Filling in the Blanks

A few weeks ago, this came to me in prayer. It’s been mulling around in my head ever since, and I decided to share it as a New Year’s Day “food for thought”.

“You have in your mind an image of what ____________________ should look like. And when the reality doesn’t match the picture in your head, you feel disappointed, betrayed, even despair. And you become so focused on what it DOESN’T look like (what you have convinced yourself that it SHOULD look like), that you keep missing the beauty and blessing of what IS…on what IS right in front of you.”

As I have been pondering this, I realized that I could “fill in the blank” with anything and it was true. A few of the issues that I most struggle with include:

  • Relationships/friendships
  • Love
  • Feeling heard
  • God
  • My own self being “enough”

Every issue I struggle with can fit here…for example, I have a picture in my head of what friendships “should” look like, and when the reality doesn’t fit the picture in my head, I despair and grieve over the loss of that friendship…when in fact, the reality IS that friends do love, and do care and are present in my life…but I’m so focused on what those friendships and relationships DON’T look like (i.e., they don’t match the picture in my head of how they should look) that I keep missing the joy and richness of what’s right in front of me, here and now.

I realized that I do have pictures in my head of what “Love”, what “feeling heard”, what “God”, what “self” all should look like…pictures that have been conjured up through a lifetime of reading books, magazines, watching TV and listening to what teachers, parents, other people and the media have told me life should look like…and when the realities don’t match the pictures, I do fall into great despair over the perceived failures and losses and absences, and I do experience a sense of betrayal and hurt and disconnection. When I dare to look beyond those pictures and see the truth of what’s right in front of me, in fact, it’s all there…I AM deeply loved, I AM heard, God IS with me, and my Self is actually strong, healthy, vibrant, contented and ENOUGH…but I’m so focused on what I believe is missing, on what ISN’T, that I keep missing the beauty and blessing and joys of what IS.

The mediation continues: “Relinquish the need for “it (fill in the blank)” to fit your “should’s”; let go of these expectations for everything and everyone to match the pictures/should’s in your head. Open your eyes to what IS, and allow that beauty to shine through. Allow people, friendships, Love and God to be who they are, even when they don’t match those pictures in your head, and choose to see that they are good and “enough”. Find the blessing in what IS instead of focusing on old lies and the resulting sense of betrayal of what is in truth an illusion that has been allowed to develop through a lifetime of listening to what everyone else has led you to believe your life “should” look like.”

This year, let go of those pictures and unrealistic expectations you’ve built up in your head –  and let the goodness and joy of what IS, and the people who ARE in your life, bless you.

2017

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2017. All rights reserved.
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Make Yourself At Home

Evening Prayer

“Lord, my mind is scattery today. Toxic. I don’t like it and have been trying to ‘think a better thought’ but not getting very far.”

I manage to quiet my scattered brain and stay centred in the silence for a few moments.

“Make your mind your home”

Right away my heart pounds and my tired brain perks up. What a radical idea! Make my mind my home.

“How?”

“How do you make any house a home? By furnishing it with love, surrounding yourself with your favourite mementos and colours that bring you joy and pleasure. By creating a comfortable space where you can put your feet up and relax. Do the same with your mind. Furnish your mind with love, surround yourself with thoughts that bring joy and pleasure. Create a space where you can put your inner feet up and relax into the comfort of being “at home” with yourself.

  • Fill your mind with Love and Light – open the windows and let Light flow in!
  • Fill your mind with good enjoyable experiences that make you laugh;
  • Fill your mind’s ears with gentle words of understanding, patience and encouragement and for all that you’ve been through today;
  • Create a space in your mind for friendly gatherings and conversations – and companionable silences – with Me and with your own self…show kind hospitality for the pilgrim that you are and compassionate respect for all that you have travelled through to get here;
  • Remember to enjoy the treasures you’ve collected throughout your journey; take them out – the wisdoms and the blessings – and enjoy them over and over again;
  • Continue to cultivate your loving self-talk; always speak kind words into and within that inner sanctum;
  • Create in your mind a safe comfortable place where you feel free to relax, put your tired thoughts up and do nothing when you want and need to;
  • Dust once in awhile;
  • Every so often clear out the clutter than inevitably accumulates in any attic;
  • Detoxify – daily! Clean out the negativity you’ve picked up through the TV, conversations and ruminations; refill those emptied spaces with more Love and Light;
  • Wash the windows once in awhile; life has a way of throwing mud in your eyes;
  • Continuously furnish your mind with fresh beauty, favourite music, comfortable resting spaces, nourishing silence, grateful thoughts and whatever other delightful things that bring you joy;
  • Do what you need to do to protect your core, your peace, your Sacred Ground and the Light of your own being…stay your course and don’t allow anyone or anything to steal your joy and peace…remember, you are allowed to close the door to unwanted intruders into your home!
  • Most of all, ALLOW your mind to become and be home. You live there 24/7, it should and can be the place where you are Loved the most.”

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2016. All rights reserved.
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Posted in authenticity, coping, depression, empowerment, faith, gratitude, happiness, hope, inspiration, journey, joy, kindness, life, Light, Love, mental health, Peace, positive thinking, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Amazing Grace

Watching TV…over, or is it deep underneath, the rumble and chaos of the show we’re watching…

Whispering…“Come. Come and spend some time with Me. “

Exasperated…“I want to. I do…but I’m afraid.”

Tenderly…“What are you afraid of, My child?”

Still exasperated, because I’ve been grappling with this for awhile….now being honest…

“Afraid of coming to You and then hearing only silence. [I am always here, even in what you hear as silence].

“I’m afraid of this insatiable hunger forever gnawing at my soul – I too want – hunger – YEARN – to experience those beautiful meadows of Yours and walk in that garden with You and to feel Your warm Shoulder touching mine…[I’m here, wherever You need Me to be and in whatever shape and form You need Me to show Myself, all you have to do is let yourself be – here – there – anywhere you want]…

…but I’m afraid of not feeling anything at all and coming away emptier than when I came in.”  (I can sense a tender understanding…He knows…He gets it…and I can feel a pulsing Presence, patient, knowing…waiting, as if He has all the time in the world to wait until I’m ready.)

Digging deep… “Afraid that You will ask me for more than I can give.”

I never ask you for more than you can give. All I want is you…

“All I have are pieces of me. Lots of broken pieces.”

Big happy grin…“Oh but I LOVE jigsaw puzzles.”

I can’t help but laugh out loud.

Amazing Grace.

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2016. All rights reserved.
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Morning Tumble Into Me

I experienced a moment this morning. I’m not sure how to describe it. I want to call it an epiphany, but have had similar conversations with God and my own self many times before. What made this one different is that I felt connected to my own words, connected to the feelings I was feeling, and connected to a Loving Presence. I think that previous forays into the subject may have been more in the guise of either pleas for help, or quickly glossing over it to avoid the core, to ignore the “me” lying underneath the flippant avoidance.

But this morning, I don’t know why, I somehow ended up inside of that moment, that shadow and that conversation. As many of my friends and readers know, I’ve been on a very long journey to recreate for myself a life I enjoy waking up to. I needed to do that because of my very long history of depression and of NOT wanting to wake up at all. No need to go into that, it was what it was, and I don’t live there anymore because I’ve made incredibly wonderful progress in establishing, nurturing, maintaining and living an authentic gratitude attitude. I’ve designed a morning routine that I enjoy waking up to, starting with prayer of thanksgiving, then downstairs to my beautiful tea cup, a beautiful glass jar full of my favourite tea which hubby lovingly makes for me every morning, beautiful caring friends on Facebook, a healthy breakfast with a pantry full of the things I enjoy eating for breakfast and a window looking out over our beautiful new deck which is alive with flowers and squirrels and birds and a view brimming with beauty everywhere I look. My mornings are now my favourite part of the day.

So yes, I’ve come a long way. And yet…despite all of the progress and genuine gladness to be alive, there is still, too often for my liking lately, this little shadow of “something” that still hovers on the periphery of those first morning moments. But instead of venturing inside of it,  I’ve ignored it, assuming that it was old remnants of the old way of thinking…and therefore not somewhere I wanted to go, especially first thing in the morning. So with mind-over-matter tenacity, I resolutely start each day with positive thinking and the shadows eventually disappear.

But this morning, as I kicked off the bedsheets and sat on the side of my bed, fully intending to pray my prayer of morning thanksgiving, I found myself tumbling head-first into that dark shadow. I felt like it was going to suffocate me. I had been fairly certain that this shadow was a relapse into the old way of thinking…so there was no point in avoiding it or denying it any longer…same-old same-old…except that I wasn’t alone there this time. I felt Presence. Surrounded by Presence. He surprised me…especially when I heard Him ask this question instead of what I might have expected to hear…

“You are afraid.”

“Yes”. I was surprised to discover that it was true, that this shadow was NOT the same-old dark “not wanting to live” nemesis that had haunted me since I was about 13 years old. This morning, being finally inside of this shadow, I could see no glimpse of that old way of thinking, and I couldn’t help but feel a flutter of joy – and triumph – because to me, fear was a huge step up, a much better nemesis to have to grapple with than the despair had been. I was genuinely glad and relieved to discover that it was only fear…fear usually can’t survive in the willingness to hold its sneaky lies up to the light of truth.

“What are you afraid of?”

I didn’t even have to think, even though the answer surprised me again…”Of not making it through.”

Right away, I caught glimpses of all of the other mornings when I had arisen with the same – but unspoken – fear rising up to catch in my throat, mornings when I hadn’t allowed myself to look at it, much less speak to it, resolutely getting up and moving ahead into my daily routine…and “making it through” every single one of those days. Yes, I had made it through. Those glimpses of those accomplishments – those many days I HAD gotten through – loosened the grip the fear had on me.

“I’m afraid of not making it through the day…without failing. I’m afraid of failure. Afraid of losing important bits of myself in directions I don’t want to go in. Of not being enough to make a difference to anyone anywhere today. Of not making the most of the gift…the gift of time, and not being the gift of who I am, fear of missing out on what I’m meant to be learning…of not recognizing WHERE I’m meant to be. Of leaving important things undone. But most of all, for not being the love my soul yearns to be in this world today.”

The answer was tender. “You are all of that already, everywhere you are…you are already the love that you are, you are already unfolding yourself into the gift of time as you rise and go through your day…the day will flow you where you’re meant to go…flow you to the people and activities where your gifts and need for learning lead you to go. There’s no such thing as leaving things undone…what needs to be done will be done.”

“The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing else I need…”

“Yes. The day is gift…your joy is simply “be”ing you…the moments will take you through…go and live it.”

I felt such peace and courage flowing through me then. And no fear as I rose from the side of my bed and made it through to the moments waiting for me.

You are. That’s enough.

 

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2016. All rights reserved.
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It’s About Time

Lately I’ve been pondering about and grappling with Time. Today’s rumination…

“I’m wasting Time.”
“If you enjoy what you’re doing, it’s not a waste of Time.”
“What if what I’m doing isn’t what I want to be doing?”
“Why are you doing it then?”
“Well, sometimes you have to negotiate and compromise with loved ones to do what THEY want to do…”
“Then what you’re doing in those situations is love, isn’t it?”
“Yes, I suppose it is…doing what a loved one wants to do is an expression of my love for them”
“Then that’s not a waste of Time either. Love and kindness are never a waste of Time.”

Ahhhh, I hadn’t thought of it that way before. It continues…

“How you spend your Time is always a choice. Choosing to nap, to read, to pray, to play music, to watch TV, to play a game, to phone a friend, to chat with your husband, to daydream…it’s all your own doing, you leading you to spend that Time the way you want to. And choosing to spend Time the way you want to is never a waste.”

I still have questions and more than a few “but what if’s”, but I feel a little better.

One of the what if’s…

I spent a lot of time with my brother Gary after he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Hubby and I spent time buying him groceries, cooking his meals, cleaning his apartment; we spent time driving him back and forth to medical appointments, we spent time washing his favourite sheets and making his bed often so he would feel more comfortable. I spent time sitting by his side at the hospital, fetching blankets and hot tea during his 6+ months of chemotherapy, then I spent 6-8 hours every day by his bedside during the month he was in the hospital after his Stem-cell transplant, then I spent as much time as allowed during the heart wrenching four weeks as he lay dying in ICU. I held his beautiful head in my arms as he took his last breath.

Precious, precious Time.

I will always be grateful for having had that Time with my brother. But lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how we let all of that Time slip by without ever talking about the possibility of death. I regret that loss of opportunity now…I regret not offering him the space and Time to talk about it with me. Was he afraid? Did he have a sense that death was possible? What were his thoughts about it? We never talked about it. It actually, sadly,   never occurred to me. And I feel cheated. Cheated by my own naivety and surprise when he died, even though I had spent so much Time sitting with him in that hospital, watching him fade before my eyes…somehow, I always believed deep in my soul that he would make it through. I simply wouldn’t allow death to be a possibility…and long after he did die, I felt like I cheated him of the chance to talk about it. Being with him was Time well spent, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. But I’m no longer sure it was how he needed that Time to be spent. I’ll never know. And I believe that wherever he is now, he’s safe and happy and there’s no point in going back. I’ve learned the hard way that there’s simply no point in ruminating to the point of being so consumed by guilt and regret that I lose sight of the precious moments of NOW. He wouldn’t want that. And I don’t want that for myself either. His death taught me how precious Time really is.

But I’m still grappling with what I’m supposed to do with my Time.

I’ll always remember how Gary used to cringe when people would use that phrase “just killing Time”. The diagnosis of cancer forever changed Gary’s perspective on Time. How precious to him was the mere thought of having so much spare Time (and energy to do something with it) that you could so casually toss (or “kill”) it away. I haven’t been able to use that phrase since Gary mentioned it to me. His changed perspective changed my perspective forever too.

Now I grapple with the constant fear of not appreciating the NOW enough. Of dying before I’ve learned to live NOW. How ironic is that. To allow the fear itself to rob me of the very thing I’m afraid of losing. This is the gift. NOW is the gift. I constantly find myself looking forward (sometimes too eagerly) to things in the future…and not the big things! Those would make sense. Silly things, like supper, dessert (especially when it’s cheesecake), tomorrow’s shopping itinerary, next month’s hair appointment, next year’s trip to Cuba…so many of my “Now’s” get lost in my rush to get somewhere else. How many wondrous sunrises and bird feedings and wafting rose scents and honest encounters have I missed because my fragmented mind couldn’t see anything except tomorrow’s lure…why can’t it be enough to see, enjoy and appreciate what is right in front of me NOW?

Time. A precious gift…the sad part of it is that it often takes the death of a loved one to teach us just how precious Time – and Now – truly are. Our entire lives are compromised of billions of “Now’s”. I used to live in the land of relentless regret and detrimental rumination over how I squandered my Time, especially with loved ones now gone…and then I would regret and ruminate over the time I squandered regretting and ruminating…it was a never-ending vicious circle! I fell into profound sadness which spiralled into profound depression. Learning how to live in the NOW was one of my ladders out of that dark hole, and I’m able to stay out by learning to be mindful that NOW is the best – and only true – Time to enjoy. Living in the NOW (i.e., what IS here and now, rather than focusing on “what was and never can be again”) is building deep within me a solid foundation of appreciation and gratitude that gives me safe ground to stand on when life throws lonely, sad and/or turbulent moments at me. I always seem to have enough courage to deal with the thing that’s happening NOW…it’s when I begin to think in terms of “forever”, i.e., that it’s always going to be like this, or my mind stretches too far into the what-if’s and constructs imaginary – and oft-times intolerable or even horrific – scenarios, that I begin to panic with crippling anxiety and hopelessness.

Pull back to the NOW…whatever is happening NOW is what’s really happening, and only this.

And one of the most helpful things I’ve learned over and over again about Time is that “this” too shall pass. What’s happening now, in this moment, doesn’t last forever…it only exists Now…and this Now leads to a new Now…with new landscapes, new courage, new hope and new possibilities, and new choices on how to spend that Now.

It’s about time that I enjoy my Time Now.

now

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2016. All rights reserved.
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Posted in anxiety, authenticity, coping, determination, empowerment, faith, gratitude, grief, hope, inspiration, life, meaning, mental health, perseverance, positive, positive thinking, self help, time | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Endings and Beginnings

As 2015 comes to a close, I cannot lie, I’m glad to see the end of this year. 2015 turned out to be one of my most difficult years to get through. It was a constant struggle to stay afloat against the relentless bombardment of issues that had to be dealt with…personal issues, new health issues (primarily diabetes and high blood pressure that have been very difficult to get under control), relationship issues, spiritual issues, …from January 1st through to this moment, I have often felt off-balance, discombobulated and frequently lacking the energy I’ve needed to be able to navigate the increasingly complex labyrinth that some of these issues have created. I’m arriving at the threshold of 2016 feeling like a ragged, wrung-out dish rag, thanks in large part to my poor body having to get used to so many new prescription drugs – and the side effects, some of which were severe enough to require trips to emergency – for the past several months, and frustrated for what feels like an unnecessarily wasted year in terms of living a purposeful, passionate life…some of these new health issues and medications left me with little to no energy to do much for long stretches of time.

Yes, there have been peaceful stretches and patches of good energy here and there, but looking back, I see far too many empty hours frittered away on anxious ruminating, especially over the health-related “what-if’s”, weeping more frustrated tears than my eyes could handle at the severity of the side effects, and giving in to paralysing fears that these health issues were never going to get under control and that I was never going to feel better again. Every morning for the past few months, I have woken within a baffling frustrating paradox…profoundly and genuinely grateful to be alive to try again, yet equally sad to be waking up to the same issues that baffled and challenged me the day before. Hopeful that “today would be the day” that I – we (doctors, etc) – would figure it all out, I was faithful to rising, faithful to showing up for my life, faithful for slogging it out, faithful to prayer, faithful to trusting that there was good stuff working its way through all of this…and faithful to love…faithful to loving God, husband, family, friends…and learning how to be faithful to loving self, expressed in forgiving myself – I felt a lot of guilt over the diagnosis and difficulty in controlling the diabetes in particular.  I’m trying to manage the anxiety and frustration by allowing myself to only have to deal with the unfolding day moment by moment, thereby lessening the angst to tolerable, manageable chunks. Still, there were many nights when I would get to the end of the day crumpled in a weary heap, weeping for help in understanding the core “why” of the various issues weighing me down, and then mustering enough strength and trust to listen for the answers.

I’m not sure how many answers actually came my way. Or perhaps more honestly, how good I have been at absorbing those answers. But somehow, there has been enough Peace and Grace leaking through the angst to help bolster me up enough to show up for each next day’s unfolding. Enough blessings to keep going, but enough challenges to keep me humble and constantly searching for strength and patience. And maybe in the end, that’s enough to have made it a year worth having struggled through…learning that I COULD and DID get through it all, relatively intact, mostly hopeful that we’ll be able to resolve most of these issues, most definitely still alive (whew!) – and very ready to get rid of some of this old baggage of useless anxiety and start fresh.

Yes, I’m glad to get to the end of this year. In my mind, 2016 looks like a clean slate, a new horizon, a new treasure chest full of possibilities – and I’m looking forward to that exhilarating feeling of starting over again, hopefully with a new mindset and new, improved medications, and new hope that will fuel me through to new answers and new resolutions to some of these issues that still need tending to. I’ve read enough to know that so much of the angst and illnesses we go through are rooted in our mindsets and attitudes. I’ve been working very hard to rewire my attic and nurture that positive gratitude attitude. It’s the only way I’ve been able to stay the course, diligently resolutely learning good coping strategies amidst the health struggles, naming blessings amidst the pain, and focusing on even the slimmest slivers of light and hope in the darkness.

I’m glad I made it through this year…there were frightening moments when it wasn’t so clear…but I did, thanks to so many people who helped me get through the health scares. It feels empowering to look back and realize the struggle and perseverance it took to get here. 2016 looks bright and shiny, like a newly minted coin. I’m ready. Wait, I’m even EAGER and determined to take on whatever little treasures and lessons it has tucked away in its pockets for me. Maybe I’m eager enough to not even wait until January 1st. Maybe I’ll jump into the “new” part right now. Bring it on, New Day. Bring it on New Year. Bring it on.  Let’s do this!

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2015. All rights reserved.
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Posted in anxiety, authenticity, coping, courage, depression, determination, empowerment, faith, fatigue, gratitude, grief, hope, inspiration, journey, life, Light, Love, meaning, mental health, panic attacks, perseverance, positive thinking, purpose, Sadness, self help, social anxiety | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Ebb and Flow

Life is a never-ending flow of change…even when where we are feels stagnant and too mundane to matter much, even then the mundaneness is somehow changing us, evolving us forward to the next moment and the next. We never know what’s around that next bend in time, maybe a phone call, a letter, an email or a knock on the door will break through and bring something new into an ordinary day. Or maybe nothing will come to break the monotony, and that in itself, somehow changes us. Perhaps too many mundane stagnant moments will compel us to make different choices to break out of the rut we’ve gotten ourselves into. Maybe our weariness with stagnancy will lead us outdoors to explore and discover something new and fresh that will revive our drooping spirits.

Even whatever appears to be NOT happening is leading us somewhere. And it may not always be a “good” somewhere. If we allow ourselves to become complacent with the stagnancy and mundaneness, then we run the risk of unconsciously repelling or even blocking anything good that wants to break through. Then the flow of change becomes an ebbing of possibility, leaving us feeling even more stagnant and hopeless of ever moving out of there.

It’s always a choice. Always. We choose what to do every moment of the day. We choose how to respond to the feelings that flow in and out of us like the fickle flickers that they are. Feelings are fickle and temporary, but sometimes our responses lead us to make rash choices that feed and propagate those feelings, making us feel like we’re hopelessly stuck in a mucky quicksand of futility…a stagnant place.

We’re not meant to be stagnant. We always have a choice. Yes, sometimes it’s very difficult to rouse oneself from the stupor of sadness and the languor of loneliness. Something in us irrationally wants to stay there and wallow and heap detrimental self-chattering into the mix, rubbing the salt of our own self-ostracization into an already festering wound of feeling utterly alone in the world.

Rise up, I tell my lethargic self. Rise up and change direction. Find a beam of light and stand there, soaking in the warmth and then allow the brightness to shine through to the core of you. You are meant to live in the light…you are meant to BE light. Even if it’s just the feeble flicker of a tired candle, be light.

Breathe in the change that wants to move you back into the flow. If nobody knocks on your door, YOU knock on your own door and wake yourself up. If nobody calls you, YOU call somebody, bring cookies or soup to an elderly neighbour, weed their garden, rake their leaves or shovel the snow off their sidewalk, ask somebody about the dog they’re out walking, There’s always a way out of the stagnant mundaneness.

Sometimes we’re blessed by someone breaking through with a warm hello and kind word. But sometimes we have to be the one to rise up out of our stupor and bring the change to someone else’s doorstep…and in doing so, we also allow good change to flow into our own hearts and lives.

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2015. All rights reserved.
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Posted in change, choice, kindness, life, Sadness, self-help, social anxiety | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments