Happy Is The Goal

  


Happy is the goal, right? At least it is for me. 

Relationships are hard. Be it parent/child, sibling, spouse, friend, co-worker, acquaintance we are bound to have conflict. We are going to have misunderstanding, offense, strain, and, sometimes division. But that is never the end of the story.

It is interesting how often it is easier to walk away from our valuable relationships (whether physically or emotionally) than offer forgiveness which might build a bridge across the gap of frustration, anger or hopelessness.

More often than not, we just throw rocks at each other until nothing remains but a banged up, dented in, gnarled vestige of a relationship. Something that was once of great value. Destroyed by our own hands.

I was taught that being a good steward of what is valuable helps to maintain the value. 

My dad will tell you that as soon as you drive a new car off the lot, the monetary value drops immediately. However, regular upkeep and maintenance preserves the amount of pleasure and use you receive from an investment you deemed worthy to make. You certainly do not take a sledge hammer to that investment because it got a flat tire, ran out of gas or worse yet shows signs of wear in the interior. You fix the problem.

Every relationship I have ever entered into held a valuable place in my heart when I entered into it. As I look back, those lost relationships most commonly disintegrated because we hurt each other and instead of repairing the damage, we chose to cripple it by withholding forgiveness.

On the other hand, I’ve seen how forgiveness builds a bridge that afforded the opportunity to reclaim and restore what was lost.

Forgiveness is tricky. It’s often discussed and acknowledged as necessary but rarely operated properly. Basically, I believe, because we do not believe it holds any real power. 

As a young car owner, I used to scoff at the idea that regular oil changes were necessary until I experienced a few break downs. Wisdom and experience have shown me how stupid my thought processes were at the time.

Forgiveness is the oil change of a relationship. 

It is vital to empty the heart on a regular basis of the gunk that is causing the relationship to break down.

Pride will cost us our happiness. Stubbornness will devalue what we once held dear. Maintaining the gap between us imprisons our hope and replaces it with anger, bitterness and contempt.

Sadly, we think walking out is the answer to restoring happiness. Have you ever listened to two people who ended a relationship…there is nothing joyful, or happy resounding from their being (and cut the air with a knife if they are within 2 feet of each other). True happiness is never restored until they reach the place of forgiveness and move on. 

So, why do we withhold forgiveness in the first place?

I’m not sure I have the answer to that one. 

I do know this, in my own life, I am seeing the value that “forgiving quickly” produces in my own heart. I see my relationships maintaining a happier level. And retaining my investment is rewarding (and less painful than parting ways).

We’ve all heard “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath”. It means apply forgiveness quickly, regularly. The heart can’t function properly without it.

The truth is…A happy relationship is made up of two good forgivers.

  

A Portrait of Nephews

Water.

Cool.

Crisp.

Invigorating.

Fresh.

My sister, Evie and contributing photographer, perfectly captured the relationship that my nephew and son share in these photos. Josh is nearly two decades older than Christopher. My son, mischievous and sometimes trying, loved to provoke interaction but sometimes bit off more than he could chew. He always went back for more because the relationship they share is as fresh as a pool full of water on a hot summer’s day. 

    

    

  

  

  

  

  

  

  WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

(Photo credit: Evie Hartness, contributing photographer)

How To Fight Relationship Fires

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A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire. ~Proverbs

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When you run out of wood, the fire goes out; when the gossip ends, the quarrel dies down. ~Proverbs

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An argumentative person in a dispute is like kerosene thrown on a fire. ~Proverbs

How do you fight fire?

Relationship fire fighting 101: Gentle responses, silence, and mollification douse fire.

I prefer my fires contained in my fireplace where I can prop my feet up, sip a hot drink and warm my weary soul…

and not in my relationships.

Don’t you?

D

One Word Weekly Photo Challenge: Saffron

What a Seed Teaches Us About Life

 

deeclarknz.comI received the following comment from A Momma’s View on my blog Multiplied Love from yesterday.

“So well said and such a beautiful way to look at it! Actually interesting that we always talk about dividing and not multiplying!”

As I was writing my response to her kind comment, I decided that I wanted to share both with you.

My response: “I’m not sure why we talk about dividing. I think the idea of multiplying can be overwhelming, as if we think we can’t handle more. But I truly believe that we were fashioned for abundance. To me, that means our capacity is so much greater than we can imagine. Nature is all about multiplying. One grain of corn will multiply into many meals. A single apple seed will one day produce enough fruit to feed a family, possibly a neighborhood. On and on. I think we can learn to live higher. Multiplying the resources within us will lead us toward a flourishing life.”

A flourishing life.

Wouldn’t that be a fabulous goal to aspire to?

Isn’t it really what we all are secretly hoping for?

Isn’t it the very reason we drop to our knees in tears when disappointment strikes?

I was thinking about that apple tree or any fruit tree, really.

When a fruit tree produces loads of beautifully sweet fruit, we remark, “My fruit tree is flourishing”. Right? The seed has multiplied what it was into a flourishing bountiful tree.

But that fruit tree didn’t just start flourishing.

There was a process that occurred over time.

First, someone took a seed, prepared it properly for planting. Found just the right soil and nutrients in which to bury it.

That seed was placed in rich, dark dirt, where it dies. Yip, what it is now has to die. The potential of the fruit lies sleeping in the current form. Unless a change takes place no fruit will ever appear.

We fight the process. We fight the necessary changes. We weep over the loss of what we are at this moment. Shoot, I have even had a quite a few melt-downs along my journey. It can be painful. It can be uncomfortable. Fear of letting go of what is familiar (what I am now and the way I cope) to grasp the unfamiliar (our potential) is paralysing.

But it’s ok. You are alright. You are going to be fine. In fact, you are going to be better than fine. You are going to flourish. You are going to be everything you were designed to be. And, honestly, it is going to be better than you imagine.

You can hold onto your little seed. But a wise man once said, “I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop.”

It remains “by itself”. Dear one, do you know what that phrase means? It means alone. Alone.

That same wise man said that “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”

I sat with a friend one time. Tears streaming down her face because the father of her child did not want her or the most beautiful child in the world. They were not married and she was desperate to be a family. I explained that letting go of something that constantly brought pain and tears was hard. But as long as she was clinging to this dysfunctional relationship, she could not be ready to grab hold of a really good one. If she allowed this dream of a family to be planted, the old way of being, to die, one day she would not recognise her new life compared to it’s current state.

Well, she stopped clinging to her life as it was. She let what wasn’t working die. And when I saw her last year, she was flourishing. She was.

I get that it was all she had at the time. I get that. But it wasn’t what she really wanted her life to look like. She didn’t want someone who didn’t give love. She didn’t want someone who tolerated her at his convenience. She wanted more.

By letting go, she multiplied. And she is not alone.

Now, does that mean her life is perfect? Is your? Mine’s not. Because the process does not stop once abundance shows up.

There is now pruning to do. There will be things that begin to grow that suck the life out of you. The fruit producing parts of life can not compete with the stuff that eats up all your nutrients and reserves. For the multiplying to continue, you have to keep letting go of the things that are holding back your growth.

So, I ask you, do you feel alone? If the answer is no. Awesome! You might be right in your sweet spot. If you are not feeling alone, then are you frustrated? Again, if no, you are probably flourishing.

However, if you feel alone – try getting by yourself for a little heart to heart with YOU. Not many people enjoy the stillness but you need to ask yourself some questions. Do you need to change something? Do you need to fix something? Maybe you are angry more than happy. Maybe things just never seem to work out like you planned. These are indicators. Look for the deeper causes. What do you need to let go of?

If you do not feel alone but are feeling frustrated, maybe it’s time for a little pruning to take place. What is zapping you of your energy? Are you over committed? Have you allowed old attitudes or behaviours to re-establish themselves. Is it time to cut some things off?

I have experienced a lot a grief in my life. I have grieved loss in many forms. Grieving never really goes away completely when we are talking about the loss of a loved one. Fear of experiencing that loss again became the way I approached my life.

When I first came to NZ, I was overwhelmed by prices. Food that I could buy at home for very little cost, was expensive. I like to use lemons in a lot of my recipes. I also love freshly squeezed lemonade. The price of lemons was about $15 per kg the first time I went to buy them. I made a decision to buy them anyway. I brought them home and placed them in a beautiful bowl and set them on the table. Then I stood guard over them. I did not want to waste them and I didn’t want anyone else to either. I was fearful that I would not be able to buy more at that price and I didn’t want to lose even one of them. I admired them. I never used them. One day I walked past the table and my beautiful lemons weren’t beautiful any longer. They had rotted. Every last one of them. Gone. I tried to hold onto them and lost them anyway.

Life is like that. What we desperately try to hold onto stagnates. Molds. Gets really stinky and rotten.

And we aren’t truly living. We aren’t multiplying, increasing or growing.

Life is a process of taking who we are, refining our behaviours, and letting go of the unfulfilling aspects so that we can have the abundance that our heart is truly desiring.

When we do…we flourish and our potential is realised.

What do you think? Do you want to multiply or divide? Do you want to let go in order to gain?

Why not start today?

D

 

 

 

Multiplied Love

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The heart has an amazing capacity for love. It expands so that love can be multiplied. You don’t have to worry, your heart will work with you. The more you fill it, the more it can take! Even if broken, it won’t leak. You might think it can’t take anymore, but it can. It will mend and get right back to the work it does best…loving.

A Pathway Guaranteed to End A Relationship

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Yeah, well, when you are sitting at a table in your favorite coffee shop gazing into the eyes of the most beautiful human being you’ve ever met in your life, the last thing you are thinking about is a break up. Life is too full of sunshine and joy to ever imagine this could end. In fact, break ups happen to anyone and everyone else. A crushing end is the furthest thing from your mind. Besides, you’re too busy just being in the moment and loving every second.

Now, close your eyes. Breath deeply for a moment. Feel the pure joy. Feel the tangible happiness. Feels great! Right?

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Likewise, imagine, you’re sitting in the office of a company that you desperately want to work for. You’ve just completed an interview that you are confident went really well. You admire the manager who has so eloquently conducted the interview and you are certain that together the two of you will do amazing things for the success of the company. You just know it.

Take a mental picture. You’re gonna need it.

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Here’s the thing, a lot of my relationship lessons have been learned after-the-fact or at best mid-stream while trying to keep my head above the water so I didn’t completely drown.

Do you know how painful that is? How many painful hours I have spent in tears -wondering, “What went wrong?”

I sat chair side for some of the best dentists in the USA for almost 20 years and one message I heard repeatedly over those years was “preventive medicine is the best medicine” or “early detection increases the chances of a successful outcome.” What we don’t know can and does hurt us. Knowledge is power (just saying that makes me want to dust off my superhero cape, except I don’t have one. Can I borrow yours? Please?). But it’s true.

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A cross-your-fingers-and-hope-for-the-best-outcome with a side of everything-will-work-out-fine because we are wonderful people approach isn’t working. It’s painful. And confusing.

After my marriage of 18 years ended, I was crushed. I had no self-esteem left. I had no working knowledge for how to go through a divorce (because I wasn’t ever going to be a divorcee) or deal with the court system. My philosophy was justice and truth will prevail (where is that cape?). I learned the hard way that there are loop holes in the system, not knowing what you are doing will kick you right in the seat of the pants and you can loose because the guy on the judge’s bench is just a guy trying to figure it all out. He doesn’t have knowledge about your life therefore, he has to hold the stories up against the law and the best story wins.

Believe me, it was another, “What went wrong?” kind of day. In the infamous words of Madia, “what had happen was” in my emotional state of mind, I handed the decision making power over my life to a guy who knew nothing about me or my values. Believe me, this knowledge is now knowledge with power behind it. I won’t do that again.

We need to know. We need the how to’s for life.

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We all desire, hope for and even long for strong relationships that make our lives happier, brighter, more worthwhile. We are ecstatic when we find them. We don’t plan for the very relationships we longed for to become the bane of our existence. Yet, if we don’t learn and apply skills in a proactive way, we are putting our relationships at risk of failure.

And no one wants to fail.

Whether it’s a friendship, business, career, community or family relationship, we enter the relationship full of hope that we can succeed.

I learned the hard way. Please let me share some information about this painful pathway before you start taking the hike.

There are warning signs when a relationship begins to break down. No one goes to sleep one night and wakes up the next morning and announces, “I’m done. I’m not going to do this anymore. It’s been real. I’ve had a lot of fun but I’m just stopping now”. Long before you quit, you can see big flashing red signs that say, “This is not working for me!”

Communication breakdown is the most common reason given for failed relationships of all kinds. It’s like the doorway to the dark side. Once you walk through it, the temptation to give into other destructive behaviours seems like a vacuum tunnel that pulls you away from your core focus.

If you want to guarantee relationship failure all you have to do is allow communication to make a wrong turn and travel the pathway of criticism followed by contempt then defensiveness and finally stonewalling. This pathway is fatal. You can avoid even stepping one foot onto it.

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Strong communication is a two-way street. The issue at hand is considered and all participants in the relationship contribute. Ideas are weighed and a decision is made. Gosh, that sounds so simple. Bam. Problem solved. Right?

Effective communication is like a dance. Moving together provides a beautiful flow. You might step on each other’s toes a few times but you correct the wrong move and continue dancing. The problem starts at the point where the ideas we offer are met with criticism. “That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard!”, “Who thinks like that? Stupid idea”, “Look, my way of thinking is the only way to go and well, I can’t even imagine why you think like you do.” Critical reactions leave us fearful of opening up. We feel foolish, rejected and unheard. If this occurs often, we make the decision to shut down. “It’s not worth it. I’ll keep my thoughts to myself”.

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This feels like a safe solution. Problem is the heart then takes a second step on the pathway. Criticism leads to contempt. Dear one, contempt starts quietly in the deepest, darkest part of your heart. Left unchecked it spreads like wild fire. Believe me. Contempt is the birthing place for disrespect. Here, we might begin to speak under our breath and say things like (I’ll be nice here although usually, we aren’t so kind) “Idiot”, “Jerk”. This stage is most common for women. Do you recognise these comments: “Fine”, “Nothing”, “Go ahead”, and “Whatever”? We joke about women giving these answers. But it’s really not funny. She is signalling to you (spouse, boss, friend) that you aren’t valuing her input and she resents it. Feelings of disgust and disdain begin to surface to the point that she is disregarding the person altogether.

Contempt shifts the focus from the issue to how we now feel about the person. Remember, you have heard me share the wisdom that as a man thinks in his heart so is he? Basically, that means what you entertain in your heart becomes behaviour. In the case of contempt this is where it starts getting ugly. The saying “beautiful inside and out” turns to “ugly to the bone”. Contempt is where this change begins.

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We might think that we are hiding our true feelings even if we don’t say “it” to their face. But we’re not. Contempt shows. It begins to scream at the other person, “I can’t stand you!”

Still have that mental picture stored in your mind’s eye? This is not how you felt about this person when you first met, is it? The warm fuzzies are quickly dissipating.

Typically, when contempt is used the next step is defensiveness. One or both parties can experience this. Becoming defensive is a very normal response to being treated with contempt. Defensiveness is really a way of blaming the other person. In effect, we are saying the problem isn’t me, it’s you. The original problem isn’t resolved but the conflict has just escalated.

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Once the conflict has escalated, one or both parties will tune the other person OUT! This is known as building up walls or stonewalling. This is more common in men. It’s what my husband calls “too hard”. I have learned in NZ that if someone here says, “Too hard” whether it’s work, marriage, or a friendly conversation, they are telling the world that they are done. They are not talking about it anymore. They are not responding. They are finished. Now, my husband and I have learned to stop for a while, go think about our approaches and come back to it later.

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We have finally come up with a plan that refocuses us back to the issue so that we are working together again. However, if you don’t rethink the “how to” approach communication properly this is the stage that people quit. Marriages end. Teenagers just walk away. I have quit jobs. I have quit and sat in silence for far too many days on end with family members. I have walked away from friendships without giving the relationship a fair chance. I think we all have. This left me miserable and wounded deep with my heart. This is where we begin to misplace our ability to trust other people and close our hearts so tightly that no one can get in.

Closed down behind a stone wall is not what we bargained for. We want to be happy. We want to succeed. We want abundance.

We can turn this whole thing around or prevent even travelling down this pathway if we are willing to look honestly at the warning signs and change direction.

It can be as simple as applying the right skills. If the situation is advanced to a dangerous place, help might be necessary. However, preventive measures are more beneficial than attempting to repair or revive a failing relationship.

No matter where you are in your relationship journey, you can get off this destructive path.

Let me know what you think. Was this helpful? Do you know someone who might benefit from this information, please feel free to share it with them.

The sun is shining bright today, I think I’ll take my husband out for a walk.
Have a great day!
D

the value of being kind when others aren’t

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My cousin spent today helping an infuriating, older neighbour tear down a fence. It was something her neighbour probably would not have reciprocated. She also had to wade through plants that were not good for her allergies. When completed, her young daughter noticed and commented about her labour of love.

My cousin stated: “My hives are calming down, Ill be fine and Sarah’s response makes it worth it. She said, “Mommy, why we’re you helping her when she doesn’t even like us?” I explained it’s the neighborly thing to do. She replied, “But Mom I heard her talking to you in a nice voice. Is she going to be nice now? Will she be a friend?” Good life lesson to learn when I told her that wasn’t why I did it and she probably will not be a friend. Some people are just the way they are.”

Is it really worth being nice to someone who isn’t easy to be nice to?

I think the answer is definitely, “yes.”

People are all different, have differing value systems and differing historical stories that cause them to be who they are.

Reacting like someone acts causes me to be disloyal to myself and who I really am. I most enjoy being kind, generous, loving and giving. That’s when I’m happiest within.

I find myself frustrated having to live on “their” playing field. So, I came to the realisation that revenge is not sweet for me. Being “me” is…therefore, I live fully out of my heart and appreciate that they are different than me.

I don’t expect them to be me (even when it’s hard) or give more than they are capable of giving.

It’s taken many years to reach this place…

I really despise my “mean Dee” more than I despise actions coming my way.

I also believe love never fails (even if I can’t see the good effects).

The question is, “who do I want to be and what type of journey do I want to travel?”

Answering that question for myself helps me set my standard of behaviour. It is not an easy journey and it takes maturity.

Which do you prefer?

One perpetuates drama and the other brings inner satisfaction.

If you haven’t reached the goal of not allowing circumstances to turn your world upside down, keep going. Keep applying purposeful actions to bring you to the place in your journey that you most desire.

Have a great day!
D