Because you gotta have faith…right?

You can strategize and plan and possess all the motivation in the world to reach your goals, but that doesn’t guarantee your path will be smooth or that your journey will be easy. There will be stretches where you feel like you’re driving up a steep incline on a gravel road during a flash flood. Actually, the bigger your pursuits are–and the more you commit to your goals–the more likely you’ll encounter a Mt. Kilimanjaro hurdle. Even when we aren’t shooting for the stars, we all encounter hardships and difficulties that make us wonder:  When will this nightmare stop? How will I get through this?

In these moments of uncertainty…that’s where faith comes in.

Let me first explain what I mean by faith. It isn’t necessarily tied to religion. And it certainly isn’t what George Michael was referring to in his song, Faith–although this post’s title was inspired by the chorus.

What I’m talking about is that unquantifiable “knowing” that there’s something bigger, wiser, and more rock-solid than you out there. It’s realizing that we, as limited humans, have a hard time imagining all the ways a life, a decade, a day, or even a moment can go. It’s admitting that there are things we can’t explain but know them to be True.

So what’s the point of having faith? After all, having it doesn’t reduce the number of times you fall down. It also doesn’t make the fall less painful or disappointing. But what having faith does do is offer a sense of comfort that you’ll (eventually) come out the other side and (eventually) be okay. That’s literally priceless. No one can buy that kind of comfort.

Yes, there’s a reward for faith. But not like we normally think of rewards. People with faith don’t get a pass on hardship. And people without faith aren’t subject to more suffering. Nobody owns the title on hard times. However…

Faith makes failure and adversity easier to endure. Once the inciting moment of your obstacle has passed and the shock has settled in, there’s finally a space where you can take a full breath. A moment where your mind shuts up and there’s a brief pause of silence, of floating, of peace. The reprieve may only last for a blip in time, but it’s long enough to hear that inner voice…hey, remember that “power bigger than you” belief you have? That Bigger Power hasn’t given up on you. So don’t give up on it either. You’ll get through this…somehow. You gotta keep the faith. 

Having faith provides you with the sense that you are never alone in facing your battles. That, too, is priceless.

That inner “knowing” voice is more of a feeling for me, a presence that blooms in the center of my chest. Reminding me that even though I can’t see a way out, solution, or happy ending…THERE IS ONE. If only I can manage to get out of my own way. If only I would stop resisting, accept what IS and what ISN’T, and step (or free-fall) into the flow.

Even when you synch up with faith, you don’t necessarily stay in the flow. Faith can come and go. It’s not an object you own forever. It’s more like a living thing that needs to be tended to, fed, and given attention. Some people lose it, forget it, or reject it. But once you’ve experienced what faith feels like, you notice the difference between having it and not having it. Faith-less times are tougher, there’s a deep hollowness where its presence used to reside. That hollowness can distract you from seeing the solution, helping hand, or path out to the bright side of life because you’re so focused on scarcity and filling that hole.

Faith isn’t always easy. Actually, it’s often NOT easy. But I, like other Faith-ers, do it anyway. Why? Because the more I accept that I may not know what to do when troubles strike–with no tangible evidence I’ll be okay when the fallout settles–and have faith anyway, the more evidence I receive that my faith-ing makes a difference. The alternative gives you nothing back in return; there is no advantage to being faith-less. So, despite the ineffable characteristics of faith– the delicate balance of ebb and flow, the lifetime of practice it takes to have, hold, and preserve it–it’s absolutely worth it. You gotta have faith. 

Fabric Gift Wrapping

I love a nicely wrapped present.  I also love wrapping presents.  I take after my mother, the original fashion stylist for gifts.  Her adornments turn them into presents wrapped in presents.  I become giddy when I receive one of her works of art.  I want others to feel the same way, so I’ve adopted her inventive techniques for trussing and embellishing.

I must add that I haven’t bought wrapping paper in years.  So how the heck do I dress up my gifts?  I think outside the box, so to speak, by using fabrics and textiles.  Not only am I recycling–and saving money on fancy paper–but wrapping in this way serves as a surprising and beautiful way to present a present.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist the wordplay!  Using fabric is an easy way to deal with unusually shaped presents too.

If you’re a normal person and don’t have any bolts of fabric lying around, you can still take part in the fun.  I’ve used gently worn (and clean!) clothes with cool designs or fun materials.  This comes in handy when part of the fabric becomes damaged, the style is out of fashion, or you’ve grown out of it (either literally or figuratively).  I’ve even used gauzy drapes that lost their usefulness after a move.  Your imagination is the limit!

Note:  Inventive, beautiful wrappings will most likely be lost on children (of all ages) whose only goal is to beat their gift opening time from last year.  Regular wrapping paper would probably be best for them.  But I think the rest of the people on your list will delight in such personalized attention.

The easiest wrapping technique is to spread out the fabric, place the gift in the middle and bring up all the sides to meet above.  Tie the opposing corners into knots…

or use a rubber band and loop through as if you were making a ponytail.  In the picture below, I didn’t pull the fabric all the way through at the end in order to keep everything tucked in.

For this one, I cut a sparkly tank top down a side seam so it would open up, then wrapped as I would with traditional paper, but used a glue gun instead of tape.  The bow was fashioned out of one of the straps.

This is a bridal shower gift, but demonstrates how a tall present could be wrapped.  I used the ponytail tie method but kept the extra fabric for a different look.

I made a gift tag by cutting off a square from a magazine cover (I save decorative cards and pictures for this too) and gluing the inside of a Yogi Tea box on the other side so I could write my message.

Then I punched a hole in one corner and used a pearl twistie thing (probably from one my mother’s past gifts!) to attach it to the bow.

If you don’t have any little bits of string, ribbon, and doodads lying around your house, don’t despair.  It takes time and planning to amass a treasure trove of gift wrapping options.  But if this is the sort of thing you could get into, keep an eye out for things from now on that you could use to wrap and adorn future presents.  You might even see your wrappings or decorations turn up in next year’s presents.  In our family, it’s a big compliment!

You don’t always need a map to start your journey

Photo by Jill Rath © 2010

You’ve come up with an idea, a goal, a new direction for yourself in a moment of inspiration. You feel your heartbeat quicken, passion pumping through your veins, and can see your desired end-result as clearly as if watching on an HD flat screen T.V. Great feeling, right? The only problem is, you have no clue how to get there. You use all your energy searching for a game plan, but can’t think of one. Maybe a few ideas to plug in, but not enough to fill in all the gaps. Uh-oh. Do you put your fabulous vision on your mind’s back burner until you create a detailed map of action?

Photo by K.C. © 2010 Kristin Conroy

Don’t think you have the courage it takes? I bet you do. Think back on all the times you’ve been forced to take action, things you never would have attempted otherwise, or never thought you could have accomplished.  You had to learn on the fly and adjust quickly as you trekked through uncharted (to you at least) territory.  You may not have traveled in style, but you reached your endpoint, and did a darn good job getting there.

If I’ve lost you with all this insane imagery, let me speak frankly. Always waiting until you have a clear-cut plan before embarking on a life journey will leave you with a really fancy map and itinerary list, but not one souvenir to show for it.

Our paths present themselves mile by mile, yard by yard, or perhaps only footprint by footprint.  Your steps may fall on paved roads, dirt trails, or rocky paths.  But you’ll never know until you take that deep breath, summon up all your courage, and make that first step.  Whatever glorious goals you have for yourself, I encourage you to let go of that need to have everything figured out before acting on them. Be a courageous explorer, a fulfiller of your own life and destiny. Do that, and I’ll wager some travel trinkets you’ll have some really cool adventures to your destination, and inspire others along the way.

It’s Affirmative…Affirmations Are Powerful!

Most of us have heard of the benefits of affirmations.  I had never really taken the time and effort to construct them, and was skeptical that they would have any impact on me anyway.  Last year, while listening to Effortless Success:  Living the Law of Attraction, I was instructed to write powerful affirmations and repeat them daily.  And I did.  At first, I felt silly.  I also felt like I was fibbing big time.  My affirmations dealt with the way I wanted to feel and be, and I wasn’t nearly there.  But after a few weeks, I noticed a change when I spoke my affirmations out loud.  I was starting to believe them and that I could make these things I was saying true.  I shared the following affirmation with a few friends, and they wanted to adopt it as their own because of the power of the message:  I am effortlessly attracting positive opportunities, positive people, joy, and success. When I found myself in a mood that wasn’t to my liking, I would repeat this statement (and try to mean it) and it usually broke me out of my funk.

I have to say, as a former critic, that affirmations can be a very useful tool.  The power isn’t in the words.  The power isn’t in repeating them out loud.  The power IS in hearing yourself say the statement, taking the words in, noticing how you respond to them, and dealing with the reaction.  You can repeat affirmations over and over until you’re a nice shade of blue, but if you think what you’re saying is a bunch of baloney, it’s about as useful as repeating the alphabet.  When my inner voice laughed, cringed, heckled, or lashed out at me upon hearing an affirmation, I stopped and used the Sedona Method of release.  If you’re not familiar with this technique, here is a quick rundown.  First, notice how you’re feeling.  You don’t have to necessarily identify or categorize the emotion, just feel it.  Then ask yourself these 3 questions and answer honestly and without much thought:  1)  Could I let this feeling go?/Could I welcome this feeling? (Yes or No.)  2) Would I? (Yes or No.)  3) When? (Now.)  I like to answer the last question by taking a deep breath and saying “now” on the exhale.  I seems to enhance my feeling of letting go.  So using the Sedona Method in conjunction with my affirmations resulted in a gradual but significant shift in my thinking by dealing with my reactions.

I flipped back and forth on whether to share my current affirmations.  The only thing holding me back was fear of ridicule and judgement, especially by those who know me.  But in an effort to carry out my resolution to be more fearless, I decided to go for it.  So here they are, folks.  My affirmations…

  1. I am sexy, confident, and beautiful inside and out. I feel the need to explain.  I can do cute.  I’m comfortable with cute.  Being “sexy” is like unknown territory that I periodically try to enter but am stopped at the border as a self-proclaimed impostor.  I would like to add “sexy” to the list of characteristics I consider myself to have.
  2. I am an incredibly gifted writer who can successfully tackle any project. This is not something I go around telling others…but proclaiming this to myself boosts my confidence.
  3. The ingredients of my writing are inspiration, integrity, humor, passion, and soul. I want what I write to have meaning and make an impact in some way.
  4. I am effortlessly attracting positive opportunities, positive people, joy, and success. Love this!  While the affirmation doesn’t necessarily create this result more, I tend to see the positives and opportunities tenfold in my daily life.
  5. I am continuously inspired, enlivened, and fulfilled by my relationships with family and friends. Family and friends are incredibly important to me.   They contribute so much to my life and I don’t want to lose sight of that.
  6. I am an energetic, glowing vision of health! Reminds me to take care of and be good to myself.
  7. I have star power.  I act like a star and deliver like a star. In my opinion, all bona fide stars exude confidence, professionalism, and bankability.  They come to work ready to go and deliver an amazing performance/product every time.

I’ll tweak and tinker with my affirmations as my goals and needs change.  At some point, I might decide to let go of an affirmation that becomes part of me and doesn’t need reinforcement, and add another.  Do any of you use affirmations?  If so, what is your experience with them?  Have you found them to be beneficial?