How we steal the bright side from ourselves everyday: Try some cognitive reframing

reframing your life

The most fortunate are those who have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy. — ABRAHAM MASLOW

Although I learned this psychological tool decades ago, I am always re-learning its usefulness in my own life. What is cognitive reframing? Here’s a definition from an article by social worker Amy Morin:

“Reframing is a technique used in therapy to help create a different way of looking at a situation, person, or relationship by changing its meaning. Also referred to as cognitive reframing, it’s a strategy therapists often use to help clients look at situations from a slightly different perspective.”

I have found that choosing a “different perspective” can also be the opposite of what I automatically go to in my own mind.

The point is that we can and do choose how we see ourselves and our lives everyday. 

If we were raised with a critical or negative view of ourselves and how the world works, the way we will see our lives may be destined to be critical or negative, but that is not the only way to see ourselves. That is not the only reality behind our circumstances.

Here is an example from my own life:

In my present life I may tend to focus on all of the difficult challenges Mike and I have faced since we decided that we needed to leave Fort Collins behind for many good reasons. I may choose to focus on how much money we left on the table by selling our Fort Collins home before prices went way up up there, how expensive and stressful it was to build down here in a rural area, etc, making me critical of our past decisions. Or, I may choose to see exactly how fortunate I have been in spite of many tough misfortunes in the past few decades; to be here now, retired comfortably and happily, and most importantly together!

In addition there are the greater misfortunes of Mike’s horrible experience with CFS for decades, my inability to find another job in libraries at age 49, my traumatic head injury at age 53, and many more difficulties that just come up as we age. Considering all of these factors, we are more than fortunate. How can we be anything but filled with GRATITUDE that we made it to this soft place to fall in this beautiful place?

That is how reframing works, and it can be used in all parts of your life on a daily basis…

laura and rasta on insulation 2014 (2)

leading to overwhelming feelings of gratitude, a feeling we could all use more of!

Colorado Rocky Mountain High!

You belong somewhere you feel free…

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A Revealing “Empty Chair” Exercise

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An amazing combination of evening light and clouds last night!

I had the best time yesterday staring out at our incredible view here in southern Colorado. I was also looking at Mike’s chair, which was empty because he was in town visiting friends. Having quite a bit of experience with Gestalt and “empty chair” therapy, I suddenly thought,

“If you could have anybody from your present or past sitting there right now, who would you choose?”

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Charlie Cat relaxing in Mike’s chair

This of course requires a good imagination and sense of pretend, but it can also be quite revealing. I ran through the list in my mind quickly, people from my past who I miss and would love to talk to now. Sad to say, none of them made the grade.

You will never believe who came up for me! I would LOVE to sit down with Barack Obama and discuss our world today. What it must look like to him, after trying so hard to correct injustices from our past and improve the lives of average Americans. How does that feel to him? How does he see Trump?

An honest discussion would be so fascinating!

Have you ever been wild and free?

Emma Thompson in The Children ActI watched an amazing film last night, and this question came from it. “The Children Act” is one of the best films I’ve seen in years. My gift to you this holiday season is to tell you that you must see it. There is nothing simple about this multi-layered plot, which investigates the complex emotions of human existence and relationships. Emma Thompson also delivers one of her best and most heart-felt performances in this film, which caused me to begin to ponder, when in my own life have I truly felt wild and free?

I have known only fleeting moments of “wild and free” most of my life. At the time I called these glimpses “zen moments” when everything seemed exactly as it should be. I loved that feeling of  finally being in the right place at the right time to experience this golden moment.

Then, in a shocking revelation last night, I realized that it is only now, in my sixties, that I regularly feel both wild and free. Now I can finally stop thinking about how others might judge me, and simply make my own choices. Everyday I again choose to be me, feeling safe and nurtured enough to reveal my authentic self, handing myself more freedom. What a refreshing way to live…

snowy Winter Solstice

I gave myself freedom in the past few years. That’s pretty wild, isn’t it?

I’m beginning to dread a lot about Christmas…

Just saw my first Christmas ad last night. It must be time for my annual tongue-in-cheek Christmas piece, first published in 2009…

halloweenHere we are enjoying Halloween, and along comes the first of a future onslaught of  “holiday” commercials! Yippee! Yes, they can be subtle at first, but they are there. Look closely. They creep on to our TV screens like ghosts and goblins sent to disturb our mellow post-Halloween days. Panic sets in.

It must be my age. Each year I face the “holidays” with increasing dismay instead of the previous joy. The “holidays” make me tense and uncomfortable. Instead of childhood visions of sugar plums from my ancient past, I now feel dread, pure and simple.

The advertising is ugly. It does me in… Is it the good old American hard-sell or the nauseatingly sweet, happy families advertising anything you need RIGHT NOW? We all know this is pure fiction!

Christmas dreadWhy do the Hallmark ads bring a wee tear to our eye? Because we know they aren’t real. They try to capture a life we wish we had instead of the one we live now. And don’t get me started with those male fantasy commercials, where he buys her that one special piece of jewelry so she’ll fall into his arms for a night of amazing sex, suggesting not too subtly she’s nice for a price.

I admit, when Mike and I first met, we had a lot of fun going out to buy our first tree together. We were so happy to have someone to share ANY holiday with. But now it all feels so crass to me. The “holidays” have turned into a gigantic embarrassment. This tradition has soured.

I swear if Jesus came back and saw what’s being done in his name, he would slit his wrists. It has really turned UGLY. Pushy people fighting over parking places at the mall, really?

We decided to opt out years ago. Enough is enough!

Life without ready access to the Internet

Spring Fire evacuation June 30th 2018

How long has it been since you didn’t access the Internet everyday? Since we experienced a wildfire in the mountains west of us and were evacuated around the end of June, we have had no access at home. That’s about a month now!

At first, after the fire fear was over, it really bothered me that I couldn’t jump online at any time and check everything. Habits die hard. But now, a month later, I am missing it less and less.

garden scene outside my bedroom door

I have to drive into town to use my friend’s laptop a couple times a week, and the rest of the time I simply forget about it. Yes, it is possible in this day and age to space out the Internet. Instead I focus more on my garden, exercising and on my life in general. It has helped to bring me out of my post-fire slump and return to my daily goals.

So why don’t we have the Internet yet? Because the local company we prefer, lost a key pole up in the mountains west of us, and they can’t even get in there to fix it yet. The area was destroyed by fire, in some cases the soil was even sterilized and the roads impassable. Providers are limited out here and we don’t like our other options, so we’re going without.

It has been an interesting experiment for me and I’m beginning to see the benefits of never having the Net to turn to when bored or uncertain what to do next…

This seems to bring the focus back to me and what I need right now!

Creativity and Memory Loss

I heard the most amazing statistic the other day on the PBS News Hour:

Creative artists experience 73% less memory loss and Alzheimers than others!

I believe it too! For me, creativity has been the key to maintaining the memory I have left after a traumatic brain injury ten years ago and 2 or 3 concussions.

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Photography, writing, interior design, and gardening are the areas I love to explore in a creative way. Creativity seems to truly relax my mind and let it flow in its own way.

The wonderful monsoon rains we have been experiencing since our Spring Wildfire the week of the 4th of July have done my garden a world of good! Plus Mike has been helping out building retaining walls in the garden.

cloudy Spanish Peaks with snow and garden

Our yard is right on the edge of a hill facing the Spanish Peaks, so we have to build it up or it will all wash away eventually.

nice garden scene at comanche drive

I’m now working on rebuilding the garden after the terrible drought we had here all winter and spring. I took another trip over to see my friends at my favorite hangout, Perennial Favorites near Rye, Colorado. They pointed out a few plants that seem to not interest the deer around here, so now I have a lavender Hyssop plant, Russian sage, only the yellow yarrow not the other colors, etc. They were so kind. They gave me two free plants because of our evacuation situation.

With all of the the rain we’ve been getting (over 3 inches so far this month!) and the cooler temperatures I enjoy working outside again. I have new garden hope!

BEAUTY is the GARDEN where HOPE grows!

GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!

One lesson we can all learn by travelling to other countries is that Americans are awfully busy. I have lived in southeast Asia, China, France and Italy, and can find no other group of people who feel the need to be constantly busy. My favorite country was Italy. They seem to have such a generous sense of time compared to us, and an ability to enjoy the process of living without guilt over stopping to enjoy each moment.

How did we ever get so busy and guilty about simply relaxing?

Freefall for blogI really don’t know how we got so driven as a culture, but I do have a few tips on how to give yourself a break from all of that internalized pressure: Take days off from your ‘normal’ life where you can truly do whatever YOU want to do. No rules. No guilt. Be lazy. Watch trashy TV. Eat mac and cheese. No food shaming either. Try really hard not to judge yourself or others for just a few hours. Celebrate having the time to just be yourself!

Let your mind wonder on a regular basis. Free thought is where all creativity comes from. How could your life be better? Free your mind to consider ALL of your options. What barriers would you need to bridge in your own mind to have a much better life?

What rules do you need to get rid of right now?

For some reason, aging can be quite the catalyst in freeing your mind. Being perfectly clear on the fact that your years are numbered can clear your head! What do you want to do before you die? Stop all the daily busyness long enough to do those things now!

feeling satisfied everyday

Stepping out of the busyness, stopping our endless pursuit of getting somewhere else, is perhaps the most beautiful offering we can make to our spirit.  — TARA BRACH