic attacks and debilitating pain. I read somewhere that I could change my relationship with pain by changing my perspective on it.
That helped tremendously, and I soon realized you could do that with just about anything.
Criticism, like pain, isn’t comfortable. It feels horrible, and we don’t like feeling horrible, so we tell ourselves we can’t handle it.
Take yourself out of fear mode and the feeling of helplessness and powerlessness. Acknowledge that you’re not comfortable. Tell yourself you can handle it, then decide how you will do that. You want to find the solution, control whatever it is you can control, and let go of whatever you can’t. Stress only makes things worse.
You’re not alone. What’s happening to you is happening to others, maybe even at the same moment. So many people have been through it. You are no different from any of them and no less capable of handling it. Maybe it seems so much worse because it is happening to you.
Take Yourself Off the Pedestal
On a professional level, people could tell us a thousand times about all the famous people who’d been rejected over and over before the world realized how amazing they were. Many will say, “Well that won’t be me. Oh, but, what am I going to do if it is? How can I control that?”
You can’t, and it’s not easy to get past all that righteous indignation you feel. Someone is criticizing or rejecting you or your behavior or your work, and you instinctively want to defend yourself. You become angry. You feel sad or ashamed. It hurts.
Understand first, that you are not the exception to every rule.
In recovery circles, we laughingly refer to ourselves as “just another Bozo on the bus.” It may sound a bit harsh, but it’s a way of humbling yourself, and taking yourself off the pedestal. I like to think of myself as just another writer, another voice in the choir, and mostly just another person trying to learn and figure things out. That’s an accurate description. We are babies in this astounding old universe, and it’s okay to accept that we’re all vulnerable—not only to the force of nature and random happenings but to each other.
When we respect that, we don’t see people as enemies and haters. We see them as people struggling to survive, like we are.
You are not this person the whole world is watching, and with ridiculous expectations, all the while hoping you will fail or die. I know we meet some nasty people in life that make it seem that way. It’s not surprising that we end up seeing people through such a negative lens. But let’s refuse to believe anyone is that obsessed with us or that petty.
No matter what’s happening, we need to believe that the world is with us, and that the universe supports us.
And with this shift in perspective, there’s little need to be competitive or combative, no need for drama or denial or damage control.
I don’t know about you, but I can think of better things to do than spend my time and energy doing damage control for the sake of my ego. It’s a full-time job, really, with plenty of overtime—controlling how the world sees us and everything that we do. In fact, the business of hiding an inferiority complex behind some shield of superiority is downright exhausting. It becomes impossible to admit you are wrong and say you are sorry. It has you taking credit for all the good in situations and relationships but none of the bad.
Listen to Learn
Do you enjoy a challenge? Do you love to overcome problems and obstacles? I know I do. Understanding that you can do better helps. Wanting to do better can save your life.
Sometimes, we are lazy about fixing stuff. It’s overwhelming. It’s too much work. The reality of life is harsh and can bring unbearable pain. Denial is much more comforting.
I can tell you that, in the past decade, many people have praised me for things I once sucked at, and that’s because somewhere along the line, someone provided me with valuable insight. I was willing to work at it, and so I benefited in the end.
Every critic is a teacher, planting seeds for our improvement and healing.
As far as I can tell, we have to keep listening to learn. On both a personal and professional level, there is always room for improvement. I am obsessed with learning more and more about things that have affected me in my life—things that tripped me up when I had to deal with them in others or myself. I want to learn all I can, not because I’m looking to point fingers but because awareness is everything. I’ve loved those big hallelujah moments where I’ve said, “Hah! So, that’s what’s been going on!” Those were game-changing, life-altering moments. I can’t help feeling grateful for every one of those opportunities.
So, fall in love with the process of learning, growing, evolving, and recovering. It helps us to succeed more and suffer less. And do it with the understanding that this is precisely how it’s supposed to go. Everything is an opportunity for growth, and even shitheads can make valid points. Embrace it. Accept it.
It’s all part of a divine process that is always happening, and we are both a part of and a child of that divinity.
The robin in your tender heart
Hungers for the red berry
That titillates your tongue.
She carols as the snow falls—
And not with the chorus of the dawn
In radiant spring.
What might have been?
Your voice silenced,
The spirit of you
I see glimpses of your fire
From the light that has vanished
From your eyes.
Your wings soar,
Only not to follow
And your heart is that of
You inspire me
To change my perspective
With your unique vision
Of the world.
You shine with your brilliance,
And you don’t know.
Your bursts of laughter
Make me smile.
As always, you are the light
In my darkness;
Your spirit is the fire I feel
In the sun’s warmth.
You were the dawn of my awakening,
And the splendor of my dreams.
And I have cried
For your heart
More than I have ever cried
For my own.
I am torn apart by
The intensity of your pain.
It is profound sadness
When I think I’ve reached you
And then hit another wall…
I fear losing you forever
To your grief,
As I grieve, too,
For the subtleties
You don’t understand.
Avoiding the eyes of others …
Your intense frustration
In trying to get it right,
And thinking you have it all wrong.
You have it right,
I only wish you could know
Of being free.
The tentative smiles,
The looks of uncertainty,
Prompt me to tell you,
You got this.
You’ll be fine.
Whatever the passion,
Let it burn.
It will save you.
Retrieve every shattered fragment
Of your soul.
Bless it with your peace.
Give it mighty and glorious wings,
And let it fly where it leads
Into the twilight of an infinite sky.
And don’t stop singing
Your life’s song.
The song is your vision,
It belongs to you.
You wither and die.
Don’t you, for one moment,
Let anyone crush your beautiful spirit.
Know, too, those who have crushed you
Have been crushed.
Those who pain you have been pained.
Still, you can rise again,
Become completely alive again
And shine on,
Just as you did before all the hurt began.
You are not defective,
My dear one,
Not a burden,
Nor do you struggle alone.
I’m here with you.
I will always be with you.
In every way
Though you don’t see that,
And you never have.
I just love you.
Not everyone likes to plunge into that seemingly endless abyss where we face painful truths and endure the grueling process of healing.
Some deliberately avoid it, or they scatter a little bit of dirt to the side and then dart off in another direction, taking cover until they feel grounded enough to dig a little deeper.
People like us, though, we want to keep digging.
We’ve already been traumatized and shattered, you see, and, in those moments, we learned some of the best lessons of our lives. So, we know we’ll be okay. We know, too, that we are learning to love with our whole hearts.
Amazingly enough, we’ve been walking away from people that have exploited our vulnerabilities. We’ve been doing it for a while now, and we’re getting better at it. Maybe we were condemned for it, too, at one time or another, but we’d do it again in a heartbeat. You see, we know we are vulnerable. We know how vulnerable we are. That is good because before we understood this, it was easy to lead us, to fool us, and to enslave us.
We’ve become patient with our healing process, and we’re trying hard to become more patient with the healing processes of others. We’ve been around long enough to wonder what is worse— dealing with our own fears or the fear that motivates the masses.
It often seems that people don’t truly want to understand each another, or they simply want people who are different or feel differently to go away.
Letting go is easy for some; I know. For us, it is painful and confusing. Maybe the energy needed to explain isn’t there, or we’re tired of explaining, tired of the world, tired of ourselves. We examine our motives, our expectations. We don’t always like our motives. We don’t always trust our egos, and that’s a good thing. People without clarity of conscience don’t question themselves. They won’t say, “I’m glad I caught that. I can refrain. I can resist. I can do the right thing.” They’ll just keep doing what they’re doing, often not understanding what they’re doing or why.
So, yes, the world can overwhelm. It makes some of us want to keep our worlds a little smaller, and, in our broken moments, we need time to fix things in our hearts.
We will work through the sadness. In a poet’s heart, anyway, it has its honored place. We’ll embrace it, feel all of its intense beauty, and we’ll let it run its magnificent course.
Those of us who do this work and this digging do it because we’ve had it with being terrified, with trying to protect our hearts and our secrets—the image, the illusions, the payoff. We’re tired of the denial that was our sole comfort, our only way to survive. When we came to fully accept that we are all just struggling humans, equal in importance, the shame that drove us to compete and control began to dissipate.
We kept replacing false with real, and we’ve hung on to hope. It’s not as easy as living in denial, but we know we have to get better. We know we have to do better.
For what it’s worth, as I see it, the truth is never one extreme or the other. There’s a lot of gray, and we always need balance.
But just so you know? When we shut down, when we distance, when we go deep or even go away, we don’t hate you. We don’t want to hurt you. We’re grateful that you have been part of our experience. We’re grateful for what you’ve taught us. We’re grateful for every blessing we have. Our hearts are bursting with love and often joy, and we still care. We continue to root for you, no matter what, and we’re always ready to listen, ready to resolve, and ready to heal.
We all become conscious, at some point in our lives, of ways we can sabotage our physical well-beings. When it comes to sabotaging our emotional well-beings, and even our financial security and stability, things seem to become more complicated.
Brilliant individuals are sometimes incapable of motivating themselves enough to change their lives or gravitate toward the ideal. They tend to become problem-oriented rather than solution oriented, boxing themselves in with an almost unwillingness to compromise. They may set impossible goals instead of practical ones.
Maybe someone convinced them they didn’t deserve success, or they convinced themselves based on how someone made them feel about their competency or their judgment. Either way, these old tapes keep playing in their heads, telling them they can’t accomplish anything, can’t succeed, can’t win, and there’s not enough to go around. In this predicament, we fear success as much as we fear failure, because they are two sides of the same coin. We keep that coin as a reminder that we don’t trust ourselves with the dreams we cherish or the plans we’ve made.
We tell ourselves we don’t deserve success any more than we deserve money. Perhaps once we get our hands on the latter, we don’t manage it well. I’ve been there. I can attest to the fact that when you finally realize you do deserve these things, you’ll likely find yourself working your tail off, accomplishing one goal after another. We have to be rid of whatever that little voice is in our head that says we can’t do it, and we’re not good enough, and that all this is impossible. We can, we are, and it’s not.
We get into this pattern of self-pitying victimhood. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that we’ve been a victim of something or someone, or expressing anger about it, and shedding tears. We have a right to our grieving process. But sometimes we get use to the payoff—attention, pity, praise, the temporary ego fix. So instead of becoming solution oriented, we become more and more problem oriented, more and more likely to want an audience of sympathizers. And we get stuck there because solving problems would take that attention away and whatever else we get from being constantly burdened. It’s not that we don’t deserve to be comforted. It’s that we don’t move forward. We don’t get better.
This pattern normally goes hand in hand with excessive worry about people and things. Social media is a perfect example, because it mirrors life. I have seen people in a pattern of deactivating accounts only to resurface in a matter of days. Sometimes it may be that they legitimately need a break, but very often it’s because expectations are not being met. People are not responding to them in a way they could perceive as favorable. They’ve made assumptions about what people think or what someone meant, and after a considerable amount of time wasted on obsessive worrying, they take a drastic action to disengage. When they come back, it’s because they need to try it all again. They have too much riding on acceptance. It’s all self-defeating because we create unrealistic expectations, and we tend to assume wrong. Comparing and assuming tends to cause more mental anguish than is warranted or bearable. All we can do is be who we are, our ever-improving version of that.
Many stress about their looks, their bodies. Perfect is boring, and there is beauty beyond someone else’s chosen ideal. Beauty does, indeed, come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, and people will have all sorts of opinions on what looks good. In fact, I realized at one point, that I never cared if someone didn’t like the hair color I chose. I knew how I wanted to look. I would never consult anyone about it, not even my significant other. So if we are trying to satisfy ourselves rather than appeal to every single person on the planet,we should set the standards for ourselvesnot appease clothing designers, the model industry, or the men who rate women on AskMen.com. Because when we’re finally okay with how we look, imperfections and all, we exude the confidence we need to get oh just about anything. And if that’s not enough, we get to focus more on being the best human we can be. When we finally love who we are, we learn to respect ourselves and treat ourselves better.
While it’s normal to want attention and approval, it’s the excessive, almost desperate need for it that can destroy us if we let it. People take unnecessary risks for the fix without realizing. They may trust the wrong people, throw caution to the wind, make excuses for bad behavior, cling to people who have repeatedly demonstrated the harm they’re capable of inflicting upon others. We don’t even realize that the payoff is attention we craved, validation we needed, admiration we couldn’t resist. Because it comes at just the right time, and creates such a bondage that we continue to crave it from a dangerous source.
Sometimes it’s less extreme. We try to be generous with people regarding our time, our attention, our praise, but we do this with relationships we don’t honestly want to nurture because we want to be nice. I find that when people want to be nice or perceived as nice, they immediately have expectations and create obligations. Then, on top of the resentment about doing something they don’t want to do, and the expectations or obligation that likely won’t be met, they go from ‘nice’ person to fire-breathing dragon in a matter of seconds. So what happens next is far from what they initially intended. People get hurt.
Well, it’s okay not to want to be friends with everyone. It’s okay to feel emotionally exhausted and want to have only genuine relationships. It’s okay to walk away when you’re not feeling it, not trusting it. It’s okay to save that overflowing generosity of spirit for those who matter to you. You can still do nice things for others along the way if you want. Quite simply, it doesn’t have to be like wearing a thorny crown while carrying a cross over your back.
I’ll say this. The more I become aware of how people think (thanks to social media), I tend not to want to meet any more people or reconnect with people from the past. I’m happy to avoid everyone outside my window… even while loving to hear them all out there—the comforting humdrum. Isolating can be a peaceful, healing thing, but it can also be another way of self-sabotaging if we don’t check it. I’ll admit, I have to push myself to get out there and deal with the world as it is, on its terms. Whether I like it or not, it’s necessary. I’ve had to accept that I’m not always going to be comfortable, and I’m not always going to be safe.
I still believe, though, we have to take our time getting to know people, especially when we are very empathetic. Because while we can recognize serious issues people have, our compassion for what they’re dealing with can override any need to protect ourselves. Unfortunately, we have to because these people can hurt you and will do so again and again. We need to pay attention. We need to be careful. We have to stop tolerating disrespect under the guise of being noble and humble. That only creates a perception of some superior self that is false. Yeah, we want to be the nice guy, but if we are real with others, we become something better than ‘nice’. We are kind.
I’ve come to believe that one of the best things we can do in life is heal the vulnerabilities that make us susceptible to all this self-sabotage. Once we find the courage to seek answers, then acknowledge, accept, feel, cry and release anger, we heal, we learn, and then we grow and evolve. It’s an ongoing thing that just keeps getting better. We deserve that.
Of course, life would be so much easier if we could make a habit of staying in the moment and being fully present in that moment. We wouldn’t be worrying about what happened yesterday or an hour ago, or what’s going to happen tomorrow. I have to remind myself constantly, but it works particularly well in moments of crisis and panic. A wise friend taught me to stay in the solution. Think about what you can do at that moment, not what you can’t do. Control what you can. Amazing how that helps.
“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Accept that you are vulnerable, and make peace with that.
If I had said these things to my younger self, it would not have had much of an impact. I wasn’t ready. But at some point in time, other people said these things to me, and even though I still wasn’t ready, they planted a seed. And every time someone plants a seed, he or she brings us closer to eventual healing and understanding. It certainly worked that way for me because, despite my stubbornness, I am always listening, and I always want to be a better version of me than I was yesterday.
So, last year, I read the first criticism of my work from a reviewer. Admittedly, it wasn’t scathing; she had many nice things to say, but I was able to handle that in a way that I couldn’t have all those years ago.I was curious more than anything, and I wanted to understand her point of view.
It was because, by then, I had stopped seeing myself the way I saw myself at the age of seventeen and for many years to come—as the writer, the destined one, or, ack, some kind of chosen one. I had come to accept that I am one writer in an endless sea of writers— just another voice in the choir.
Some people don’t like this perspective—at all. Back then, I would not have liked it either.
I’ve heard, in response, “You have to take yourself seriously or no one else will, right?”
Oh yes, for sure, but we can be serious, and we can be too serious. For me, the shift in perspective, from taking myself too seriously to taking myself just seriously enough has worked well.
When we see ourselves as a part of everything and not the center of everything, we begin to want for others what we want for ourselves—success! We’re not in competition for that because we know there is enough to go around. When we’re taking ourselves too seriously, those other people do not exist except as competitors. It’s about us and us only, so whatever happens to us is more important than what happens to everyone else. Less than favorable outcomes are magnified and often unbearable.
It helps to take it down a few notches and strive for a little humility. That includes checking ourselves and questioning the motivation behind decisions we make.
It’s not as hard as it sounds, and, eventually, it becomes a part of who we are.
By striving to keep my ego in check, I’m in a better position to handle criticisms and failures because I don’t have to prove I am beyond reproach. I haven’t placed myself up on a pedestal where I see myself as superior to and separate from others. I don’t believe I am so important that my haters are just sitting around watching and waiting to laugh at me when I fail. If they are, then they’re wasting precious time and won’t be able to achieve very much in their lives.
What this mind shift does is; it gives us permission to be vulnerable—permission from ourselves because no one else is stopping us. Then, instead of worrying about what others will think, we just write from the heart. We focus on learning to master our craft—something we absolutely cannot do when we think we already have it all down.
Of course, we all want praise. We want the glowing five-star reviews. There‘s nothing more gratifying than knowing your work has touched someone profoundly or thoroughly entertained as intended.
Friends kindly remind us that we all face rejection and that no one is above criticism. That’s true; someone has criticized every successful writer we know. But hearing that is not quite as comforting as it’s intended to be, so we secretly hope to be the exception.
We might be—if we tiptoe around—if we ask only our friends for reviews. We’ll get fewer reviews, but they’ll all be five-stars, right? On the other hand, if we want to reach millions of readers, we have to throw ourselves fearlessly into the arena, making ourselves more vulnerable to criticism.
Writer friends have said to me, “But, what about the internet trolls?”
Well, the truth is, people who take themselves too seriously are the perfect target for trolls. They are the ones who will argue with the trolls, thinking they will somehow get that person to sympathize or agree. It won’t happen because trolls lack empathy, or, let’s face it, they wouldn’t be trolls. If they know they’ve upset you, they will continue to provoke you. You can’t get caught up in the futility of that.
At the same time, not everyone who doesn’t like your work is a troll. There is legitimate criticism. We can get it from beta readers, good editors, and yes, honest reviews.
When it comes to betas and editors, we want that person who will say, about a particular scene, “You can do better than that.” We get lazy sometimes even with so much at stake. It’s wonderful to hear someone say, simply, “Oh, it’s great, I love it!” But if you’re still trying to iron out the kinks in your story, that’s not going to help you. I want to know where they got confused, where they got bored, what annoyed them, what characters they liked and didn’t like. That will help me determine whether I’m getting the effect I want. Not everyone will agree, of course, so it helps to get several people looking at your work—people who are not afraid to be objective and possibly upset you. Personally, I will not beta read for most people because I know I will give the honesty that I’d want myself, and I realize not everyone can handle that. I have gotten upset myself once, but I got over it fast. We don’t always have to agree with someone’s criticism, but we need to be open to it.
My beta readers have me laughing hysterically with some of their comments, especially with things that need fixing or clarifying. A simple, “Really?” or “Seriously?” can have me in a fit of giggles. The times we are laughing together on the phone or in person are the most fun. Even if they say, “This guy sounds like a douche,” I’m only going to be concerned if he’s not supposed to be sounding like a douche, and then we talk that stuff out. A bit of lightheartedness and a good sense of humor is key.
In an early draft that I wrote many years ago, I had decided to start at the beginning of my character’s life. By page 455, she was still twelve! I can’t help laughing now about how ridiculous that was. I had so much to learn about brutal editing (cut, cut, cut), where to begin a story, proper outlining, etc., and I’m still learning!
In my latest book, Shattering Truths, I was anal about how I wanted to tell this story. It is deep and personal, not my story, but a story about things I had witnessed over the years and one that had become very precious to my heart. It’s hard to be flexible when you are that emotionally involved, and, honestly, we become emotionally involved in all of our books, so we are incredibly biased. I needed feedback, and then, simply, to let go of what wasn’t working.
The truth is, we never stop learning, and there is always room to improve! I’m sure even the most successful writers would admit that, so it helps to embrace the learning process. Our confidence will increase as we evolve.
It’s all about honesty and integrity, and just being the best you can be. 🙂
People suffering from lower back pain often ask me how I manage scoliosis and lumbar spine disk disease, because I do manage it, despite having a disk determined to be “shot” rendering me a bad candidate for back surgery. One doctor told me I would end up in a wheelchair, but I haven’t had a back episode in years, and I do not take or need pain medication of any kind.
As an advocate of healing mind, body, and soul from all trauma, I hate to see people suffer, so I’m happy to pass along what has worked for me.
I am not a doctor or any authority on health. I’m just someone who has learned a lot through experience and from chiropractors who are willing to teach you what you need to know. These solutions won’t be enough for everyone dealing with pain, but most of it will help tremendously, and it will certainly help people who are in a situation similar to mine.
Let’s start with the mental stuff. I read somewhere that I needed to change my relationship with pain. If this sounds hokey, it’s not. I learned that while I could endure almost unbearable emotional pain, the biggest fears I had were things that could lead to physical pain. I was terrified of physical pain. I wanted to be comfortable all the time and couldn’t accept being uncomfortable ever. I feared it so much; it caused anxiety, and that only made things worse.
Changing my relationship with pain required getting to a place where I could accept when I was uncomfortable and hurting. I needed to remind myself that I wasn’t the only person on earth this was happening to, that aches and pains were normal, in fact, and people deal with it all the time. I also came to recognize that the physical pain I had was not solely a result of this inevitable thing inflicted upon me by some disorder I had no control over; it was my body telling me that something needed attention. Something I was doing or not doing needed to change. I hadn’t realized how reckless I’d been with my body throughout my life, never giving it the tender loving care it deserved. I needed to take care of it and take care of myself, and I needed to know I was worth that. This realization helped, as did the relaxed attitude of seeing myself as just another person on the planet dealing with something unpleasant and seeing myself as a more confident, take-charge person who could address and remedy situations. It means not only learning to love yourself but to trust and believe in yourself as well.
So let’s talk about treating the pain.
I don’t know about you, but I used to panic whenever I felt pain. It made me want to stop everything and get to a place where I could lie down and stay there. That’s a good time to stay away from coffee and sugar. These days, I don’t have to avoid coffee or sugar if I’m feeling a little off, because I understand how everything works, and I don’t panic. Until you get to that place, avoid those things when you’re feeling vulnerable.
Now, for me, ice treatments are everything. A chiropractor taught me to lay on my stomach with a small pillow rolled under my navel to elevate the lower half of my body and then put the ice pack right in the middle of my lower back (no matter where the pain is). Another way is to lie on your back with a pillow under your legs and the ice in the middle of your lower back, never less than twelve minutes, never more than twenty, and the ice pack should have a sheath. If you don’t have a wrap for it, you can put it over your thin T-shirt rather than under it, but it should never be directly on your skin. While in the worst pain where I could barely move, I did twenty minutes of ice every two hours. People who can’t stand ice can use heat, but it’s best to do ice at least for the first couple of days to reduce the inflammation. I rarely have to do an ice treatment now, but I try to do one at least once a week. It just feels good. 🙂
I do have an ice pack I can use at my desk, too, with a wraparound belt that has a pocket for the ice. I bought an extra one to take to the office with me when I worked for a law firm. I kept the ice in their refrigerator and the belt in my desk.
Years ago, I used back braces. They help but can also be a crutch, so it’s good if you use them as needed and wean yourself away as you can.
There are those who can’t function without pain medication, and I understand that. Back when I was struggling, I took Tylenol every four to five hours for days until I was better. That worked to reduce the inflammation, and there were occasions doctors had prescribed stronger medications. However, even Tylenol and Advil are getting a bad rap these days, so for people like me who don’t want to use these medications, I’m including a link below about natural alternatives.
A lot of time, too, our neck is out of whack, and it throws everything off. Take a small pillow or towel and roll it up tight, lie on your back and put that pillow behind your neck. Relax like that for twenty minutes or so whenever needed.
As for prevention, you may already know some or all of these things, but since I run into so many people who don’t know, I’ll cover it all.
First, having a solid abdominal core is essential. For some people, this means changing eating habits, making healthier choices, but others who may not necessarily be out of shape can still have weak cores. In my experience, I would always exercise but then stop for weeks when I felt any pain and slowly rebuild my strength. I was also causing injury by not doing the exercises correctly. While it’s true that you shouldn’t exercise while you are in pain or to the point of pain, sometimes the pain issue is resolved within a day. The trick is to get back on track when you can, even if you can only manage pelvic tilts. When your core is strong, your back is not so vulnerable. For people who can’t get to a gym, there are great exercise tapes on the market. You can do your workouts at home, and the instructors tell you how to do it right, so you aren’t injured. Ideally, you want to work all the muscles in your body, and you want to include strength training, yoga, Pilates, and aerobics in your routine. However, if you don’t have a lot of time to work out, you can at least do abdominal exercises five times a week for ten to fifteen minutes.
I mentioned that pain sometimes resolves itself within a day. I’m talking about food digestion. Very often, the pain people feel in their lower back comes from being bloated and unable to digest food. If this is going on for days, maybe you’re not drinking enough water. I try to drink eight to ten glasses daily. When people get older, they need to add more fiber to their diets.
When my back problems began, one of the first things my doctor told me was to stop lifting my toddler and bending at the waist to pick up his toys and all that. You should always bend at the knees anyway.
If you have back issues, it won’t help you to stay in any one position for too long. That sucks, I know—especially if you have to sit all day at work. Get up and stretch when you can. It’s the same with standing and walking. If you have to stand a long time, walk around a little or sit when you can. A mile-long walk is usually fine but can backfire if you’re hurting. Lying in bed for days isn’t good either. When you are injured, you can’t help that, but as soon as you can, get up every so often and walk a little farther and for a little longer each time.
Everyone knows it’s important to stretch after exercising, but when you have lower back issues, you can take time to stretch even when you’re not beginning or ending a workout.I have a big purple Pilates ball that I can use for stretching at home. You don’t need one to do stretches, but they’re awesome, and they usually come with instruction on how to use them.
Your doctor may have already told you that you need a good mattress and to get a restful sleep every night.
Your back should always be flat against the chair you’re sitting in, no space between your back and the chair. You’ll probably find chairs with arms and high backs to be more comfortable and supportive. I also use a lower back pillow when I’m working at my desk.
All this may sound like a lot of upkeep, but it’s a lifestyle change and becomes second nature to you once you get used to it, so please don’t be discouraged, or give up. Believe me; I know how debilitating this can be, so I don’t want you to suffer for years as I did.
I tripped over the uneven sidewalk on my block a month ago, twisting my foot twice trying to prevent the fall. I couldn’t flex my foot without feeling pain. I went home, got in bed, put ice on my foot and fell asleep. Then the building’s central fire alarm went off.
The sheer volume of that alarm is horrifying.
I got dressed in a panic, unable to lay my foot flat, and hobbled down three flights. A frail silver-haired woman carrying a birdcage appeared to be doing just fine and offered help. By the time I reached the bottom, everyone had wanted to help.
I thought the incident would have caused more damage, but the next day, my foot seemed better. I figured if I could hobble down three flights to flee a fire or an ear-shattering alarm, I didn’t need to see a doctor or get an x-ray. In fact, I should continue working out, cooking, cleaning—all the things my OCD tells me cannot wait. (As an aside, my ex-boss said she loved hiring OCD people because they get things done if it kills them.)
The thing is I am always saying you can’t get to the solution of any problem and stay in the solution until you accept the problem. But I didn’t want this inconvenience, this foot injury thing. Summer had arrived. Aside from that, I had deadlines, goals, plans. I said, a few times, this is a bad time for this to happen as if there are good times for it to happen.
It turns out, the pain from a stress fracture typically settles in after a couple of days, but the recovery process is just beginning. If you don’t take care of the injury, it gets worse.
I made the appointment.
An x-ray showed a fifth metatarsal stress fracture with the bone still in place. I didn’t need surgery, but they saddled me with this very expensive and hideous CAM boot.
They also gave me greasy Pain Stat cream. I don’t know how much that cost, but it is very messy, slippery stuff. I didn’t like it.
No one encouraged me to stay off the foot. In fact, the physical therapist said, “Hey if you’re comfortable walking twenty blocks, walk twenty blocks.” No one said anything to me about shoes either. Maybe they thought I would figure it out for myself, but I wasn’t thinking clearly in between all the stress and denial.
It doesn’t take long to figure it out. Walking around the neighborhood with legs of two different lengths and one heavy boot is not good. It throws your hip out of whack, and when you get home, everything hurts—calves, other foot, hip, back, everything but the foot in the boot. I started looking in my closet for shoes to match the height of the boot. I had nothing like that. I threw out my sneakers months ago when I moved. I never wore them.
My chiropractor said the imbalance consequences are common while being treated for this type of injury. She confirmed that the shoe you wear on the other foot, preferably a sneaker, must be the same height of the CAM boot. She also suggested Arnica Gel instead of Pain Stat. It does the same thing without the grease. She further explained that when something like this happens, it causes inflammation throughout your body. You have to eat things that are not inflammatory. So throughout the ordeal, you eat right, rest, ice, be gentle with yourself, and take good care of those other parts like your back. You must send lots of love to your body—TLC.
I went back to the podiatrist and told him about the imbalance problem. Well, they had a solution for that all along but never mentioned it. How do you like that? They gave me an adjustment for the other foot before I left. It was a flimsy rubber thing to put over a shoe. They didn’t seem to care what shoe I put it on or whether it was a close match, and it was another $50. I could have bought another pair of shoes.
I did buy sneakers, and then the boot was comfortable as long as the sneaker and adjustment gadget were on the other foot. That made it even. You feel kind of like a monster walking down the street and a little slow, but nobody’s going to mess with you.
After weeks of compliance, the foot only bothered me when I took the boot off—muscle atrophy.
I got to replace the monster CAM boot with a small ankle/foot brace after only three weeks. My foot was back to normal except for the atrophy. Considering, too, all the footbaths and “physical therapy” they keep giving me without asking… this little mishap was costly. That’s a good incentive for me to pay attention and watch where I am going.
I know that a fifth metatarsal fracture is not the worst thing that can happen to someone. In fact, it’s very low on the list of awful things that can happen. I hope it never happens to anyone reading this, but if it does, I hope sharing some of my mistakes will help.
I’m a happy camper now.
It’s funny, though, realizing what you’d taken for granted—like when I’m listening to music, and I want to dance. You begin to do it, forgetting. Soon I will, though. Be ready.