A little thought..

When you call that person “crazy” for their choice in a leader, religion, or lifestyle, just remember that, even if their choices are wrong for your life, there are forces at work in their lives that led to these decisions. If all was wonderful in the world, there wouldn’t be the struggle to be heard, the need to make difficult or unpopular decisions, desperation, fear or any other powerful motivating influence.
Today’s casual use of “crazy” doesn’t only imply mental illness, but stupidity. Neither applies to most people, in the spirit it is used. When you call someone a profane name or hurl a ripping insult, you don’t show them how wrong they are – you confirm that the the situations they are facing are not the only things against them and they become even more entrenched in fear based or desperate thinking.
We are not smarter when we demean or belittle another. We are not more powerful because we follow a certain ideology. This is not progress or higher thinking, it is bullying. Aren’t we a country, a world, trying to unite to stop that within our schools and amongst our children? Then be an example, be kind.
Just because someone doesn’t agree with you, you don’t have to react. We can have opinions, share opinions, discuss opinions without being hateful, cruel or antagonizing. Seriously.

Utopia…and Utopics.

My kids are fascinated with the idea of, and workings of, a Utopian society right now. We are reading Sir Thomas More’s Utopia and we have had many discussions, for the last month or two, about our own ideas of a utopia, what would work, what couldn’t, what shouldn’t even if it could. This talking has lasted hours and wasn’t just superficial ramblings, either. These convos have really challenged us in our outlooks and behaviour to really define what we want and value, and how we can practice those values in our everyday lives. It has even translated into ideas of business ventures!

“An absolutely new idea is one of the rarest things known to man.” – Sir Thomas More

With all of these discussions the thing that always comes up, is not just how to implement these ideas but how to share them with others. Everyone has unanimously agreed that it can’t be forced upon others by “preaching” or insistence that our way is “more right”, but must be a reflection of ourselves. The best persuasion is to show the success of a principle or thing, and the best way to do that is to prove it is a success in one’s own life.

Before you dismiss this Utopia idea as just wishful thinking, I will challenge you by saying it is not the idea of Utopia that has made the greatest impression on my family, but rather the principles and ideas that were spawned by the discussions. The most powerful principle that made a difference is the power of the mind and thoughts.

I’m not sure if everyone can relate to this or not, but I have been living under the impression that I have to change my children’s behaviour to be a success as a parent. They should behave, be courteous, know how to work and study, help other people, etc. etc. . If they don’t do these things we are judged and held accountable because we aren’t tough enough, nice enough, didn’t instill ENOUGH something in them to make them turn out alright. It’s all a lie and we have been conditioned to believe it. I have blamed much of some of my children’s challenging behaviours on Fetal Alcohol Exposure. I am now going to backtrack and say that I, and the psychiatric professionals, are wrong…sooooo wrong!

“For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.”
― Sir Thomas More, Utopia

What if these little people were just guided and accepted and not changed deep down inside? What if we stopped giving them labels and started having meaningful dialogues with children that allow them to develop their own beliefs about the world and it’s inhabitants without being weighed down by everything that makes us not enough? (Yep, it comes back to that other post about being enough, doesn’t it? It’s all intertwined…) It can be done! I, the parent, can actually stop tormenting myself that my kid isn’t as perfect as someone else’s and stop beating myself up when I lose my temper and raise my voice, or even stop losing sleep when one of them doesn’t have then skillset that they are “supposed” to have by a certain age.

Finding beauty in unusual places...Seamus (right) and the Fox

Finding beauty in unusual places…Seamus (right) and the Fox

That doesn’t mean that we never tell our children that something is wrong or unkind, but instead of a harsh demand to do better, we can tell ourselves that these are people, too, and sometimes they have the right to exercise their personal likes and dislikes. I don’t believe that we are supposed to raise our children to be someone that we like, or are proud of – is it a necessity to say that you are proud of their achievements? – just as we don’t have to be disappointed when they don’t fit the criteria for success set forth by the world. We shouldn’t set the goals for our kids, but collaborate with them to discover the goals they want and support them in achievement. Being satisfied that they are their own person, following their own hearts, knowing their own minds, able to make decisions that they can live with should be the standards we strive for. Giving them the opportunities to learn and grow and be supported in these efforts is the #1 priority we should have in our families.

When we started to discuss the responsibility we each have to make our own choices, that we are responsible for our own thoughts and actions, and we have the power to direct our thoughts into action, the whole world began to take on a new hue. No longer are we impotent audience members watching the movie of time play out on a screen, and we are more than participants, but actual screenwriters of the dialogue, directors who can call the shots of our roles, the choreographers in this dance called life!

The Fox loving up the Bear

The Fox loving up the Bear

If some of this sounds too “new age-y” or “permissive parenting”, maybe a little more effort should be put into the discovery of what our own ideas regarding what parenting really is and what we hope to accomplish. It isn’t enough to just say I want them to be this, that or the other thing. Do we really want to force our ideas and ideologies on the future generations or do we want to make certain that they equipped to think, act and reach the potential that they have born with? To teach ourselves to change our thoughts is to change our lives, which then allows us to change the world.

Some of our conversations have centered around how we think, some around how we act, and some around what we believe. This has led to a new dynamic in what the Clan uses as a diagnostic for our lives. When we hammer it out, discuss it all, try out the ideas, words and actions we use before we put them on display, we were able to really make some radical changes, some that weren’t supposed to happen for some of my children according to the diagnosis and prognosis given them. I would like to tell a little of how I have seen amazing changes in my children when they learned of, and began to harness, the power of thought, or rather, their own power. I will only give a brief examples, but they are significant and indicative of the possibility of change and higher thinking.

“The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.” – Sir Thomas More

One of my children was diagnosed as a narcissist. He has made change that has lasted longer than ever before by harnessing the power of positive thinking, prayer and a undertaking to learn about living WITH people, instead of just existing. He now looks on in wonder that other people have feelings and he can get involved in discussions that don’t revolve around him and his wants, likes, needs and be respectful of others choices. He is able to have a discussion, and not just a monologue about himself. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but this is huge for him (and us! It’s hard to be interested in someone who only values themselves!)! He is now more truthful, more interactive, more helpful and definitely more enjoyable to be around.

Another child has less anxiety and even after travelling to a new country and housing, has had less of the “usual issues”, i.e. increased arguing, insomnia, etc., that usually follows changes.

The Caveman Clan on the move. Belgrade, Serbia 2016

The Caveman Clan on the move. Belgrade, Serbia 2016

“[how can anyone] be silly enough to think himself better than other people, because his clothes are made of finer woolen thread than theirs. After all, those fine clothes were once worn by a sheep, and they never turned it into anything better than a sheep.”
― Thomas More, Utopia

Have we discovered Utopia? I think we have identified what it means to us and applied the principles that make “utopia” something to aspire to or endeavor toward, rather than a far off dream-like idea of perfection that could never be attained. As we apply the principles we have defined for ourselves, as individuals and as a family, we have found some slices of heaven and we grow stronger in the knowledge that we don’t have just let life happen, but can actually make history and prepare for the future just by making good use of our time in the present.

Looking thru the keyhole... Bar, Montenegro 2016

Looking thru the keyhole… Bar, Montenegro 2016

* ED Note
The Fox gave name to our ramblings and ideas about finding the beauty and peace in life by calling the discussions “Utopics”. We will refer to them in this way from here forward…

This thing could ruin our lives…if we let it

We have been stationary in Montenegro for almost 2 months now. There is a reason for that. I had some things to sort out. WE had some things to sort out as a family, also. I want to share the sorting.

The new clock tower seems out of place amidst the ruins...but still beautiful!

The new clock tower seems out of place amidst the ruins…but still beautiful!

What can cause someone to stop and stay in a tiny country on the eastern side of Europe for a few months, outside of medical problems? We have had issues. There are several that we have floating around in our family, but I have narrowed one of my own BIG issues down to one basic thing…I’ll get to that in a minute.

I have been fumbling my way through life and have been dissatisfied for a long time, like something is missing…and at the same time there is too much of something else that I can never put my finger on. Some people may think, “You travel, live in interesting places, do out of the ordinary things – How can you possibly be dissatisfied?! What right do you have to even say this?” . I have to come clean – all is not what it seems. I have not been who most people think I am for a very long time.

How can I be dissatisfied?

How can I be dissatisfied?

Most of my life, even in my childhood, I have harbored a huge secret. No one ever knew, and I refused to acknowledge this thing, even to myself. I hoped if I didn’t speak it’s name, it would go away. I hid it from my family as a child, while thinking that if they knew, they may not love me as much. I have hidden this from my children, because surely if they knew, they could not possibly care for me. My friendships, established or potential, have all had this lurking around like a poisonous toad. Ideas of romantic attachments abandoned (I know, 8 children and I should even think of that?!), with this thing that has been my silent, but ever present burden. A thing that has shaped my life, as well as my children’s, like a boulder shifting the flow of a river.

What could be so ever present and monstrous? GUILT. I have lost the “me” in life because I have hoarded guilt, heaped it upon myself, let it grow until it became the thing that I secretly consulted about my every decision in life. The guilt is so pervasive, it’s as though I have been raised by 20 Yiddish grandmothers! My childhood was overwhelmed by guilt of not being pretty enough, not smart enough, not good enough, just never enough!

At 5 months old, do I look like I was created to be guilty?  I don't  think so...

At 5 months old, do I look like I was created to be guilty? I don’t think so…

What would I like to eat? My initial response is the thing that makes me feel the least guilty…but no matter what it is, I will feel guilty. When I need new clothes, I mull it over and over, then no matter what I do, I feel guilty, because it costs too much, is too pink, it makes me look fat, one of the kids needed something and so on. I have felt guilty for turning on the air conditioner in a hotel room when the heat is ridiculous, I have felt guilty if we don’t clean our mess in a restaurant, I have felt guilty if I leave an Airbnb home (where we paid a cleaning service fee!) anything other than spotless!

Marriage and relationships failed, or just never began, because I always knew I was always guilty for some reason – I was not enough of something…or everything. I even owned victim’s guilt syndrome when I was on the receiving end of domestic violence, because I felt I was just as much at fault when hit me (he was sorry, after all, right?).

Of course, the parenting has left me a wreck at times. If my parenting skills were less than perfect, which of course they are every day, I have felt guilty. When I yelled, guilt. When I disciplined in anger, guilt. When I said bad words, guilt. When I wasn’t sunshine and giggles, guilt. When my eldest chose a self destructive path, guilt. The list goes on, of course.

My beautiful daughter, Faethe Rose.  She shines and sparkles when she smiles!

My beautiful daughter, Faethe Rose. She shines and sparkles when she smiles!

The real definition of guilt is FEAR. Fear of the unknown, of not being loved, being alone, maybe even a fear of just BEING. If anyone knew who we truly are, could they live with us…could we live with it? The problem with that is, that for any of us who live with guilt, AKA fear, aren’t really living at all. I want to live as myself, not who everyone else thinks I should be. In reality, I just want to live! Doesn’t everyone? Many of my friends have lived with guilt/fear for their whole lives because of their sexuality, religion, or something. You name it and someone feels guilty for it.

I want to share what I know. It’s all a lie. Where is the necessity in feeling guilty or afraid? We were taught that if we don’t feel guilty for what we have done wrong, we must not be sorry. We were taught that if we didn’t feel guilty about the wrongs, we won’t correct them. Without guilt or fear, we might not remember how to do better, be kinder, get it right.

We have applied “guilty” to our daily lives as if living is a crime and we stand trial for everything, everyday. Guilt is a courtroom verdict, the culmination of a criminal trial. Likewise, we are not sentenced to live in guilt and fear, just because we live! We are not on trial for everything we do and we have set ourselves up to perpetuate this life = crime mentality to future generations.

Being the baby ain't all sunshine and giggles...especially when you steal  your big brothers' ice cream, take off running and he catches up super fast!  #brotherlove

Being the baby ain’t all sunshine and giggles…especially when you steal your big brothers’ ice cream, take off running and he catches up super fast! #brotherlove

It’s all a fake, something we were sold and believed in to make us believe we should want the things other people tell us we should want. I also think that guilt doesn’t make us behave better, it just reminds us to hold tight to fear. If guilt was a motivator, alcoholism and drug abuse wouldn’t be a problem, because guilt would be enough to get everyone sober, right? People would stop hitting because they felt guilty, too. But that isn’t what happens.
I change my behaviour because I want to, not because I feel really horrible. If guilt were a true motivator, I would be a slender, sculpted powerhouse, super organized, dressed like a super model, all the while accomplishing astonishing feats of humanity…with a smile on my face! I am not (yet) any of those things, so clearly guilt hasn’t motivated me!

I was not created to be this guilty “lifer” and it’s just time to let it go. I was not created to be guilty, fearful, angry, mean, anxious, stressed, etc.. This stuff was learned, we weren’t born with these feelings. It is our choice then to continue on with these heavy burdens dragging us down, refusing to budge, even when joy and happiness would drag us up, would we let them.

Just me...being me

Just me…being me

My faith plays an important role in this. I know God is right here, encouraging me! I am a Divine creation. God was INSPIRED to create me! Let that sink in – I, AND YOU, ARE DIVINELY INSPIRED CREATIONS! Was He Divinely inspired to create a bone bag fattened on guilt and fear? Absolutely not!

Remember, the Bible frequently reminds us to “fear not” and many similar statements about not fearing or worrying. If He said not to do it, there’s a reason for it. That’s not the business God is about. I can’t find a single place in the Bible where God says to feel guilty for anything, or suggests it’s a virtue. I am compelled by my very creation to let go of this thing that keeps me separated from God, what we call sin, and live as the person He created me to be, not who someone else decided I should be.

Finding beauty in unusual places...Seamus (right) and the Fox

Finding beauty in unusual places…Seamus (right) and the Fox

My simple little realization has set me free. I am free to express myself, as the “real me”. While I can’t remember all of who I was, I will, and what I don’t remember, I intend to create. By knocking out guilt and fear, and all of the associated stress, from my life, I now have room for so many other personality traits that I had shelved – joy, happiness, strength, decisiveness, true independence – and get on with this business of living.

I hope you aren’t alone in your feelings and can let go of the guilt that keeps you from living, too. Everyone can go forward, drop the guilt and live a beautiful life!

Cosmo drinking it all in

Cosmo drinking it all in