Will Strengthening 101

When I was in kicking around in utero, as the story goes, my father placed his hand on the growing bulk that was soon to become me and said, “Be gentle, Julia”, a name taken from the book he was reading at the time, Gentle Julia, by Booth Tarkington. Hence, my name—Julia.

That memory came to  mind today as I was pondering the newest spiritual growth assignment that I have recently bestowed upon myself. It’s a biggie. I call it Willingness to Strengthen the Will. Cheech. It’s like quitting smoking, or giving up the wine habit. I want to, but do I really mean it? I mean really, really?

I do, but I don’t. Like anything worth working for, it will require great commitment and sacrifice, and I have to stop and ask myself if the reward is worth the effort. Throughout the decades of my life, I have learned that when the do becomes stronger than the don’t, then a modicum of willingness creeps in, and I become willing to begin to consider the possibility of taking a leap and making the change. I am happy to report that as of today, the do‘s outweigh the don’t‘s and I am ready. It only took an entire lifetime to get to this point of readiness but finally, here I am. And let’s face it—I’m no spring chicken.

What caused me to turn the corner into willingness? I realized that the final curtain is coming down and when it does, I want to know that I have done everything in my power while I am still here to finish whatever it is that I came here to do. I may not get it done completely before I go, but I can give it my best shot, and at the very least get a head start for the next time around. This is a job that may require more than one lifetime, but I need to start somewhere, right?

When I say that this is a biggie, I mean, this is really biggie. For one who has spent a lifetime wrestling with procrastination, distraction and lack of focus topped by a probable case of undiagnosed, untreated ADD, strengthening the will is indeed an act of will.

It’s not like I can tap a magic wand on my head and proclaim myself strong-willed. I can’t suddenly go cold turkey on procrastination and distraction the way I did with smoking and my daily wine habit. I’ve tried it before, and it didn’t work. I’d give it my best shot, invariably flunk, and wind up feeling guilty for my failure. Then I’d sink back into my old ways of inaction, or doing what I shouldn’t, or whatever else added to my waning sense of self-worth. It can be a lot easier to judge oneself than to be kind, gentle, and forgiving of one’s own human frailty.

Maybe it’s something in the stars, or a growing awareness that the old way of the world is dying and a new one is emerging. Life is changing before my very eyes, and the good news is that I have an opportunity to change along with it. 

What’s different now? Desire, purpose, motivation, and an intention to get there from here. Rome wasn’t built in a day and unrealistic expectations lead to discouragement and failure. Now finally, a strong intention for strengthening the will has started the wheels turning, and off I go, off into a new and exciting world of seeing how life looks when a choice is made between serving the personal will vs. the serving will of the soul. 

This time I will live up to my name and be gentle with myself. I will be kind and forgiving and allow for stumbles and falls, and remember that I am a work in progress. I will know that like a child, I am being helped and guided and loved each step along the way and that in the end, I will make it in spite of my human frailties and foibles. 

We are here to learn, to grow, to use this life experience to find the best within ourselves. It is a rocky road, but in the long run it is the only road worth traveling, because in the end the reward is unparalleled joy. The best way that I know about how to get there from here is to wake up and see the light of a new day, a new dawn, a new world. Intention, motivation, purpose and desire are the ingredients of the fuel that will propel me to where I want to go.

I’m not there yet, but I’m making good progress. I’m learning that trying to force myself into compliance will result in failure, and that allowance is the key that unlocks the door to success. Allowance is kind, gentle, forgiving. It arrives packaged in grace and leaves room for stumbles, lapses in judgment, and momentary setbacks. Allowance gently leads us by the hand, helps us to make conscious decisions, and reminds us to ask for the help we need to get us to our destination.

I have a feeling that as time goes by, there will be a lot more to say about my adventures in Will Strengthening 101, so stay tuned . . .  Meanwhile, note to self: be gentle, Julia. And thanks to my father for giving me a name that reminds me to be gentle not just to myself, but to all.

Before you go—

If you could use a little drink from the fountain of love in the midst of a world of fear, you might enjoy a look at A Tree of Light website. It is an  inspiration and oasis for the soul. 

You may also find a bit of inspiration and humor in Voices, a book full of my tales of woe and triumphs in my travels on the road to enlightenment.

Whispers and Shouts

Uh oh—I’ve caught myself red-handed in the act of doing it again. I succumbed to the avoidance of all things unpleasant by escaping into Netflix instead of doing something worthwhile with myself, like picking up a book or a pen, or helping a friend in need. Darn. Is that because there is so much unpleasantry swirling around these days that I’m desperate for an escape route to help block out the misery? Well, at least I haven’t sunk low enough to get caught up in watching a continuing plethora of depressing news. Thank goodness for that

A blog by Donna Guillemette, Learning Discernment – A Crucial Skill, inspired me to stop and look at my recent failure and listen to my inner guidance. It’s hard to listen to my gut with headphones blaring external noise in my ears. There is a Voice in my head that says, “This isn’t the best use of your time.” Right. I know that. But I ignore it and turn up the volume on the headphones. I guess I’ll just keep on avoiding until I can’t stand it any more, or until I can no longer abide the idea that I’m wasting precious time on something that serves only to help me stay asleep. But still—who can blame anybody these days for wanting to do whatever it takes to avoid the ugliness going on in the world?

How many escape routes exist for our avoidance pleasure? Hmm—let me count the ways. Movies, addictive TV series, reading, food, partying, smoking, thumb sucking/space staring (my personal favorites), hobbies of all sorts, alcohol, drugs, gardening, exercising—you name it. There really isn’t any activity, no matter how apparently healthy or unhealthy, that cannot be used as an escape mechanism. Trust me, I know. I’ve employed darned near all of them throughout my decades on the planet. Oh—except physical things that risk bodily harm, like scuba diving, mountain climbing, parachuting, and hang gliding. I never said anything about not being a coward.

To quote a friend, “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing”. But when the “doing” reaches a level of becoming harmful to body, mind or spirit, it is time to wake up and listen to the whispers. My spirit is crying out for liberation from headphones and asks instead that I listen to the oh-so-trusty and reliable Voice in my head that speaks Truth in my ears. The whispers invite me to turn off Netflix, put down the remote, turn on the computer, and start writing again. My faithful Voice never scolds, admonishes, judges or threatens. It lovingly suggests. How I respond is up to me.

Today I finally decided to listen. This is the first blog that I have written in nearly two months. Why? Because I was in pause mode, wondering what I could possibly have to say that is new, different, or better than what anyone else has already said, or who knows more, or is more experienced, wiser, or smarter than I am. With libraries filled with thousands of volumes on the same subject, why bother? What I have to say hasn’t already been said hundreds of times before? 

Again, my true-blue Voice speaks up and suggests that there are others who feel the same way I do, and would be comforted by knowing that they are not alone. As I exchange my TV remote for my computer mouse and write my Truth, perhaps others may find their way past what they believe is true in the world, and into the awareness that the only Truth that exists lies within the sanctity of their own soul.

Running away into the fake shelter that hides behind a TV screen does not provide the peace, happiness, and joy that can only be found within the quiet comfort of the soul. That sense of connectedness with my Self comes only when I step out from behind the screen and acknowledge that I need something more. I need to find my soul, and do whatever it takes to get myself back to the Truth within. Sometimes “whatever it takes” can be the start of a long inner journey that may seem daunting; it takes great courage and determination to set foot upon the path of personal growth, but the end result is worth the trip because a contented soul is the ultimate reward. 

The following quote from Facebook (apologies to the unknown author for lack of acknowledgement) says it all: “I am not a body, I am not this skin. I am the soul that lives within.”

The journey to the soul gives new meaning to the phrase, “Wake up and smell the roses.” As each new soul awakens, a new petal of the rose unfolds and the world becomes a more beautiful place for all. 

The world is awaiting the call of your soul. Please listen to the whispers, wake up, and bloom into the beautiful Self that you truly are. There is a galaxy of souls cheering you on and supporting you on your journey.

A sanctuary for my soul is A Tree of Light http://atreeoflight.org, and your soul might enjoy a browse through my soul-searching book, Voices: Who’s in Charge of the Committee in my Head? available on Amazon.

Tests, Trials and Tee Shirts

While searching through the morass of my computer files, I accidentally stumbled across a piece of writing that I did in 2005 BC (before Covid). Having come upon it again, I just couldn’t resist passing it on.

The scenario: It’s 11:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning in the busy Men’s Furnishings Department at Nordstrom. Customers are milling about waiting to be helped.  The phone rings, I answer. Big Mistake. A woman starts in . . . (I give you HER end of the conversation only). Note: All caps indicates that she’s screaming.

FINALLY!  Somebody answered the phone.

Do you still carry the Nordstrom tee shirts that are made in Canada?

That’s NOT what I asked.  Can you go check?

What other brands do you carry?

Where are they made?

Are they combed cotton?

What else do you have?

What is Underarmor?

Are they thinner than the Nordstrom?

Read me the label.

What do you mean, microfiber?

Read me the part about breathability again.

What size is medium?

What size is large?

Is the Nordstrom thinner than the Calvin Klein?

Can you wait while I go get one to see what size I have?

Can you wait while I try it on to see if it fits?

NO!  I CAN’T WAIT WHILE YOU ANSWER ANOTHER PHONE.  I’VE BEEN TRYING TO GET THIS DONE FOR TWO DAYS AND NOBODY COULD DO IT YESTERDAY BECAUSE THEY WERE TOO BUSY.  I DON’T WANT TO WAIT WHILE YOU TALK WITH SOMEBODY ELSE ON THE PHONE.  I JUST WANT TO GET THIS DONE SO I CAN GET ON WITH ANOTHER PROJECT.

Are the Calvin Klein’s thinner than the Nordstrom?

Okay, I’ll take a package of the medium Nordstorm. 

BUT LISTEN.  THIS IS IMPORTANT.

Do NOT send me the package you scanned.  You’ll have to scan one, then send me one that hasn’t been scanned because I can’t have anything that’s been scanned around me.

How do you ship them?  

What service do you use?

Do NOT send it by mail.  It has to be shipped, not mailed.

How long will it take?

Why will it take so long?  Last time they came in a day.

How much is shipping?

Why is it so much?  Last time it was only $3.00. Why is it so expensive?  I don’t want to pay more than $3.00 because that’s what I paid the last time.

What is the total?

NO.  I WANT TO KNOW NOW.  I CAN’T WAIT FOR YOU TO CALL ME BACK.  I JUST WANT TO GET THIS DONE SO I CAN GO ON TO ANOTHER PROJECT.

When will you call me back?  

You’ll call me back in 10 minutes?

LISTEN.  THIS IS IMPORTANT.

Do NOT ship in a mailing envelope.  It HAS to be shipped in a box.

Ship it signature required.

When will it arrive?

Her charge doesn’t go through.

I have an incorrect phone number, so I can’t call her back.  AAAARRRRRRGGGGGGG!  Is this a test? 

Obviously, she doesn’t get the shirts.

She calls the store manager a few days later and goes through the entire routine with him.  I forgot to void the original transaction so she gets charged twice

Fortunately, I kept all of the paper work.

She calls the manager again. In frustration equal to mine, he ends up wiping both charges from her account and sends her shirts are free.

Next year, she’ll probably call again and expect more free shirts and free shipping. I hope to God that I‘m not the one who answers the phone when she does.

Lest I forget, I go home and write the experience while it’s still fresh in my mind. The next morning, I showed it to a colleague. She asked for a copy to for her husband to read so that he’ll understand the sort of thing that we have put up with around here . . .

It isn’t always easy to face the fears of others in the face of our own, particularly during these exceptionally difficult times in which we live. Daily, we must choose between right and wrong, and decide how to behave under confusing circumstances that demand our attention. In the long run, it all boils down simply to one choice only: will I act in love, acceptance, and forgiveness, or will I allow judgment, fear, and anger to rule my mind?

Tee Shirt Lady surely did try my patience on that busy Sunday morning years ago. If this entire scenario occurred BEFORE Covid, can you imagine what in Heaven’s name those in the service industry must have to endure AFTER Covid? Pray for them and be kind. They need all of the love they can get. Don’t we all?