Saturday, December 29, 2012

2013 A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step!

I don't ever do resolutions because I don't believe in them.  However, when the year comes to an end I do like to reflect on the past and see what I can do in the next year to live a more fulfilled life.  Life is too short, extremely hard, exhausting, and unpredictable.  With all of my heart I truly believe life is not just meant to be endured but also enjoyed.  I strive daily to build a life which I can be a better influence to those around me.  Last year I wanted to build a stronger spiritual connection and made a promise to myself that I would complete a gratitude journal daily to help me see and feel more connected to a higher power.  Over the past year, I have had the wonderful opportunity to complete a gratitude journal every night.  Tonight I read my gratitude journal, and my heart was instantly full in recognizing how much my life has blessed.
Since the gratitude journal was such a great success this year I was pondering what I could do in 2013 to continue with my spiritual journey.  I just watched the bucket list a couple weeks ago, and thought why not create a bucket list for 2013.  A list of 12 things (1 thing each month) I could do throughout the year, and while I'm doing them or preparing for them I can pay special attention to the tender mercies in my life.  Instead of journaling about these experiences I will be blogging about them instead.  These Entries will be labeled "Tender Mercies".  As I will be paying specific attention to my blessings while completing my list.  I don't ever want to get to the point in my life where I lose sight of the many ways I continue to be blessed in my life.
1)  Identify someone who has inspired you the most in your life.  Let them know how much they have inspired you by writing a letter.
2)  Make friends with at least 5 strangers on the street.
3)  Go deep into the heart of mother nature and experience a sunrise or sunset.
4)  Conquer your biggest fear.
5)  Get closure on one of your hurt, grievances, or unhappiness of the past.
6)   Help someone in need.
7)   Read a book on a subject you'd never thought of reading.
8)   Learn a new language
9)   Run a marathon
10)  Fall in love with something or someone
11)  Go on a cruise or road trip
12) Watch the top 12 movies of all time
I'm really excited for my next year, and I'm sure I will continue to be blessed. I welcome 2013 with open arms!!
Crystal Angel 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why do we pick it up?

I love my job so much, and often times my greatest thoughts come in the midst of doing therapy or groups.  I've always struggled with guilt....I'm always apologizing to others whether my behavior or actions are to blame or not. I think I can be guilted into almost anything.  I have been carrying a lot of guilt lately about choices I have made, and I'm anxiously trying to figure out a way to release my guilt.  Today I was facilitating a group therapy session.  One of the group members said "it's hard for me not to jump to conclusions with my mom.  She is so uncaring and I wish that she could feel and understand what I am going through.  Instead she makes me feel guilty for being depressed, and puts all these unrealistic demands on me.  I should just set boundaries with her, but it's difficult for me to do that."  Using her language I looked at her and said "Just because someone throw's you their shit doesn't mean you have to pick it up.  It's a choice.  Who wants to pick up someone else's shit?"  My patient looked at me smiles and says "your right who wants to pick up someone's shit?"  I think too often we carry around other people's crap or our own crap out of guilt, and a form of punishment.  Guilt serves no real purpose, and it's important to find ways to release our guilt and live a more fulfilling and rewarding life.  After my group I thought "Why do I keep picking up crap, and holding on to it?  I'm sick of the unnecessary guilt I place on myself.  I just need to let it go."    

Being an expert in the feeling guilty department I have learned a lot about guilt.  Guilt is a response to our behavior; it's a reaction to events that have occurred in our past that we are holding onto.  It can be messy, hurtful, and painful.  When the past is gone we can't go back and erase what has occurred no matter how much we wish we could, and often time because we cannot erase our past we often feel more guilt and remorse.  We carry this guilt around, and it eats away at us until we start feeling inadequate and numb. 

Sometimes the only way we feel like we can release guilt is if someone releases it for us, either by absolution, forgiveness, or repentance.  However, all that other person is really doing is saying it is okay for us to release guilt.  We are the holders to our own guilt and we are the only ones who can let it go.  Guilt serves no purpose; it only weights us down.  Guilt, the kind we carry around us is a personal choice; it is a kind of belief that we deserve to feel bad because of something we did or didn’t do.  The only purpose it serves is to make us feel miserable and unhappy. 

We can make a choice to release the guilt or we can continue to hold onto it.  Holding onto it only prevents us from moving forward.  Guilt does nothing for us or our past it is not something that will help us be a better person.  To release guilt accept it, seek forgiveness, and let go so that it no longer weighs on us.  Once you've released guilt move on and live life now.  No need to carry around crap or continue to pick it up over and over again.  Today I make a choice to release my guilt.


Crystal Angel       

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

To Cry or Not to Cry?

I hate crying.  Anytime I feel the urge to cry I stuff it until I can’t stuff it anymore.  My whole life I have been taught that to cry is a sign of weakness.  So, I have been conditioned to not cry.  It’s funny if you want to make everyone in my family uncomfortable “cry” it works everytime.  LOL.  Usually, when I get the urge to cry I laugh or become super sarcastic.  Over the past week I have had some stressful and emotional things happen.  I have felt this overwhelming urge to cry, but I haven’t.  I watched my cousin’s kids on Saturday and I was telling them how much I just needed to cry.  My cousin admitted that he too feels guilty and weak when he cries.  Since reading my book by “Brene Brown” I’ve been really sensitive to my emotions and trying to allow myself to feel things that I wouldn’t normally allow myself feel.  Yet, when it comes to crying…..I just can’t as a result I feel numb.  Let’s just say I’m trying to work on it J.
Today I was walking through the grocery store listening to my playlist.  My favorite song came up.  When unexpectantly I became instantly overwhelmed with distressing emotions.  I thought OH CRAP!!! I’m gonna cry.  Immediately, I thought “Crystal, Don’t you dare.  Just wait till you get to your car then you can cry.”  I finished up my shopping got in my car….and DIDN’T Cry.  Surprised?  Yeah me either.  I’m still trying to figure out why I won’t allow myself to cry.  In the meantime I’m really trying to feel and understand my emotions.  I have a desire to be more mature in understanding my emotions and to be authentic and real.  Any recommendations on overcoming my fear of crying would be highly appreciated!!!
Crystal Angel   

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The gifts of imperfection!!

           I’ve just finished reading this book by Brene Brown called “The gifts of imperfection” Your guide to wholehearted living.  I’ve also included her youtube link on “The power of vulnerability.”  This book has been a transforming resource in my life.  I’m excited to see where her words will lead me.

            All of my life I have numbed myself to certain emotions in my life as a way to protect myself.  Some of the emotions I have chosen to numb consciously and others I have been taught to avoid.  One of the things that Brene talks about in her book is that when we numb certain emotions it takes the edge of off feelings that cause vulnerability, discomfort, and pain. Although, it may feel safe in the short term in the long term we pay the price.  When we numb the negative emotions in our life we also numb the positive emotions in our life.  If we want to experience joy in our life we must also experience pain.  As a professional avoider of pain I’m really trying to work on this. 

            I was working with a patient this past week who has struggled with depression for 25 years.  He told me he had tried everything to rid himself of his depression, and that he had given up hope that he could ever experience joy.  He looked at me and said “I just want a pill to fix everything.  I’ve tried everything else.”  I looked at him and dropped a pen in front of him and said “Try picking up the pen.”  He gave me this weird look and went to pick up the pen.  I abruptly stopped him and said “I told you to try.”  What I wanted him to realize is that sometimes dealing with emotions are difficult, and learning to understand them takes work.  It’s the same with pain.  There is no “easy button” to pain and discomfort.  We cannot heal a lifetime of pain overnight.  Experiencing pain isn’t easy, but as we allow ourselves to feel it.  Pain becomes a teacher, motivator, it allows us to love more deeply, and eventually allows for healing.  We cannot experience real joy until we experience pain.

            Over the past couple of months I have done a better job at allowing myself to feel certain emotions and not allow guilt, shame, or feelings that I don’t deserve love and belongingness to interfere in my life.  However, over the past week I have allowed these vulnerabilities to overcome me.  Immediately after responding to my fear and trust issues I recognized what I did.  However, the damage was already done.  Still over the past week I have continued to open myself up to feeling the pain.  It has been the hardest thing that I have ever done. 

            Brene said it best when she said “Authenticity demands wholehearted living and loving even when it’s hard, even when we are wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense that we are afraid to let ourselves feel it.   Authenticity is a daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re suppose to be and embracing who we are.  Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough.”  I’m so excited to see where the path of wholehearted living leads me.  No matter what comes in my life and what I experience I only want to be true to myself.  That’s the greatest gift I can give myself, and I will be able to be a better influence in the lives of others.   


Crystal Angel      

Thursday, December 13, 2012

No regrets!

"In the end, we only regret the chances we didn't take, relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make."  

Every one of us has experienced feelings of regret.  The things we didn't do when we had the chance, the priceless relationship we neglected, and those important words we left unspoken.  I was talking to a friend about recent decisions I have made in my life, and telling them how much I regret making stupid decisions.  They looked at me and said "Crystal, if you don't have any regrets in life you’re really not living."  This got me thinking about what it is I'm really regretful of?  Is it making a mistake or having to deal with the consequences of making a mistake?  What I realized is that it's never too late to set things straight.  We're still here breathing, and can choose to make things right.  I do agree with my friend that if we don't have regrets in our life we aren't really living, but these are just some of my thoughts on different ways to live without regret. 

1.  Spend time with the people we love.

You've heard the saying, "The best things in life are free."  Spending quality time with family, friends, and others are heart-felt moments that bring more joy in our lives.  They are precious and free.  Too often we get caught up in the rat race, working numerous hours a week, to the point where we are too stressed and exhausted to enjoy our closest relationships.  By simplifying our life style and making conscious choices along the way it is possible to enjoy more of what matters most.  Life is too short so enjoy it while it last with those you love. 
2.  Don't hold a grudge.

We have all been hurt by another person at some point whether we were treated poorly, trust was broken, and hearts were hurt.  And while this pain is normal, sometimes it lingers for too long.  We relive the pain over and over and have a hard time letting go.  This creates problems.  It not only causes us to be unhappy, but it can strain or ruin future relationships, distract us from work and family, and make us reluctant to open up to new things and people.  We get trapped in a cycle of anger and hurt, and miss out on the beauty of life as it happens.  Grudges are a waste of perfect happiness.  If there is someone in your life who deserves another chance, give it to them.  If you need to apologize, do it.  We can always give our life story a happy new beginning.  Forgiveness is the biggest gift we can give ourselves and others.
3.  Be who you are
As long as you keep being you, as long as you keep staying true to yourself and the passions that move you, it doesn't matter how many mistakes you make or how many times we pull a U-turn.  Have courage to live a life true to you, not the life others expect of you.  Make time to pursue your passion, no matter how busy you are or what anyone else says.  Steve Jobs once said: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

4.  Be honest about how you feel.

Say what you need to say, and never apologize for showing your feelings.  This is something I tell my patients all the time.  People may feel uncomfortable with what you have to say, but that is something they will have to deal with.  Too many times people suppress their feelings in order to keep peace with others.  As a result, they settle for carrying the weight of their own silence.  Give yourself permission to feel a full range of emotions.  When you are in touch with what you are feeling, you are more likely to understand the situation at hand and resolve it instead of avoiding it.  In order to feel connectedness you need to accept and love yourself first, even when your truth feels heavy.  In the end, expressing your feelings will improve your relationships, including your relationship with yourself, to a new healthier level.  Your open honestly will also help you realize and realize unhealthy relationships from your life. 

5.  Release negativity from your life.

Don't expect to achieve long-term happiness if you surround yourself with negative people.  Don't give up part-time people a full-time position in your life.  Know your value and what you have to offer stay positive, and never settle for ANYTHING less than you deserve.  I love this quote "There comes a time in life when you have to let go of all the pointless drama and the people that create it."  Staying out of other's drama is an incredibly effective way to simplify your life and reduce stress.  Surround yourself with positive people who make you laugh so hard that you forget the bad, so you can focus on the good.  Life is really too short not to be happy. 

6.  Make happiness a priority in your life.

Happiness is a choice and many people walk around unhappy.  There are many reasons for this, but it boils down to one principle.  People choose something else over happiness.  I can't tell you how many times I have been told by others 'it's easier to stay in something that's comfortable even if it's destructive to my happiness."  To find true happiness in life you need to follow your heart and intuition.  You may need to do things you are uncomfortable doing.  Life isn't about pleasing everybody.  We can take responsibility for our own happiness. 

7.  Make a difference in other's lives.

Every person can make a difference, and every person should try.  In life, you get what you put in.  When you make a positive impact in someone else's life you also make a positive impact on your own.  Do something that is greater than you.  Something that helps someone else to be happy or suffer less.  I can't tell you how many times my life has been magnified and my joy increased when I have been able to help others. 

8.  Take risks

If your fear of failure, or of not being perfect, has driven you to take the safe road of doing nothing, you have already failed.  Accept the fact that everyone fails, but don't accept the act of not trying as your form of failure.  I love the quote "Don't let the risk of striking out prevent you from playing the game."  We will have failures along the road of reaching our goals, but they are simply opportunities to learn and grow.  If we keep moving forward eventually we will reach our dreams. 

9.  Goodbye and Hello's

In life, goodbyes are a gift.  When certain people walk away from you, and certain opportunities close their doors on you, there is no need to hold onto them or pray to keep them present in your life.  If they close you out, take it as direct indication that these people, circumstances and opportunities are not part of the plan for the next step of your life.  It is a hint that your personal growth requires someone different and something more, and life is simply making room.  So embrace your goodbyes, because every "goodbye" you receive sets you up for even a better "hello".   

"Forget the past. forget your age.  Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  At the end of it, let there be no excuses, no explanations, and no regrets."


Crystal Angel

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Simple things!

My mom has kept this poem with my handprint on it since I was in kindergarten.  Whenever I’m going through her stuff I look at my handprint and it’s hard to believe that I was ever so small.  Here’s what it says:
“Sometimes you get discouraged
Because I am so small,
And always leave my fingerprints
On the furniture and walls.
But everyday I’m growing,
I’ll be grown up someday,
And all these tiny handprints
Will simply fade away.
So here’s a final handprint
Just so you can recall,
Exactly how my fingers looked
When I was very small.”

I can honestly say that I had an amazing childhood filled with lots of playing, love, and laughter.  It’s amazing to think back on those times, and realize how slowly time passed.  As I have grown, I have noticced that time moves much faster.  I contemplate that a lot and ponder why?  What I’ve realized is that as a child most of us are usually sheltered from the worldly pains and distress, we are encouraged to explore, to learn, and to appreciate the simplicities of life.  As we grow older, we are introduced to time, pain, distress, and life demands.  Sometimes the complexities of life get me to the point where I’m wishing my days away for better ones that are simpler.  For example, if I’m stressed at work I’m waiting for my work day to end or if I’m going through a painful experience I’m often wishing for it to be over.  Throughout my week I find myself in auto pilot mode for example when I drive to work instead of appreciating the beauty of nature I’m watching the clock and wondering when the light will turn green so I can get to work on time.  Every day I try to enjoy all the moments in my life good or bad, and try to appreciate the joy that life brings me.        

Today I took a run and it was an amazing experience.  One of my favorite things about running is its away for me to distress and appreciate those simple things in life that I sometimes take for granted.  I love moments like today where life reminds me that there is much to be appreciated.  Today, I wanted to share with you the simple things I love!

1)      The taste of water after a workout.

2)      Reading a good book on a rainy day.

3)      When someone tells you they like the sound of your laugh.

4)      Heart to heart talks.

5)      Warm water on cold hands.

6)      Listening to someone laugh.

7)      Finding out something is easier than you thought.

8)      Finishing a paper or work assignment.

9)      The first time you listen to your favorite song.

10)  When you realize your hot chocolate has reached the perfect temperature.

11)  Learning something new.

12)  Going out of your way to help someone.

13)  Smiling at a stranger.

14)  Watching a sunset or sunrise

15)  Making an accidental discovery.

16)  Unexpected hugs.

17)  Hearing someone talk about what they’re passionate about.

18)  When someone remembers the small details about you.

19)  Talking to the people I love.

20)  Saying “I love you” and falling in love. 

This list could go on forever so I’ll stop at 20.  This week I encourage you to appreciate the small things in life.   

Crystal Angel