BeYOUtiful

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BeYOUtiful

by Dee Harris

You Don't Have to Be

   It’s taken me literally a lifetime, my lifetime up to this point, to finally be comfortable in my own skin.  Today I can gratefully and humbly be OK in my own skin and to love myself for who and what I am – the real me – the me who was born innocently and without human and worldly interactions 63 years ago.

   Of course when I entered the real world I was immediately introduced to people who would form my life.  Most enhanced my life and made it evolve and flourish; I was allowed and encouraged to mature and blossom.  But something happens when entering the real world where not all people are so caring and nurturing.  Some are downright mean and hateful.  These people, too, would shape my life.

   In school when the other kids would make fun of us, that hurts.  When we feel stupid in class because we don’t know the answers, we feel shamed.  When we don’t meet our parents’ expectations, we feel unworthy.  When we can’t live up to our partner’s hopes in our relationship, we start to experience self-doubt.  When our boss reprimands us for not pulling our weight, we feel panic.  

   All of these feelings create that overwhelming knot in our guts that we’re unable to abandon.  These feelings and experiences, too, start to sculpt who we are today and our opinions of ourselves.  And, all too often, these feelings of unworthiness start to outweigh who we really are – that innocent and unscathed child at birth who is, and always will be, an important part of who we are.

   For me, when I felt the effects of alcohol that horrific knot in my gut of being the square peg trying to fit into the round hole started to diminish.  I felt I fit in.  I didn’t care anymore what you thought of me.  I got to be the real me.  But that real me came from my head and not my heart.  And it was just concealing what was in my head, not truly what I thought about myself.

   Fast forward a few decades.  I find that I am using alcohol more and more to escape reality.  And then I find that I no longer have a choice in using alcohol; I have to drink everyday.  As a matter of fact, alcohol is consuming my life and life is getting in the way of my being able to drink the way I want to, or need to, which is constantly and to the point of no return…blacking out or passing out…and then doing it again and again.  I find that the chapters in my life contain more and more stories of incomprehensible demoralization and that I no longer have control over my drinking but that drinking has control over me.

   Where am I going with this?  My story, my journey, my life has brought me full-circle back to that child who can be herself.  Yes, I’m an adult now and I have responsibilities.  I have learned manners and have learned how to behave in public.  But I can now unlearn what I so took to heart from my experiences and relationships from my decades in this society.

   You see, when I finally hit my bottom with my drinking, I got help.  I was so sick and tired of living that life; I was exhausted of not only the lying and hiding, but never getting good sleep, good food or exercise.  I came to in a 28-day treatment facility for alcoholism.  I learned about the disease.  I did what was suggested and attended AA meetings.  I learned to ask for help and to be rigorously honest.  I got a sponsor.  I worked the Steps.  And there, my friends, is where the miracles happen!

   Working Step 4 (“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”) is where I learned how fear-based I had been living my life up to that point.  And, yes, it stemmed from my life experiences.  I no longer have to, let those experiences shape who I am today.

   It’s so freeing to be able to peel away the onion skin, one layer at a time, one day at a time, and learn that I am worthy because before getting sober I would look at my reflection in the mirror with my hand shaped like an “L” placed on my forehead and I would call myself a loser.  I hated myself.  I loathed myself.  I was a waste of space on the planet.

   But today I realize that I have gifts and that YOU have gifts.  We all have defects of character, things about ourselves that we don’t like, that don’t serve us, that we can or maybe not.  But those defects don’t have to determine who we are or what we think about ourselves.  Let’s change them or make the best of them. OK?  And let’s remember our unique gifts, those wonderful attributes that others wished they had…and let’s share those gifts.

   And when we can turn our negatives into positives, our pessimism into optimism, our helplessness into hope, then we can be our real selves and know but more importantly feel that we are worthy to be on this planet and part of humanity.  When we can get out of ego and live from our hearts we will know from intuition (that feeling in our guts) that tells us what’s right and what’s wrong.  When we respect those feelings and take the path that serves us, we can then share what we’ve learned with others to do our best to make their journeys more palatable.  Yes.  We can inspire!  That’s where are journeys are leading us…

   Please remember “You don’t have to be what other people want you to be.”  Be YOU.  BeYOUtiful!

   I’m so glad our paths have joined today.  I look forward to hearing about your journey or any feedback you would like to share.  With much aloha, Dee Harris

For those interested in checking out what I do when I’m not blogging, please check out my Art with a Message of Hope and Optimism at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

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I Am Not Afraid of My Truth Anymore

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I AM NOT AFRAID OF MY TRUTH ANYMORE 

by Dee Harris 

Not Afraid of My Truth Anymore

     “My name is Dee and I’m an alcoholic.”  Holy moly.  One of the scariest things I ever had to say or do was admit that I am an alcoholic.  Especially in my first local AA meeting.  Dang.  There were going to people in there who knew me.  They’ll know what a loser I am and how weak I am.

   As a matter of fact at one of my first meetings I saw a friend go by on his bike in front of the club house and kid me about going to an AA meeting.  I quickly responded that I was going to the laundromat next door.  I felt so shitty I uncomfortably, but victoriously, told on myself in the meeting and later made my amends to my friend.

   And in that first local AA meeting there were, indeed, people I knew.  How could there not be?  I had lived in that town 18 years and was a grocery checker.  Unless they didn’t eat, we had met.  

   But something magical happened in that instant I entered the club house.  I got a feeling of “home”.  Damn, I’m home.  I’m comfortable.  I was greeted in this moment of overwhelming fear with open arms, hugs, understanding, and NO JUDGMENT.  No long-ended series of questions and words.  Simple.  Thank goodness, or I would have been out that door in a heartbeat.

   Backtrack a month.  I am going in for an assessment to see if “I qualify” to enter a 28-day treatment facility for alcoholism (an hour away from where I live so no one would no me.  NOT!).    I don’t know what they’re going to ask me.  I don’t yet know about rigorous honesty.  But they do.  They know an alcoholic is going to lie about their drinking habits and how much they drink.  I did.  I “passed” and spent over 28-days in rehab.

   And that first night when I lay in my bed I think that I don’t need to be here; I’m ok now.  I realize that alcohol is my problem and now I can go home and control, or even stop, my drinking.  But deep down inside I knew that wouldn’t happen as I had tried which seemed like forever, so I stayed.  

   Even when I called to make that appointment for the assessment and I was told that after that initial meeting I would be sent home and called back later to see whether or not “I qualified”, one of my first experiences with rigorous honesty appeared.  I said that if I was sent home, I would not return because my mind would think I am now ok because I admitted I had a problem.  I was told to bring my suitcase with me.

   The day before the assessment I want to yell from the roof tops that I am an alcoholic.  I’m going to get help and I won’t have to drink everyday anymore.  But I selectively let one of my neighbors know.  And my aunt and brother (I would have told my mom but she was on vacation in Hawaii).  I, of course, let my boss know.  And my husband and my two boys.  Something magical happened that day; the weight that I shed by admitting I had a problem was magical!

   And then on the morning of the assessment as I was getting ready to make the hour drive, I hear a knock on the door.  I know it is not my husband who had gone off to work.  I know it is not my kids who had gone off to school.  It was my auntie, grandma and brother who had driven two hours to take me, support me, love me to my appointment.  I break down crying, secretly.  I was full of guilt and shame for what I had allowed myself to become.  I was full of gratitude for the love that was apparent by their being there for me.  I was not worthy.  Why the hell would they drive all that way for the piece of shit that I had become?

   My husband and my boys don’t accompany me to the assessment.  Everything with them is blurry because most of my time with them is blurry.  I was a black-out, pass-out, closet drinker.  Only they knew the real me.  And that me was ugly.  And that ugly me is all I can remember of my life with them up to that point.  One who had to drink everyday to that place of pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization.  Many of them.  Many, many.

   Backtrack to the day before the assessment.  It was my day off but the day prior I had hit my bottom.  I had not come to when my kids came home from school to get ready for work like I did forever.  I had passed out and missed my shift at work.  The red light was flashing on the answering machine.  The message was from the night manager who was concerned whether or not I was ok; it wasn’t like me to be a no call/no show.  And that night manager was one of my best friends (and still is) but I couldn’t call her back.  I just couldn’t.

   So I fish like I had done so many times before.  Fish for answers from my husband and my boys as to whether I had called back and, if so, what I had said.  I don’t remember getting a response from them.

   So on that day before the assessment I knew I had to talk to my boss to let her know what had happened.  What kind of excuse can I make up?  But I was so sick and tired of making up excuses, living a life that was a lie.  A life that was full of hiding.  I was exhausted.  So I told her the truth, on the phone, because I didn’t have the guts to look her in the eye.

   She listened.  She offered empathy, kind words and support.  She got me into a recovery program that changed my life, saved my life, gave me a life, and I shall forever be grateful.

   So one day at a time I get better.  I go through the 28-day program for alcoholism.  I am the poster child for AA and do everything that is suggested to me there.  But something inside of me is missing and I can’t put my finger on it.

   So after about seven years I one day at a time get worse.  I go to fewer meetings, do less service and stop reaching out.  And then one day when offered a drink on automatic pilot I  reply that I haven’t had a drink for 13-1/2 years so no thank you.  That drink was left there for me in case I changed my mind.  

   At that point in sobriety my mind was once again king.  It was running the show.  My ego had once again taken over.  I had forgotten how awesome it was to live from my heart with my Higher Power in charge.  I had forgotten what it was like to be humble and grateful.  I had forgotten what it was to be a newcomer.  And I had forgotten that unless I give it away, I can’t keep it.

   So I drank that shot of tequila.  And IMMEDIATELY, and I mean IMMEDIATELY, the disease, the devil, whatever you want to call it, reared its ugly head in victory and yelled, “MORE!”  So my friend gave me another.  And the lying, cheating, hiding and all the negativity that alcoholism smothered me with once again took priority in my life.  That quickly.  Positivity and optimism turned to negativity and hell.

   Today I realize that shot of tequila and that friend who left it for me was a God Shot, a message from a Power Greater Than Myself that I have a purpose to share my experience, strength and hope with others suffering from the disease of thinking, whether it be alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, overeating, sex, shopping, abandonment issues, abuse, or life itself.

   Today I am not afraid of my truth anymore.  I am comfortable in my own skin.  I can be who I was meant to be and love myself, with all my character defects.  I no longer live in fear that you won’t accept me, judge me, talk about me.  You’re on your journey and I am on mine.  When our paths cross (like they are right now) I can give you the respect you deserve for your opinions even though they might not be mine.  That’s the beauty of life and the humanity placed on this planet.  I shall learn from your opinions and experiences and become a more compassionate person.  And I shall share my compassion with those who enter my bubble.

   Thank you for crossing my path.  I look forward to hearing about your journeys.  With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

   For those interested in experiencing another avenue of my sharing my experience, strength and hope, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

FINDING YOURSELF

  

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FINDING YOURSELF

by Dee Harris

finding yourself

   I just spent the most glorious day with my 4-year old granddaughter.  How refreshing to experience her light-heartedness, her innocence, her ability to be in the moment.

   How can I keep her like this?  I know that I was once pure and unscathed.  No regrets about the past; no worries about the future.  Once upon a time…I was not lost.

   But nowadays with both of our parents at work, we attend child care and pre-school before kindergarten.  We start to be exposed to the real world.  And we have television not only for educational purposes, but for our babysitter.  If we choose wisely what our children watch and what schools they attend, we can somewhat shield them from the big bad world.  But not for long.

   Our children need to be social beings.  We are all social beings and need each other to thrive.  However, there are some Big Bad Wolves out in the real world so we must teach them early about safety.

   Ok, done.  Don’t talk to strangers.  Safety in numbers.  No one can touch you.  Always tell a trusted adult when someone scares you or gives you that oh-oh feeling.

   But no matter what, we start to lose our true self.  We go to school.  We make friends,  We have peers.  We are influenced.  They say nice things; they say hurtful things.  Our pride suffers; our feelings are hurt.  We start to cover up our true self in order to prohibit more of those hurtful remarks.  And over the years with these occurrences, we lose touch with our true self.

   And then there is social media (all that stuff on TV, movies, magazines, computers and the like).  Oooohhh, they’re so pretty or so handsome.  They’re so popular.  I can never be like them.  We shrink a little more; we feel a little more “less than”, experience by experience.  Now we are really out of touch with our true self.

   And what if we come from a family or home where love nor self-worth is enhanced, let alone provided.  Or we are hurt physically or verbally.  Geez.  What happened to that light-hearted, innocent child in us?  And if our family came from a family of abusers, what hope is there for us?  They don’t know any better or any other way either.  We’re screwed!

   It’s taken me many a decade to unlearn what was shoved down my throat as a child.  Most of our thoughts and feelings come from the early years of our lives.  I heard numerous times to strive for the almighty dollar.  More is better.  Go to college.  Push.  Shove.  Stab whoever in the back to get to the top.  Get a lot of money.  Get a lot of power.  Sacrifice everything (even yourself) to achieve this goal.

   And how many of us felt too fat, too short, too curly, wore glasses, wore braces, you get the gist.  We just didn’t fit in quite right.  We didn’t fit into that clique of peers that were so popular, so comfortable, and had so much fun.

   Guess what?  Those peers were never 100% comfortable in their own skins either.  These experiences are human experiences that we all go through.  But whether you were told at a young age or here and now, YOU are a gift!  You are UNIQUE!  You are SPECIAL with qualities that no other human being has on this planet.

   And when you’re feeling that you just can’t pull yourself up out of the hole you’re in, reach out your hand and don’t deprive us of the gift of getting you on your feet.  Yes, we can love you until you are able to love yourself.  We see your gifts even though you don’t…yet.

   And know that all of these experiences and feeling are what make you YOU.  Without this journey called life, with your thoughts and feelings, you would just be a robot.  Not much to contribute to humanity just being a robot.  Turn your thoughts and experiences, no matter how negative you might consider them, into the positives that make you the pure and unscathed person you once were.  You know, we always have that inner child in us; it is always there!  

   So know that there were no coincidences on your journey.  It happened just perfectly to bring you to where you are here and now.  Just perfect!  Dang!

   So one day at a time you find yourself smothered in the cocoon of cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions, and inaccurate conclusions about who you are.  Guess what?  One day at a time you can start shedding all that sh*t, unlearning that which does not serve you, and find that kid in you again, the “real” you that you were always meant to be before the world got its hands on you.  Enjoy the journey.  Be excited for each new day and its new freedom.  And then share it with another struggling human being.

   Thank you for being here.  I encourage any and all feedback.  We’re on our journeys together with experience, strength and wisdom to share with one another…and one day at a time, our love and understanding will ripple its way around this wonderful planet of ours!

   With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

For those looking for Art with a Message of Self-Love and Well-Being, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

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LOVE YOURSELF

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LOVE YOURSELF

by Dee Harris 

when you love yourself

   I’m remembering kindergarten, playing with confidence, having fun, no worries.  In elementary school I was still pretty confident, in charge, and appreciative of myself.  In junior high school things start to change.  

   It has nothing to do with the school, but with me and this time of my life.  Although I’ve always been learning about the world around, especially from the people who come into my Bubble, the teenage years seemed to be where I really started to be self-conscious.

   So somewhere I started to question myself, how I felt about myself.  I started to worry about what you thought of me because my hands were sweaty when we danced together.  You made fun of my flat nose because I was Chinese.  You looked at me in “that way” when I didn’t know the answer.  I started to live self-consciously in a fearful kind of way.

   This is where my fear could have been nipped in the bud, but it wasn’t the journey for which I was destined.  In retrospect, being affirmed and taught from the get-go that I am unique, beautiful and worthy human being with my differences, might have helped me overcome my fear, perhaps not.

   Fast-forward to 1998.  I look at myself in the bathroom mirror.  There’s an “L” placed over my forehead with my hand denoting “Loser”.  I have self-loathing and self-hatred.  I look like sh*t and I feel like sh*t.  I hate myself.  Why?  Because I know I will drink today and I will drink too much today.  And I will feel like sh*t again tomorrow.

   I have tried many ways to stop drinking, but none of them work.  I am not living under the bridge nor drinking from a brown paper bag.  I have a family, a home, two cars, a dog and a job.  I am college educated.  Yet I can’t go a day without a drink.

   Drinking helped me when I felt self-conscious.  Drinking helped me when I didn’t fit in.  Drinking helped me when I didn’t know the answer.  It took the edge off for a long while until one day…POOF!…I HAD to drink.  No if’s, and’s or but’s.  I was going to drink today because that’s all I could think about and drinking was my life.

   So in 1998 I am in an alcohol treatment program.  I learn that drinking, alcoholism, is a disease of mind and body.  It has nothing to do with self-will.  And from that day forward I learn to love myself for who and what I am.  What a beautiful thing to be on the upside of my journey, to look at the glass half-full, with hope and optimism for this beautiful time in my life.

   I know that I couldn’t have got to this magical place in my life on my own.  I would still be trying to scrape together enough self-will or willpower to not drink today.  I would be devising some other new plans to keep me from drinking today, or just drinking only one or two.  It wouldn’t work.  So the recovery program set me on my new, and clearly, right path.

   Having counselors and students in my program was the first time I realized there were others out there that battled with drinking.  And then going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, as was suggested, is where the real freedom began.  Working with a sponsor, surrounding myself with like-minded people who just wanted to be sober for the day, confirmed for me I do not have to do this alone.  And not only that, I wasn’t judged.  I was loved in the rooms of AA before I could love myself.

   So now I get to love myself, to glow from the inside out.  I get to attract people who love, respect, and appreciate my energy.  I am worthy and get to be comfortable in my own skin.

   Just know that if you are feeling like a “loser”, feeling worthless and will never be good enough, together we can get through this.  Don’t give up.  Put out your hand and let us love you until you can love yourself.

   Thank you for sharing your time with me.  I encourage feedback so please don’t feel yours isn’t deserving.  It IS!  One day at a time, one ripple at a time, we can be the best we can be and help others to do the same.  The rewards are massive!

   With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

   For those searching for affirmations and inspirational messages, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

Regrets of the Dying 

Dee:  This blog was inspired by “Five Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware.  

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Regrets of the Dying 

by Bronnie Ware 

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. 

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them. 

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five: 

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. 

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it. 

Dee:

I am blessed to have not been told I have “x” amount of time to live.  But I try to live as if I have.  I do try to live in the moment striving to have no regrets.  If this were my last day on the planet, I know I have done my best and I cannot think of any unresolved issues nor regrets that need tending to.

Ok, I could update my will and trust, but it actually is “good enough” as they are written.  I could clean up my paper trail, making sure that passwords and accounts are readily available for my loved ones.  I could get rid of a lot of my shit so that my family doesn’t have to encounter the mountains of possessions I’ve accumulated.

But this is more than that.  This is about being true to yourself.  This I did not learn until crawling out of the depths of my addictions.  And when I was given the opportunity for a new life, I ran with it.  This gift was given me by Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Steps are my toolbox for living a sensible and meaningful life today.

So living a life true to myself is a fabulous blessing.  By working the Steps with a trusted sponsor I found how fear-based I was living.  I was trying to live the life I thought others expected of me.  I was more concerned about getting your approval than my own self-worth and self-love as I wasn’t aware of what that was.

As I peeled away the layers of the onion skin eventually revealing the real me and learned to accept and love the real me, everything changed.  Everything got easier, lighter, freer.  I found happiness and contentment.  I found purpose.  I found compassion and empathy.  I found ME!

Yes, I still do for you today but not because I need your approval to validate myself.  I do it because I want to and it gives my heart joy.  And today I get to be the person I was meant to be, allowing the inner child to play and run free.  I get to be the responsible me, making sure commitments are being fulfilled and doing my best to help others and the planet.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. 

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. 

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle. 

Dee:

For as long as I can remember I heard and learned how important it is to have more, and to do whatever it takes to get more.  So if that means sacrificing relationships, so be it.  If that means no date nights with your mate, oh well.  If that means missing your kids’ special events, there will be others.  If that means putting yourself at the bottom of the list, someday you will take care of yourself.

Does more money, more power, more stuff, serve us?  Hell, no.  We learn as we age that less is better, not more.  Finding peace and contentment with the simplest of needs frees us to enjoy what is really important…life itself and the relationships we were meant to have with each other and this wonderful planet on which we live.  So not being a slave to expensive, non-meaningful possessions is what we should be striving toward.  Basic needs, yes.  Comparing yourself to the Joneses, no.  Feel comfortable enough in your own skin to know, feel, what is best for you.  And if/when you can, find work that you’re passionate about…that fills your soul!

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.                                                            

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result. 

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win. 

Dee:

Again, being true to yourself, loving yourself, valuing yourself, is key here.  That is where we need to start.  And, again, for me that came from staying active in a very strong support group of AA and using the tools they so freely offered.

There are many places to find support…your church, your doctor, your friends, your family (please, not your bartender), and a wealth of support groups to fit your needs.  Use them.  You never have to be alone to struggle through life.  They can teach you how to kindly express your feelings, stop walking on egg shells, be true to yourself.  

I learned that living from my heart and not my head (which rationalized any- and everything detrimental to my greatest good), was the way to go for me.  I learned that trusting in a Higher Power of My Own Understanding and turning my will and life over to the care of that Power Greater Than Myself, was freeing and took the burdens of life off my shoulders.  I learned that I have no control over people, places, or things, so go with the flow and just take care of my side of the street (so to say).

Getting rid of negative thoughts and feelings (resentments) is crucial to this process.  And learning how your part (if any) in these situations blew them out of proportion is vital to their resolve.  Fear-based?  Ego?  Selfishness?  Let it go.  It doesn’t serve you.  Be true to yourself and love yourself for who and what you are.  Be comfortable in your own skin.  And then you can comfortably speak your mind with grace and love.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying. 

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships. 

Dee:

Although I am not an avid supporter of social media, it has made keeping in touch much easier.  I have found long-lost friends on the internet.  Today we have relationships more priceless than we had when the memories that were conjured up in my brain even occurred.

When thoughts of long-lost friends arise, follow through on them.  There are no coincidences.  These thoughts arise for a reason.  Honor them.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. 

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. 

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying. 

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness. 

Dee:

Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  Release your inner child.  That beautiful, uninhibited YOU that you were meant to be.  Laugh.  Be silly.  Have fun.  Don’t worry about what others will think about you because “they” usually don’t give a shit anyhow.  They are too wrapped up in their own lives and egos to care.  Let them be on their own journeys.  Love them.  Accept them.  But don’t seek their approval.  Seek your own!  Be happy, joyous and free! and live a life that serves YOU as if today were the last day of your life!

Thank you all for reading and being part of my story.  With warmest aloha and best wishes for a wonderful New Year and New Life, Dee Harris

I use affirmations to keep me on track when the busyness of life takes me away from the moment in front of my nose.  They help recenter me.  If you’re interested in inspiring, even funny, affirmations, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

Note: This excellent article is mirrored from the original posted at Bronnie Ware’s website. “Based on this article, Bronnie has now released a full length book titled The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. It is a memoir of her own life and how it was transformed through the regrets of the dying people she cared for. This inspiring book is available internationally through Hay House.” 

Copyright Bronnie Ware. 

http://www.hospicepatients.org/five-regrets-of-the-dying-bronnie-ware.html 

Advice for Grinches: How to Avoid the Holiday Funk 

Dee:  This blog was inspired by the Chopra Center’s                                                       “Advice for Grinches: How to Avoid the Holiday Funk”

Dee Grinch 12:7:18

Advice for Grinches: How to Avoid the Holiday Funk 

By Sara Schairer 

The holidays are here, and they bring with them an abundance of twinkle lights, parties, cookies, and joy. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? 

Yes. For some lucky people. 

Perhaps this line from the Dr. Seuss’ book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is a more accurate depiction of how you feel about Christmas: “Hate, hate, hate. Hate, hate, hate. Double Hate. LOATHE ENTIRELY!”  The Grinch’s comments refer to his feelings for the Whos, and it quite accurately describes his feeling about the holidays. 

Do you have an inner-Grinch who comes out this time of year? 

Despite the festivities, the holidays bring sadness for many. Feelings of grief and loneliness may rise to the surface. For me, this time of year reminds me of the loss I’ve experienced over the years. I miss my deceased father every holiday season, and I feel sadness about my failed marriage. 

Dee:

A bit of sadness surfaces for me as well as our home is no longer filled with excited-for-Christmas children.  But I still hang lights inside and outside the house.  I put up a small  tree for my husband and me.  I hang stockings.  I send out Christmas cards with a short year-in-brief note.  I bake cookies.  

I do this for ME!  It gives my heart joy.  No sadness necessary for wonderful past memories.  I must stay in the moment and be grateful for them and this moment present in front of my nose.  I lack for nothing.  I am grateful.  I am humble.

But you don’t have to stay stuck in sadness during the holiday sadness. Here are some simple tips to help you stay less Grinch-y and more positive this holiday season. 

1. Self-Compassion 

Self-compassion meditations and simple practices can help you gracefully navigate sadness and grief. By remembering the three main pillars of self-compassion (mindfulness, common humanity, self-kindness), you can stay attuned to your suffering with more grace and ease. 

Dee:

For me self-compassion and meditations both bring me back to this present moment.  In this present moment I don’t have to pick up a drink or drug.  That wasn’t always the case.  I would be hanging up Christmas lights in a snow storm on a metal ladder.  Year after year.  Stupid.  Drunk.  I would bake cookies, wrap gifts and decorate the inside of the house to all hours of the night.  Year after year.  Drunk.  High.  I would black out and then pass out while opening gifts.  Sick.  Sad.

No more.  Today I have a choice to not pick up a drink or a drug.  For that and Alcoholics Anonymous I am truly grateful and truly humble.  I can practice self-compassion and love myself for who and what I am…today…one day at a time.

2. Gratitude 

Research indicates that a daily or weekly gratitude practice enhances overall well-being, and a simple gratitude practice can take just five minutes or less of your time each day. 

At the end of the day, write down three things for which you are grateful. Instead of the normal responses like my health and family, ratchet up the practice by looking back on your day and picking out specific highlights. For example, you could write, “I am grateful for the lunch and laughs I shared with my co-workers. We ate outside and enjoyed the crisp air and sunshine.” 

Dee:

I start my day and end my day in bed, duh.  Before getting out of bed to face the day I turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand God, a God of My Own Understanding to whom I was introduced working the 12 Steps of AA.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not promoting AA.  I am promoting YOU and your well-being.  There are many support groups in your neck of the woods that can help walk you through whatever ails you.  AA was introduced to me in rehab and they loved me until I could love myself.  Find your tribe!

Before falling asleep I again deeply connect with my Higher Power so thankful for his driving me around throughout the day while I enjoyed the passenger seat.  I got to meet new people, experience new adventures, all without having to be in control or affect the outcome.  Everything turned out perfectly!

3. Cultivate Joy 

The human brain focuses on the negative, which means you need to intentionally cultivate more positivity in your life. It’s referred to as the brain’s negativity bias and research suggests that you need a three-to-one ratio of positive feelings to negative feelings in order to flourish. 

Dee:

It seems like the older I get the harder it is to muster up any energy.  So when I do scoop up a pile or two of energy, I choose to use it in a positive way.  I remember how exhausting it was to live a life in active alcoholism, having to drink everyday, but more exhausting was the guilt, shame, hiding, lying and cheating.  That negative shit took all the energy I had and I had nothing left for me, let alone joy.

One way to add more positivity is through self-affirmation. Take time each day to think of things you appreciate about yourself. A gratitude practice also infuses your day with positivity. 

Dee:

One thing we did in rehab was to make up an affirmation and recite it to the group every morning for 28 days.  I chose, “I am a good person.  I am a whole person.”  At that time in my life I felt anything but good nor whole.  I was a piece of shit wasting space on the planet with no purpose.

But reciting this affirmation has helped me tremendously to get back in the moment, to remember where I am today and how I got here.  As I peeled the layers of the onion skin off of myself I realized that I do, indeed, have a purpose.  To share my experience, strength and hope with those who enter my Dee Bubble.  Those who are going through tough times, whether from addictions, abuses, or just too much on their plates.

Today I am able to use my tough times to help me stay grounded, grateful and humble.  I needed those tough times to bring me to this calmness and lightness in my life.  So I share with you that you are not alone on your journey.  And that everything is perfect right now.  Just go in faith and not fear.  Live from your heart and not your head.

4. Minimize Social Media Consumption 

If you’re regularly (obsessively?) checking your Facebook and Instagram feeds, try to bring awareness to how you’re feeling. Do you notice sadness, uneasiness, or any tightness? Your mind might be comparing your life to the lives you see online. Since most people only highlight their best moments on social media, you are most likely not getting the full picture of someone’s life. Comparing your normal, flawed life to one that appears to be perfect is a recipe for sadness. 

Try putting your phone down more often and staying off of social media. Notice if any of your feelings shift. 

Dee:

I use social media mostly to promote my business.  But getting on Facebook or Instagram draws me in to life outside my Bubble.  I experience everyone’s journeys and get to be a part of.  I get joy from these long-distance interactions.

I no longer need to compare my journey with yours as I know now that we are all alike with both good times and hard times.  I finally feel good enough in my own skin that I don’t need to impress you.  I have my own gifts as you have yours.  And sharing our gifts with one another makes the world a better place.

5. Find a Holiday Accountability Buddy 

Do you know someone else who has experienced loss or has a tough time during the holidays? If so, reach out to that person and see if you can lean on each other every day. Send this person a quick text once a day to check in, and he or she can do the same for you. 

You might want to use this accountability as a way to start or enhance your daily gratitude practice. 

Dee:

In AA it was suggested I get a sponsor, someone I trust, with whom I can share my journey and who could walk me through the 12 Steps of AA.  So I did and she has helped me to grow in ways far beyond my wildest dreams.  She is my accountability buddy, not just during the holidays, but everyday!

And when she is unavailable I have the fellowship of AA to nurture, protect and teach me.  I am never alone, nor are YOU!  Find like-minded people for your tribe to help you through the holidays and to enrich your life.

6. Take Deep Breaths 

If a formal meditation practice isn’t your style, you can experiment with a brief breathing practice to help you bring awareness to the moment and calm yourself. Research shows that by taking a big, slow, deep inhale, and then exhaling slowly, you can calm your body’s response to stress. 

Dee:

We all experience holding our breath in that fight or flight situation.  But why am I not taking deep breaths in calm situations?  If you’re like me it takes getting back in the moment, knowing we are being cared for and protected, getting out of self that brings by breathing back into a healthy rhythm.  It takes practice but I hope someday to breathe deeply naturally.

7. Practice Generosity 

While it is said that, “it is better to give than to receive,” you might not feel this around the holidays. The added expenses, packed stores, and overall stress that comes with holiday gift-giving might make you feel like giving is not the best way to get out of your Grinch-y attitude. 

True, heartfelt generosity doesn’t equate to stress, however. You can be generous with your time, your hugs, your smile, and your listening ear. If you do have extra funds, you can support nonprofits who might rely on end-of- year giving to support their work. 

Dee:

I learned early on in my recovery that unless I give it back, I won’t keep it.  And I found that to be true when I got complacent in my sobriety, stopped going to meetings, stopped AA altogether and found my defects of character, my old sick way of being and doing and thinking come back…one day at a time.  And then I drank.

I cannot afford to let down my guard.  My disease of alcoholism deserves the respect I give to the ocean.  I am careful.  I don’t turn my back on it.  I must take nothing for granted.

So I give back.  This time of year especially and year-round as well I give my Art with a Message of Hope and Inspiration to local fundraisers, especially to AA.  I give a portion of my earnings all year-round to our local AA, which gets doled out to the district, the area, and the world.  If I don’t give it away, I can’t keep it.  Today my life is good.  I want to keep it that way!

8. Volunteer 

Speaking of nonprofits, many of them can use an extra hand during the holidays. The need for many services may increases during the winter months. Find a nonprofit in your community that needs help and spend some time serving your community. 

Because of your compassionate feelings, you just might feel a boost. 

Dee:

One volunteer commitment that is sure to give me that boost is speaking once or twice a month at our local DUI classes.  I do this not as community service but as a service to my community.  My hope is that one person will leave the class feeling hopeful and optimistic by hearing my experience, strength and hope.  Hopefully, I can change a life for the better.

And with the holidays just around the corner, what a hard time to try to get and stay clean and sober.  So I’ve volunteered to lead one of the 24-Hour Alkathons that the newcomer or person struggling can attend non-stop from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day.

These volunteer commitments get me out of self.  They help to remind me where I’ve come from and how good it is today.  They help me to not drink one day at a time and to give back what was so freely given me when I needed it most – compassion.

Thank you for being here and I hope I was able to offer you some hope and optimism.  Wishing you the happiest of holidays and, if you feel overwhelmed, know that you are not alone.  Help is just a phone call away.

With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

For those looking for Gifts with a Message of Hope and Optimism, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

Try out some of these techniques and send your inner Grinch into hibernation this winter. 

Learn a natural, effortless style of meditation that helps invite renewal and freshness into every day with Basics of Meditation, a self-paced online course guided by Deepak Chopra.

About the Author 

Sara Schairer (/bios/sara-schairer) 

Sara Schairer is the founder and executive director of COMPASSION IT (http://compassionit.com/), a start-up nonprofit organization and global social movement whose mission is to inspire daily compassionate actions and attitudes. She created the one-of-a-kind reversible COMPASSION IT wristband (http://compassionit.com/wristbands/) prompting compassionate actions on six continents, 48 countries, and all 50 states. Wristband sales fund compassion education programs for youth, teens, and adults. As a public speaker, Sara encourages her audiences to “compassion it” in their daily lives. A Stanford-certified instructor of Compassion Cultivation… Read more (/bios/sara-schairer) 

The Chopra Center

Youthful Energy Is Dynamic and Resilient

Dee:  This blog was inspired by the Chopra Center Meditation, “Youthful Energy is Dynamic and Resilient”.

Youthful Energy Is Dynamic and Resilient

“The most important energy is human spiritual energy, the energy of the mind, the energy that exists within us.” — Yoko Ono

Deepak:

When your energy is fresh, renewed, and joyful, there will always be enough for anything you want to do.  This is a holistic view of energy that goes far beyond the physical energy you get from food and exercise.  You also need emotional and mental energy for your mind.  We know that the body and mind are so deeply interrelated that it makes more sense to call it “the body-mind”. 

Your body at birth was a miracle of energy being used perfectly.  A newborn appears to sleep most of the time but there is enormous activity inside.  In fact, up to 70% of a newborn’s energy is being used to grow the brain.  Now as an adult you aren’t the same as a baby in one crucial way.  You must organize your energy yourself. 

This is a basic map for a holistic view of energy.  The entire body-mind is involved.  If you were asked the best way to increase your energy at every level, you might reply that you’d eat better, not skip breakfast, go to the gym more often, and so on.  You’d be focusing on physical energy.

But in reality the people who enjoy the best energy have a secret.  They are dynamically resilient.  They possess the flexibility to handle anything life brings to them…physically, mentally and emotionally…and after a situation is handled they bounce back quickly.

Dee:

Bouncing back quickly doesn’t come easily once we’ve reached adulthood.  Whilst growing up we’ve been bombarded by experiences, propaganda, media and people who assured us that more is better, stab whoever you need to in order to achieve these goals, look young and beautiful, and the more power, the better.

Wait a minute.  This doesn’t serve us.  This doesn’t nurture us.  This doesn’t allow us to be and do our best and be okay with who we are.  Oh great.  Now we have to unlearn all this.  No!  We get to unlearn all this because we know in our hearts that this way of thinking doesn’t serve us.  It destroys us and everyone around us.  Just look at our world today.  Sad, huh?

The way I was able to unlearn all this bullshit was in a roundabout way.  I didn’t plan it.  I didn’t know it would bring me to this place where I am today.  But I’m an alcoholic.  I didn’t know that either.  I found I couldn’t go a day without drinking, no matter how hard and how many ways I tried, I was baffled.  I hated myself.  I had no purpose.  I would look in the mirror with my hand forming an “L” and called myself a loser.  Pretty shitty, huh?

Well one day instead of coming to when my kids came home from school, I continued on in my pass-out state.  I missed my shift at work.  I was humiliated, guilt-ridden and full of shame.  How was I going to lie myself out of this one?

I had no more energy.  I was exhausted.  Exhausted of years of hiding, lying and cheating in order to drink everyday.  I just couldn’t do it anymore.  So I called my boss at work and told her my honest to God truth (didn’t actually have a God at that time, that I knew of).  She helped me get into rehab and that’s where my life as it is today began.

My life today is one of gratitude and humility.  Today I get to make choices.  Today I choose to not have a drink.  I didn’t have that choice before getting sober and learning about the disease of alcoholism.

Today I have a purpose…to share my experience, strength and hope with anyone who enters my Dee Bubble.  I get to be rigorously honest without shame or guilt.  I can finally love myself for who and what I am!

I can be dynamically resilient because today I have a Higher Power of My Own Understanding who I honestly and faithfully know has my back.  I can get back into my ego and selfishness, my fear-based self.  But I don’t.  I don’t want to be that person anymore.  I don’t want to lie and be exhausted anymore.

So my resiliency comes from letting my Higher Power do the driving and knowing that everything is perfect at this moment.  When shit happens, it’s for a reason.  To help me.  Go figure.  I am to use each and every experience as a tool for learning, and growing, and being a better human being.  So I bounce back and remember that my glass is half-full.  I’m just along for the ride and the ride is like being on a magic carpet!

Deepak:

Dynamic resilience is biological at one level.  For example our tissues heal from a sprained ankle or we recover from a cold virus through the dynamic nature of the healing response.  But resilience as a holistic quality means that you rebound mentally and psychologically too.  If you want to be a powerful person, be resilient.  That’s far more important than toughness or assertiveness.

Your body-mind was designed to bounce back with dynamic energy.  The key isn’t just eating a balanced whole-foods diet and getting regular physical activity.  You need to boost the quality of your energy which involves getting good sleep and reducing stress.  

These are the two lifestyle factors that many people neglect.  Not realizing that lack of sleep and daily stress are the biggest energy drainers in modern life.  They also diminish the quality of our energy making us groggy, depressed and lacking enthusiasm.  

Fortunately stress and sleep issues are factors we can control through our lifestyle choices.  Once you begin to actively attend to sleep and stress you build a platform for improving the quality of your energy.  This happens by making positive choices everyday and minimizing negative choices.  Whether it has to do with family, work, your primary relationship or how you relate to yourself.

Dee:

So use your Higher Power.  If you don’t have one, make one up or use mine.  Have faith that something greater than yourself created the earth, this universe, this galaxy, and it wasn’t you.  Remember that you have no control over people, places and things, you can just make choices.  Just do your best and love yourself for that.

Hey, we’re all in this together.  Each and everyone of us has “issues”.  We are not alone.  There is a wealth of support out there for you when you get sick and tired of being exhausted from the lying, cheating and hiding.  You are only lying, cheating and hiding from yourself.

You’re going to be okay.  You ARE okay.  You’re YOU! with all your glory.  So love yourself for the gift that you ARE!

With warmest aloha,

Dee Harris

For those interested in Art with a Message of Hope and Optimism, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!