Saturday, September 29, 2012

My Rules

I was very amused to find that the strongest reaction to my most recent blog came from my older brother. He pointed out to me that while I may think that I am distancing myself from organized religion, my Christian background is still very much in evidence. He's not wrong.
My statement that I don't consider myself to be religious wasn't intended to discredit my upbringing- which included church services every single Sunday from the time that I was born until I was a sophomore or junior in high school. I am extremely grateful to my parents for providing me with that education, and even more grateful to them for allowing me the freedom to make my own decisions about what to do with that education once I was old enough to begin forming my own opinions.
Since then, I have studied religion both formally and informally in various ways. I am a knowledge seeker. I believe in asking questions. I have been fortunate to have been exposed to many people from a variety of different cultures over the years. I've always tried to learn as much about them and their beliefs as I can within the constraints of time and circumstances.
I tell you all of this because in order to begin to understand a person you need to understand their background. Our personal morals and beliefs are formed by our experiences in the world. We all have different experiences, so we all have different beliefs.
Many, many arguments start because people don't understand each other. We misinterpret the actions of others because we expect them to think the same way that we do. We forget that their view of the world is different from our own.
If you want to understand me, you have to know my rules.
These are the rules that I live by. That's not to say that I expect anyone else to agree...this is just my own personal code of conduct and the message I hope that my daughter receives.
1. ALL people are equally deserving of love and respect. There are no bad people, only bad decisions.
2. do not judge another person's actions until you have a solid understanding of their circumstances
3. treat other people the way that you would want to be treated in identical circumstances
4. honesty is always the best policy...but there is such a thing as tact. Never lie, but be as empathetic as possible when sharing the truth. Forgiveness is easier to gain than trust.
5. Always take responsibility for your actions. Everyone messes up. If you mess up, own it and be prepared to deal with the consequences. Remember that it is OK to ask for help. There is a reason that families exist.
6. Never, EVER have sex with anyone you are not prepared to raise a child with.
7. People come first. Chores and "things" can wait.
8. Your character is only as strong as your word. Never make promises lightly.
9. The energy that you put out into the world is the energy that will come back to you...so SMILE.

That's me in a nutshell. If you are ever unsure of where I am coming from it's a pretty safe bet that my actions stem from this set of rules.

Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Blessed

Do you ever have a day where you feel like every single moment has been specifically designed to teach you something?
Today has been full of reminders of just how very fortunate I am. Things that make me feel as though for one reason or another I have been blessed with an amazingly beautiful life.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about it today. Specifically thinking about that word...blessed, and all of it's connotations.
Everyone knows that there are a few topics that are guaranteed hot buttons. Topics best avoided, unless you are prepared to deal with arguments, hurt feelings, rage, etc. I am not a huge fan of conflict, so I tend to avoid those topics as much as possible.
Not today. Today I feel like I need to share some of my personal beliefs. I don't know if it's just because I need to think out loud, if I'm looking for people to back me up, or if I'm just plain crazy...but here I am, whatever the reason may be.
First of all, let me say that I don't consider myself to be a religious person. Actually, I pretty much steer as far clear of organized religion as I can. I struggle with the whole "if you don't believe exactly what I believe then you are destined to spend an eternity burning in hell" thing. I don't understand that frame of mind...at all. I can't comprehend how anyone could possibly believe that they have it all figured out.
"Well, it's all written plain as day in this book here. See?!"
Nope. Sorry. I don't see. I see a book (books with an s actually if we're going to be completely candid) that was written by men thousands of years ago that has as many interpretations as it has chapters. I see a book of stories that exist to teach lessons...stories much the same as Aesop's fables.
Does that mean that I don't believe in God? Maybe? The honest answer is that I'm really not sure.
I believe that there are many, many things about life that I simply can not explain. Things that I don't feel science has been able to explain up to this point either. I would like to believe that our existence on this planet has a purpose, but I certainly would never be pompous enough to think that I could begin to understand what that purpose might be.
I believe that there is some sort of "force" that surrounds us all. You can call it God if you want, Allah, Jehovah, Buddha, Yahweh...I really don't care. To me it doesn't have a name. It just IS.
I believe in the power of positive thinking. I believe that prayer works. I get hung up on that word too...prayer. That's another word that is just loaded with connotations, isn't it? How can you say you aren't religious, but you believe in the power of prayer? Don't those two statements contradict each other? Possibly, but not in my mind. To me prayer is just a word for sending positive vibes out into the universe...into that mysterious, unnamed force.
I believe that what you put out into the world comes back to you. I don't think that necessarily means that people who are suffering have done something horrible to bring the suffering upon themselves. I think that sometimes we have to suffer in order to learn, and to fully appreciate the good in life.
When people tell me about things happening in their life that are causing them distress I do the only thing that I know how to do. I tell them that I am here for them, and then I pray. I pray that everything works out the way that it is meant to, and that somehow no matter what happens they are able to come to terms with the results as quickly as possible so that they can move on and be happy in their lives.
I've been thinking about these beliefs all day. Thinking about how fortunate I am to have never truly suffered a day in my life. One look at my twitter timeline is all it takes to reaffirm that notion. There is just so much suffering in the world. It's heart breaking to even think about it.
I've been thinking about all of the people in the world who are truly struggling just to survive, and putting my own private struggles into perspective. When I think of all of those people, and think about my own life and how carefree and easy it has always been comparatively, it seems next to impossible to deny that I have blessed beyond measure.
I can't pretend to know why, and I don't think that I should even question it. I think that the only thing that I can do is be grateful for all that I have been given, and find some way to pay it forward.
I would love to hear what some of you do in your lives to give thanks for your own blessings.

Be well, be kind, and smile lots
xoxo