The Secret to Lasting Change

This will be easy, but I’m going to whisper it for dramatic effect: there is no secret. Now don’t run off in a huff, thinking I’ve misled you with my post title and you’ve arrived here only to waste your valuable time. I have the answer you’re looking for, it’s just that it’s not a secret. None of the answers to the questions you’re looking for are innovative new secrets, nor are they the wisdom of one person or the brainchild of the world’s latest prodigy. They’ve been hanging around for eternity, simply waiting to become visible to you through words or symbolism that will reach you, the individual. Once you begin to seek your answers earnestly, you will be shown that which had formerly been imperceptible to you. In other words, it was always there; you just weren’t aware of it. Kind of like Dorothy already having the power to get back to Kansas- she didn’t actually “earn” it by journeying down the yellow brick road, but she couldn’t believe that she had the power without having made the journey. If you’re far enough along on your journey to understand, or at least begin to understand the magnitude of your power, you’re ready to learn of all the non-secret secrets just waiting for your discovery. Yes, it’s exciting. And terrifying. And that leads me right back to where we started. Gotta love the way the universe works!  

The secret to lasting change is having the will and discipline to open yourself up to discomfort. -LA Holmberg

It’s so simple, right? But simple and easy are two different things. If it was easy, everyone would embrace the act. It’s difficult. It’s not only difficult, it’s damn difficult. At certain levels it is excruciating. And it’s mind-boggling, because before you make a conscious effort to get uncomfortable, you probably weren’t even aware of the fact that you were comfortable in the first place! I know I wasn’t. But since I don’t expect you to take my word for life strategies I advocate without diving in myself first and then fully sharing my own experience- no holds barred- allow me to share what has been my most challenging effort in getting uncomfortable:

no drinking

On October 22, 2016 I decided that beginning the next day, I would not drink alcohol in any form for the next year. Or possibly forever, depending on where I was led. As it would happen, what I was clearly shown to be a one-day-at-a-time endeavor has now become nearly 3.8 years of sobriety. Before making that decision, I had drunk one neat shot of 100% pure agave tequila (the really good stuff- it burns cleaner) in an effort to calm my overly sensitive/hyper/perpetually wound-up self down. I was irritated about something and I wanted calming. I didn’t finish the bottle or even have another- just the one. Full disclosure: Considering I’m buzzed up on one and drunk on two, that’s not entirely a difficult feat for me. It wasn’t noon yet, but what the clock says is rarely of consequence to me, being that I’m generally up by 4am and my 11am could be another person’s 2pm, so I’ve never understood wtf that has to do with anything. I drank my shot, felt the warmth and calm that my friend provided and decided it was TIME. So that time was the last time. Please note, this final decision was not an overnight one, but one based on much thought after having first been laid on my heart quite some time ago. I had begun the weeding-out process in my life and alcohol was not the first “friend” it had become necessary to distance myself from, both literally and figuratively speaking. Was I an alcoholic? No. Did I abuse alcohol? Yeah. Absolutely. Truth be told, I’m a sensitive type with an addictive nature. But I’m tricky about it! If I sense that one thing is getting too big of a hold on me, I’ll replace it with something else. Throughout the years, this has included many of the usual suspects many people abuse: sex, food, alcohol, etc… It’s not that I do any of them to the extreme excess that most would see it as a “problem”, it’s that I would continually rotate one method or another of keeping myself comfortable. Until the day I realized that what I needed more than comfort was freedom. Freedom from the “friends” that were not actually comforting me at all, but enslaving me. I wanted clarity. That clarity would not come from perpetually blanketing myself in comfort.

This is not about the drinking. It’s not about overeating or having indiscriminate sex, or any ONE thing. It’s about understanding that until you’re willing to stop doing the thing that’s blinding you to the thing that your unconscious, fearful self is too afraid to let your conscious self feel, you’ll be sleepwalking through a portion of your life. Ask yourself if that’s what you want. If it’s not, then you have taken the first step in getting uncomfortable- being honest with yourself about what you want most. And armed with that knowledge and a willingness to feel, you’ve begun the journey to get it.

Grandma Margie’s White Bread

Generally, I watch my bread intake and keep it to a minimum. Therefore, when I’m going to have some bread, I want some BREAD! This is the good stuff- the wonderful bread that I knew from my grandma’s home, passed to her daughters’ homes, then later to their children’s homes, and then to THEIR children’s homes, and so on and so on…

Grandma Margie's White Bread

  • Servings: 3- 8 inch loaves or 2- 9 inch loaves
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2  1/2 cups hot water (divided)

3 TBS. Yeast (or 3 pkts)

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter or margarine (melted)

1 TBS. salt

over 6 cups flour (no exact amt.)

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup hot water in a large bowl (I use a kitchen aid mixer bowl because I’ll be using the k.a. mixer for this) sprinkle in sugar and 1/2 cup of the flour. Let rest 5 minutes til bubbly. (During this time, grease a large bowl that you will put your finished dough in. Set it aside) Add 6 cups flour, melted butter and 1 TBS. salt to the yeast mixture. Attach to mixing stand and attach dough hook. Run mixer on low speed (1) while pouring 2 cups remaining water in. When it has mixed up well, turn up speed to (2) and sprinkle in more flour in small portions until the dough has all pulled away from the sides. Yes, this is the tricky part. You don’t want to add too much flour, but it can’t be too sticky either. You will eventually be able to eyeball this and get a feel for what you are doing. Trial and error my friend, trial and error. Don’t get discouraged. When all your dough is pulling away from the sides, keep the mixer on (2) and let it knead for 2 minutes. 

Grease your hands and get all your dough out of the mixing bowl and form it into a nice ball. Put it into the greased bowl you have prepared and make sure your dough ball is nicely greased on all sides. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place for an hour until doubled.

Punch dough down and let it rest on the counter for a few minutes. Divide dough into 3 equal parts and form into loaves. (If you’re using 9 inch pans for bigger loaves, divide dough into 2 equal parts.) This involves working the bread in your hands to get out air bubbles. If you are new to this, another method is to roll out each section and then roll it up tightly, pinching length of the roll to seal. Press ends to seal and fold under loaf. Don’t stress over this! Work it into what looks like a loaf to you and lay it in the bread pan. I then take a fork and make 7 pokes into each loaf (going from top to bottom) My mother told me recently that it was not necessary and she had stopped doing it, but my grandma always did it and so I always do it too. I feel like it is her “mark” and I like to see it there. It stands for 7 words for me: “Give us this day our daily bread” so I like that aspect also. It came to me one day, so I feel I’m meant to do it, but you do whatever you’re comfortable with (umm, but if you don’t do it, your bread just might not be as blessed, so…) I’m totally kidding here–of course your bread will be blessed!!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and let your bread rise in the pans for about a half hour or until it is slightly up over the edges. When it has risen, bake at 350 for 35 minutes until brown and hollow sounding when tapped. ( bake 5 minutes or so longer for 9 inch loaves) Remove from oven and grease top of each loaf with butter. Remove from pans and let cool on rack.


Counting On Spam

Got borders and boundaries? As hard as I’ve worked to instill these necessary behavioral guardrails, every so often I will be made aware that my practice of  “waiting in the cupboard” has resurfaced. If this is one of your challenges as well, simply picture the blue can and remember: you’re NOBODY’S spam. Sometimes we just need a reminder. This post re-run is mine. 

Like the late Rodney Dangerfield, Spam does not get any respect. As far as you may be concerned, it lives its life there in a can in your cupboard, just waiting for the day when you’re craving some sort of meat in your sandwich only to find nary a speck in your household. So you open your cupboard and spy its shiny blue container, welcoming you with open arms. “I won’t let you down. I’ve just been waiting to come alive by allowing you to fry me up, slather me with mustard and throw me down between two slices of bread, where you will then consume the very essence of my being, wash me down with a glass of milk and not acknowledge me again until you get another craving that leads you back to my shiny blue container.” And you see, Spam is cool with that. That’s the thing about Spam- it’s just too damn easy. But that’s okay because it’s Spam.

People, on the other hand, regardless of how they may appear to you, are not. They are complex individuals, ideally changing gradually and metamorphosing into more unabbreviated versions of themselves over time. Unlike Spam, you can not leave them to sit indefinitely in their shiny can expecting them to be there waiting for you to seek them out during your next moment of desolation, when a craving for something with substance, something to take the edge off your inner emptiness leads you back to the familiar comfort they so freely offer. Spam will do that. People should not. Not because they can’t be counted on, not because they’re not loyal, and certainly not because they are unfeeling or lacking in love, but simply because they require more for themselves. Sometimes it just takes them a while to own it.

It’s Valentine’s Day. Again.

Ironically, Valentine’s Day is by far my most disdained holiday and yet I’m almost always inclined to post about it. I take that back. It’s actually not ironic at all that a solution seeking person such as myself is all up in this business of Valentine’s Day, poking and prodding, eyeballing it from this angle to that, trying to figure out a way to turn it upside down on its ass and shine a light on it so bright that everybody can identify it for the imposter it is. Wait, what? You weren’t aware that Valentine’s Day was falsifying its true identity? You mean, all those elementary school years of exchanging heart shaped cards and pastel colored mini-heart conversation candies did their business on you and you buckled to belief? Or was it the high-school valentine carnations sales that left you feeling either elated or like the loneliest person on Earth? Might it have been all the hyped up TV, magazine, radio, and social media buzz of what “everyone” was planning on doing, giving, or attending on this BIG day that made it appear real? That’s right, I said appear. As in, per “give the impression of being”? Well, I’m sorry to be the one to point this out to you, but you’ve been duped. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that we’ve all been brainwashed and conditioned to believe that Valentine’s Day is about love. And in the same way I refuse to believe I’d have been able to sit and cheer with the crowd for clothes that I could clearly see the emperor was not wearing, I find it unbearable going along with the ruse of Valentine’s Day being anything more than the commercialized event that it is, so I must stand and shout: Valentine’s Day has nothing to do with love!

Now, don’t get me wrong- I enjoy a celebration as much as the next guy. What I don’t enjoy is a celebration based on a lie that comes at the expense of others- the others in this scenario meaning anybody who is left feeling lesser than in any way, shape, or form because they have failed to manifest a Valentine into their life. Or perhaps they have a romantic relationship going on in their life, but Valentine’s Day has caused them to question its nature on one or more levels based on factors such as how their Valentine’s Day was celebrated or what kind of gift was given and how they measured up in comparison to what others received. In other words: the world has made a decision on what love (in the form of a mythical holiday) “should” look like and if what you’ve got going on doesn’t resemble that, then it’s wrong. But it’s not wrong to cook up a fake day, place a label of “love” on it, and fill minds with preconceived expectations that would be nearly impossible to reach?

In being a festive person, I spent a good portion of my life wondering what was wrong with me that I was so conflicted regarding Valentine’s Day, and I tried every means to embrace it. But we were not cohesive from the get-go and in my younger years I actually was broken up with ON Valentine’s Day by 3 different guys, in 3 completely different situations. In time I would come to understand that even though I was the one who got broken up with, I actually instigated each of the break-ups and the fact that they occured on a “day of celebrating love” was no coincidence. In my heart I knew Valentine’s Day was fake. And yet, I used this “symbolic and important day” looking for something demonstrative from each of them- a gift, a feeling, supportive words- something that would “prove” to me that there was more there than what I knew actually was. I wanted something that they could not give me. I would have said at the time in regards to their “Valentine offerings” that they were mailing it in and for reasons that were their own, that was accurate. I saw that, sensed their waning interest in me and pushed for the break-up. Never wanting to be the bastard in the scenario, I turned it around so the breakup seemed like it was their idea. And while it was what they wanted, I was simply made aware of it before they were. Yeah, I’m tricky like that 😉 But that’s a discussion for another day.

So what’s the solution here? What’s the “secret” to not allowing a fake holiday like Valentine’s Day or any other materialistic measure of self-worth lead you into feelings of being lesser-than? Though I refer to it as the 5 Word Secret and you have heard me speak of it repeatedly, it’s not actually a secret and it’s simple! GIVE YOURSELF WHAT YOU NEED. While simple, like all soul stamina training, it’s not easy. Any time we feel lesser-than for any reason, it means we’re not practicing it. And that is the workout. Identifying that anything you are feeling frustration or anger about another person “not giving you” is in actuality something that needs to come from your own being that you need to decipher and create for yourself. Love is not something you’re meant to be looking to “get” from others, but instead something you already ARE, and you are responsible for maintaining its sustenance. The goal is to get it flowing so fully and plentifully from within that it freely overflows to all you encounter on your journey. No candy, flowers, or paper hearts required.

Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams

As hubby and I celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary, I ask that you visualize the following: a massive cathedral, a radiantly coiffed, designer-gowned bride and elegantly tuxedo-ed groom, a ballroom reception with a champagne flowing fountain and a diamond studded wedding cake. Now, let’s talk about our big day. A ceremony at my parent’s house, mail-order wedding gown, the wedding march playing on a squeaky tape recorder and a reception following at the local firehall with about 150 of our closest friends and relatives. The food was buffet style (delicious-made by the women’s auxiliary, naturally) and included beef on weck (or is it wick? to hell with it—it was roast beef on rolls) green bean casserole, seven-layer salad and all your usual hometown wedding day buffet offerings. The bride was barely 24 with the roundness still in her cheeks and big, banana-colored eighties hair, with a heart filled to bursting with happiness. The groom was also 24, mustached and handsome, sure that he wanted to be married, a little less so about the wedding, but willing to muddle through it to get to the rest of their lives. Which is where we’re at now: the rest of our lives. Gone is the big haired girl with the wide-eyed expectations, and the mustached young man with the self-assuredness that comes from being in your early 20’s and certain that you know it all. In it’s place stands a pair of road wearied travelers, humbled by the events that have happened throughout their lives. Sharing joy in the blessed events they have witnessed and sorrow throughout the trials they have endured. There have been times of complete love and adoration when it seemed impossible to get enough of each other, as well as moments of intense anger and hatred so real that it seemed impossible to get far enough away. There have been moments with the quiet peacefulness of looking up at each other over something, anything, with a smile and knowing what the other is smiling about because you’ve grown up together and you know the other’s story. The young bride of my past would have been heartbroken if she’d known back then that it wouldn’t be perfect, but 55 year old me is finding out, as she must continue to find out, again and again it seems, that that’s because what’s real and worthwhile is also messy. Life is messy. And then you step back, you clean up the mess, you put your best foot forward and you keep going. If you’re lucky, you’ve got a partner on the other side of the bucket. I got lucky. Happy Anniversary hubby. Sign me on for another year.

The Homeslices

I require NOTHING (from YOU)

Attempting to force our will on another becomes unnecessary once we acknowledge and utilize our freedom in exclusively placing our energy only where it serves us in an optimal manner.

I’ve taken to repeating the mantra, “I require NOTHING!” Okay, full disclosure: sometimes I need to shout it so that it really sinks into my being during those weak moments when old habits have me believing I just really “want” something from someone else. I realize there are 5 basic survival needs that we all require (air, water, food, shelter, and sleep) but I’m referring to the things we’ve been conditioned to believe we require that we don’t. Well, I don’t anyway. At least, I train myself in understanding that I don’t- hence the mantra. What you decide you require will be, like everything else, up to you.

We live in a world of constant inter-connectedness. In the spiritual sense of that, I couldn’t be more pleased. We’re all connected! You and me, my lovely brothers and sisters in Spirit! However, as an empath, the physical realm side of being in constant connection has required that I adopt new thought processing and alternate behaviors as opposed to the ones I came by naturally in order to navigate my world effectively. If it sounds like I’m some sort of lab experiment, YES, that’s exactly what I am to myself. I’m on a self-knowing journey and one of my missions is to figure out how to survive and thrive in the most empowered manner possible. For me, I’ve discovered that this requires constant educating, self-coaching, and a significant amount of experimenting in order to eventually arrive at effective learned behaviors I have peace with. Setting borders and boundaries, for example. Not only did I not set them in the past, I wasn’t even aware of what they were! I spent my younger years in relationships, including the first 20 years of my now 30 year marriage, never having a sense of where the other person ended and I began; energetically entwined and uneducated as to how to “detach”(typical to empaths), to the point of suffocating my own being. But this was all I knew. Until I learned differently and began coaching myself in being whole and learning how to connect with others without immersing myself completely in them- my natural inclination when left to my own devices, which is why I know better than to leave myself to my own devices! This basically means that my former practice of getting caught up in the intoxicating moment of the person, place, or situation and allowing it to fly me by the seat of my pants with my fingers crossed, hoping things ended well, was replaced with strategies for thinking my thoughts on purpose, slowing down and being mindful of my actions, leading me to the awareness that I require nothingexcept that which I need give to myself. I don’t kid myself that I have mastered this, only that I’m aware of and continue to train in it.

I have come to the conclusion, after years of believing otherwise, that it’s not my place to require anything of you, be it a text reply, a social media “like”, a return call, an explanation, a desired behavior, a specific amount of your time and attention, etc… or any of the other “requirements” we unconsciously, yet somewhat self-righteously place on others. Does this seem backward to you? After all, isn’t not requiring things from others a sure way to be disrespected and treated like a doormat? Surprisingly, it’s exactly the opposite. By not requiring a certain action on your part, I am giving freely with no expectation of return. Giving to give- not to “get back”. This allows me the freedom to stand in my place of truth regarding my true intentions and to assert my own personality without attempting to rob you of yours. Being disrespected or treated as a doormat are merely fear-based concerns in that these issues are negated by the ability to take complete responsibility for my own requirements. I need not require anything of you because I choose to require of myself, learning to give myself what I need while letting go of anything that interferes with my ability to do so. In other words, I’ve learned to distinguish who/where/how my energy receives replenishment as opposed to who/where/how it remains in a constant state of depletion, and redirect it accordingly. That’s a requirement. And it’s on me.

What’s your time loop lesson?

I prefer to view my life as some sort of a show or film in perpetual development rather than some irksome idea of reality that’s so emphatically forced on us at every turn. Carrie Fisher summed it up: “I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to BE art.” Yes. What she said. Me too. And naturally I haven’t forgotten about the rest of you. Same thing goes. I believe we’ve all got our own shows going on. And we’re the stars! But the best part? It IS art! And art provides messages. To those who choose to see it that way, of course. I do so choose.

The loop movie concept has been thrown in my lap so much lately that I couldn’t help but pay attention. From Groundhog Day to The 12 Dates of Christmas, to Before I Fall, I love a good time loop theme. Though I ordinarily stay away from “slasher” films, the lure of the time loop enticed me into succumbing to not only Happy Death Day, but also it’s sequel, Happy Death Day 2U at my daughter’s insistence that, given it was PG-13 and not R, I would be able to handle it. No spoilers– I can safely assure you she was right.

The one consistent in every loop movie, as I see it. is that the universe is giving the main character an opportunity to right something in their life that has caused them to become stuck. The character generally is slow in not only realizing that they are, indeed, stuck in any sense of their life, but also that they are in any way responsible for their inability to move forward. So the universe gives them the gift of hitting the rewind button on a crucial day of their life and allowing them to relive it over and over and over again until they finally get it. This takes a substantial amount of time as we watch the main character’s emotions shift from puzzlement, to denial, to anger, to acceptance, and finally resolution as they eventually come to realize that THEY are their own way out. Yes Dorothy- you always had the power!

There was a time when it would amaze me that the main character couldn’t “see” in themselves what was almost always excruciatingly obvious to the viewer. I was humbled- painfully so, I might add– when I reached a point in my life when my true soul training began and I realized that I was that ignorant main character, wandering around in a clueless fog, blaming my situation on the circumstances, other people, bad luck, or whatever my rationalization of the day happened to be, for the state I’d gotten myself “stuck” in. This is the type of awakening that you don’t become aware of one day and master the next. Just like in the movies, you’ve got to keep waking yourself up day after day and choosing to live a little bit more effectively than you did the day before, focusing on the process instead of the outcome, moving in faith that you’ll eventually reach the next level on your journey.

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with you, since you’re probably fairly certain that Groundhog’s Day will only come once each year for you. If so, I urge you to look again and pay attention to ALL that is shown to you repeatedly. The co-worker who ruffles your feathers on a daily basis. The number on the scale that continues to go up. The house in a constant state of chaos that leaves you stressed and anxious. The spouse who you’ve been having the same tired arguments over the same tired things for a multitude of tired years. The anger that results regularly from other drivers, shoppers, family members, co-workers, etc… The nightly glass of wine that has turned into 2, then 3, then a bigger glass… THIS is your Groundhog Day. SEE what it is attempting to show you! Or you can continue to sleepwalk through your life, making it about somebody/something else, while you continue to do what you’ve always done, consistently winding up in the same place, waking up the next day to do it all again. This is YOUR show. How you choose to spin it is up to you.

A magic space- Part 2

So you’ve read Part 1 and in your effort to lose weight, stop drinking, eat healthfully, stop smoking, etc… (fill in your own blank of ANYTHING you want to change) have decided that you’re ready to sit in the Space of Want. But how do you start? What will you need? You start with an open-minded willingness to become uncomfortable, understanding that enduring discomfort is necessary for growth and change and will not destroy you. You need to want something. That’s the easy one; we want a variety of things, pretty much continuously. Pinpointing what you want most by delaying or eliminating momentary gratification is the one that will sting. But you can handle it. Each sting you sit through makes the next more tolerable.

The only thing that I can tell you here that you’re not already certain of is your ability to do without anything non-essential to your livelihood. So I’ll say it up front: you have this ability. It’s inherent. Don’t call it willpower and tell yourself that you have none. Call it an ability that’s essentially a weak muscle that needs to be strengthened and work on strengthening it. The only way to do that is to use it. And that is what you’re doing when you’re sitting in the SOW. You are training yourself to work a muscle that has been neglected. Consider it a workout and be diligent in training by doing the work. This means pushing past what’s comfortable in order to begin a process of breakdown and repair in order to bring about strength and growth. In this case, strength and growth appears in the form of your ever increasing ability to withstand denial of what you want now for what you want most.

As with every workout, your abilities will increase over time. Start small by allowing yourself to feel discomfort. Use routine situations as opportunities to train. By this I mean don’t put that sweater on the instant you get chilly. Turn the water to cold during the last minute of your shower. Skip a meal here and there and allow yourself to experience hunger. Get uncomfortable so that you will understand that you are bigger than the discomfort! As this becomes easier, add the “weight” of working on the more difficult habits/behaviors you want to eradicate. This will put you in a position to more readily adapt to not having what you want the very second you want it, thus enabling you to dig deeper and uncover what you want most.

We are each individuals, which is why there is never one precise “cookie cutter” method for anything in life that will work for everyone. I’d be wary of those who try to convince you otherwise. That is why it is essential that you sift through what you read here or anywhere else and dig deep within in order to seek, then utilize, that which speaks to you in a way that sheds light where you were having difficulty finding any. In my own experience with every soul training exercise I’m working on, this has meant slowing down. The most difficult part of sitting in the SOW for me was sitting through what I wanted to rush past or escape completely through methods, substances, or people outside of myself that would “take the edge off”. It still crosses my mind to do the same thing and in that moment I’ll believe I WANT to do that thing-that-I used-to-do-to-make-it-all-“better”. But the muscle has been strengthened and the mind has been trained to slow down. Which gives me time to choose. And that time increases my odds of choosing wisely.