From Painful Problems to Passion & Purpose

How to find optimism and opportunity in every difficulty. By Madeline Johnson

We must remember that the end of anything is the beginning of something.  The closing of one door, the opening of another. Endings are not final, they give birth to something else.  A bad breakup – the start of a fresh, new relationship (sometimes with ourselves); the loss of a job, the start of a brand new career path; the death of a loved one, the beginning of grief and transformation.

Every ending gives you an opportunity to grow, to reevaluate your relationships, your own performance and the direction in which you want your life to go.

Think about it. If your life were a Netflix or Amazon original series, what type of review would you give it? How many stars? A thumbs up or a thumbs down? It is time to be the hero and heroine of your own life.

Have you troubles? Welcome to the world.  What opportunities do your troubles bring? What could you do to create a plot twist, what could your character learn? What must you change about yourself to grow?

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How do you find optimism and opportunity in every difficulty?

I own a home on the beach. It’s a lovely, beautiful home and it’s for sale. I have owned it for over 15 years. I raised my family in this home and we have all types of memories there. Beautiful memories, horrendous fights, near-death accidents, messy break ups, crazy breakdowns, demonstrations of great bravado, real-life family drama, the revitalization of relationships and memories of amazing, joyous moments.

Now the house is for sale, but unfortunately because the real estate market is slow and in order to pay the mortgage, I had to rent the house out to keep from losing it.

Unfortunately I rented it to a person who hasn’t paid me rent in two months and now going on the third month. She is officially squatting in my home.  Now, if you have never had this experience, well, all I can say, is I hope you never do.

At first I wanted to scream, I wanted to throw her out on the street, I wanted to do something to cause her so much pain. How dare she? What type of person does this? How could I have been so stupid to not check references? I was disgusted with myself. I called the lawyer, signed the eviction papers. I did everything I could think of and it became an obsession. I was the victim, beating myself up for being an ass for renting to her – until one day, I woke up and realized that all of this anger and rage is only making me sick. My heart and breath so tight. My mind racing. I could not allow the stress to take over my mind and body. I knew I had to do something. So, I thought about the situation in a completely different way.

How could I make this horrible situation- where I  am quite obviously getting taken advantage of –  become a power tool for my growth?

At that moment, I decided, I was lucky to still own a home. There’s the gratitude. It has been a big investment, our life savings. What I could do instead of complain and moan about the injustices done to me?

I could work smarter and harder to pay the mortgage and the rent where I am currently living. I would look at this as a temporary opportunity to double down on my career, focus on building my skills and take all the time that I spent obsessing about how much I wanted to strangle this crazy-lady-squatting tenant and do something good for me. 

Yes of course I put all the proper actions into place to get her out, but what I did was asked the question, how can I let this God-forsaken obstacle make me stronger? What opportunities does this challenge bring me? 

Well, first there is the lesson. Next time, I will be be more diligent about background checks and collect three months rent ahead of time.  Next time, I won’t have a lease. And, right now I will do everything to try to sell my home faster.

Now, there is still the challenge of paying the mortgage, another $3,200 a month to pay on top of my current living expenses. How? Where would I get the money? I rolled up my sleeves and dug into Upwork, LinkedIn and other sources for freelancers and began to work around the clock, seven days a week. I spent my time consuming less and creating more. Sooner rather than later, I found that this obstacle has helped me hone my skills, meet new clients and improve my career skills.

In a way, I almost want to thank the crazy-squatting lady for giving me this opportunity to double down on my life. 

I have employed this “opportunity” technique over and over again in my life. I allow the obstacle be the way.  Ryan Holiday wrote a damn good book about it. You can read it at The Obstacle is The way, The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph.

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Featured Artist

Paulina Galka a collage artist based in Wroclaw, Poland.

Trusting Yet Knowing The Truth

How can we trust, and at the same time know the truth? By Madeline Johnso

I am suspended somewhere between holding onto my childlike naiveté about the way things should be, yet knowing that there is a strong amount of grotesque greed and selfishness in the world.

I am at a cross road – confused -facing my deep desire to believe that people are generally good but  certain that everyone has their own agenda. I must keep a watchful eye.

I want to fall back into my life. On to a soft cloud of pure honestly.  I want to roam free where everything is safe and meant to support me.

How can I trust, and at the same time know the truth?

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@Trippy Artwork on Instagram

 

Unchain Your Heart

Today could be the day that you start releasing yourself from the past. By Madeline Johnson

Today could be the day that you start releasing yourself from the past. Today could be the beginning of a new moment and movement for you – a new time in your life where you choose to see people, places and even yourself with a fresh new pair of eyes. Today could be filled with promise of something new for you.  The day that you decide to start over.

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It’s about letting go of past mistakes and poor bad behavior and the painful problems. It’s about beginning with a clean slate.  Tabula Rasa.

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It’s about letting go over the old stories to make room for something more immense.

It’s about holding no hostages and understanding your propensity to love. Your natural inclination to love deeply.

Today’s post is about understanding that the healthiest thing you can do is start new and start again, without carrying all of the baggage you’ve collected a long the way.

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Letting go of the luggage – – – the heavy weight of resentment,   shame and the disappointment.

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Listen to Navigating Conflict with a Wise Heart by Tara Brach

 

Featured Artwork

Esther Sarto

Flowing Not Forcing

Slow down and let your breath anchor you into this moment, where you remain at peace and with the pace of this universe.  By Madeline Johnson

Today is the day I let go.  I let go and for damn good reason. I let go of attaching myself to what I think I need and want. This is true freedom.

I have no control over when my last breath will be, so if I cannot control something as essential as my breath, which keeps me alive, who is to say I can control anything else.

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The only thing between me and death is my breath. I don’t want to catch my breath, I want to slow it down and let it anchor me into this moment, where I remain at peace and with the pace of this universe.

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Recommended Reading

Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life – Living the Wisdom of the Tao by Dr. Wayne Dyer

The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

The Tao Te Ching is a series of meditations on the mysterious nature of the Tao–the Way, the guiding light, the very source of all existence. According to Lao Tzu (a name meaning “the old master”), the Tao is found where we would least expect it–not in the strong but in the weak; not in speech but in silence; not in doing but in “not-doing.”

Poems by Cristen Rodgers 

“Once I made it through the darkest and most difficult parts of my personal adventure, I came to realize that this magic key wasn’t meant just for me – it could be a gift to others as well.  I could use my pen to throw the doors wide open and allow the truths that had so profoundly improved my life to find their way to others who are stepping upon the path that I walked myself.”

Featured Artist

@miles_art on Instagram

Miles Johnston  was born in the UK in 1993. He spent the first few years of his early childhood living in Brunei, Borneo, something that he is sure had a major effect on him. The totally different environment gave him the intuition early on that there is no true ‘normal’.

It’s a Good Day, All Day

Understanding what triggers you emotionally and setting yourself up for a good day. By Madeline Johnson

Mondays can bring so much promise. Like a new year, Mondays can offer a clean slate. A fresh start. A chance to begin again as you plot and plan for a better, more productive week.

Setting out to have a good day, a good week or a good year begins with a conscious knowledge of one’s own feelings, motives, and desires. It starts with knowing who you are and how you will navigate your day to get where you want to go. You understand there will be inevitable distractions.

You need to know what sets you off. What disrupts your day. What makes you feel angry, needy, shutdown and frustrated. What triggers a bad mood for you.  Anything that makes you experience a negative emotional response that could pull you off course.

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Understanding how you react to people and situations throughout the day will help you identify patterns in your life and develop a better understanding of the events in your life that usually lead to a problem, similar to what Mei does at work. Mei is an artificial intelligence messaging assistant that warms of personality changes based on communication with co-workers.

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Knowing What Set’s You Off

What triggers you? It’s important to identify when you feel the need to be accepted by others, understood, in control of the situation, paid attention to, at peace. Understand if it is important for you to have things in order, to feel safe and secure, to have a bit of fun during the day. Are you getting the respect you think you deserve? Do you feel like your talents are needed?

Do you always need to feel right? Are you comfortable? Calm? Do you feel as if your life is balanced? Are you spending too much time on work and not enough with your friends? Is your life way too predictable? Are you a bit bored with what you are doing?

Could you use a bit of challenge in your career? Your relationship? Are you feeling like you are liked, valued and being treated fairly by others?

Does everything feel a bit too chaotic around you? Like something could break, crack or fall apart at any minute?

Do you believe that others are ignoring you? Avoiding you? Do you feel included?

Make it your mission to understand how you operate.

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If at any point during the day you feel out of sorts, off, emotionally frustrated, take a pause.  Breathe deeply. Calm your mind. Don’t get so worked up.

Try sitting up straight and breathing deeply to the count of six. Breathe through your nose for six counts and out your mouth for six. Go slowly. Deep, deliberate inhalations and exhalations. This will calm you down.

Take a moment to understand what you need right now? Do you need to be patient? More tolerant? Less tolerant? Perhaps you need to explain yourself again? Let others know how you feel? Show some compassion? Walk away?

Before you take action, question your own thinking. Know if what you are thinking and feeling is actually true, or if it is a projection of what you negatively think is true.

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What might trigger you?

  • Someone rejecting you.
  • Someone leaving you (or the threat that they will).
  • Helplessness over painful situations.
  • Someone discounting or ignoring you.
  • Someone being unavailable to you.
  • Someone giving you a disapproving look.
  • Someone blaming or shaming you.
  • Someone being judgmental or critical of you.
  • Someone being too busy to make time for you.
  • Someone not appearing to be happy to see you.
  • Someone coming on to you sexually in a needy way.
  • Someone trying to control you.
  • Someone being needy, or trying to smother you.

Read more here

You’ll probably want to avoid them, but find out why they are behaving the way they are – and why you are reacting they way you do.

Realize everyone is trying to trigger you.

Advertisers and marketers bake emotional triggers into their brand messaging. They know how strong emotional triggers will motivate you to act from feelings like fear and desire.  These emotions have effect on you, whether it’s feeling like your life is lacking excitement, adventure and love from an Instagram story to feeling like you are a lonely, loser and not enough from a YouTube ad. The messages are incessant. Turn them off.

Getting a leg up on emotional triggers. Face them . . .

  • Do the most important things first this morning. Understand what you need to do vs what you want to do.
  • Watch what you tolerate.
  • Expect yourself to be triggered by something or someone and have a plan. Avoid or face it.
  • Spend some time alone during the day.
  • Practice being more compassionately assertive.
  • Decide how you will respond to how others mistreat you. Not react. Respond.
  • Try to understand others. God only knows what they are going through.
  • Protect your time at all costs. Tech apps below to do just that.
  • Let others know when you won’t be available. Make something up – like you have an important meeting to go to. They won’t know. Or tell the truth. You are working on something big and need to focus.
  • Decide what you will pay attention to today. If you can, put your phone on airplane mode for a while.

Be strong.

8 Things Mentally Strong People Do Everyday

Technology to help you say no to distractions and to help you have a better day, all day.

Freedom app helps you protect your time, so you can focus on getting things done during the day.

One Big Thing ensures that you focus on your main priority, that one big thing, all day long.

Headspace is like a gym membership for your mind. 10 minutes of meditation a day to help burn off the busy in your brain.

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Featured Art

Indonesia based artist Roby Dwi Antono works meticulously in painting, illustration, and drawing.  His paintings are especially detailed, depicting dreamy scenes.

When Your Struggles Become Your Strength

Reflecting and learning from painful experiences is how you turn your struggles into strengths. by Madeline Johnson

Like many of you, some of the most challenging moments in my life have been the best for me because I have learned so much from them and I have grown so much confidence through fighting and finding my way through each problem.

Confidence comes from over coming problems you thought you couldn’t handle.

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For example, I learned that I am a very strong, determined and persevering human being after helping my middle daughter Ariel through a traumatic brain injury. She was in a terrible car accident and on life support and those seven years of helping her and watching the doctors bring her back to life, taught me never to give up, to fight for life, to ask for help and to continue to ask questions and seek solutions even when everything seems impossible.
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Having to close my marketing and PR agency during the process and begin consulting during her recovery had me learning new skills, like how to build WordPress and Shopify websites, video production, editing and reaching out to clients through platforms like LinkedIn, Upwork, Clarity and Angel List, basically – starting all over again.
You can learn more about my work here.
Evolving and growing, while remaining humble, that’s what we must do as humans.

We either evolve or we die.

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Being my mom’s advocate during her fight with stage four lung cancer taught me that relationships are everything and it is an honor to see someone pass through this existence, to be able to have the time to tell them how much they mean to you and that their life was very, very important to you.
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Getting back together once again after divorcing my husband, the love of my life, taught me that we should always be open to forgiving. Forgiving ourselves and those we love because it frees the heart and actually strengthens you. Whether work or personal or both, relationships in life are everything and relationships won’t grow unless you do. It’s about becoming self-aware and open to change.
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I have learned that painful experiences when reflected upon properly offer so much in the way of lessons and self-improvement.

What have you learned from your most painful moments?

 

Featured Art

Polish artist, Zdzisław Beksiński, who made a name for himself with his dystopian surrealism paintings, filled with post-apocalyptic imagery and creatures that come straight out of nightmares.

 

 

Close Encounters of the Real Kind

Such a refreshing thought – to actually meet someone who is genuinely real and speaking the truth.  Now that is some rare shit.

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Sometimes the very people we are closest to become unreal to us. We might easily assume we know what life is like for them and forget that, like us, they are always changing, their experience is always new. We lose sight of how fully they too are living with hurts and fears, how hard life can be on the inside. – excerpt from Radical Acceptance 

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Now I’ve been accused of being too tough on my family.  My tone too harsh . . . .coming in too hot. . . way too aggressive, they cry.   I’m not soft enough, gentle enough, kind enough.  I don’t give them enough room to be human.

I have also been described by my family as angry, enraged, and demanding and someone who can never be pleased.  This in turn has made me a lightening rod for blame.

It’s a terribly messy situation and it has also alienated me quite a bit.

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Recognizing Our Humanmess & Pulling Our Emotional Weight 

I had to ask myself, am I really that emotionally insensitive? or . . . .am I perhaps emotionally exhausted, with very little patience to have the “tell me what I want to hear conversations“. You know how they go.  The one you where you are trying to give some good sensible advice and it sucks all of your time and energy. . .and the troubled one cries, moans and complains and then goes on to make even bigger, unavoidable mistakes.

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Now having a mentally-ill ex who uses the children as weapons does nothing to elevate the family dynamics one bit.  He is sick, he is weak and the weak grasp onto anything they can to stay afloat. It’s truly painful and pitiful and annoying as hell.

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Growing up with a bullet-proof, hard-headed immigrant family I have been trained to do one thing and one thing only. When we have a problem we fix it. Simple as that. No added drama and delusional ego defense tactics. We simply make the repairs. . . . we change our behavior, our environment, our thinking, whatever it is we need to do, including removing ourselves from the messes left behind.

I was taught to humbly take complete ownership for myself, my life and my actions.

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Yet I do believe it is okay to ruminate for a solution and to sometimes overthink things – -but it’s not okay to go around thinking badly or poorly. The world is not out to get us. The real problem is you, it is very, very rarely what happens to you.

This lack of desire to sit with another and hold space for them for a very long time, when they do nothing to face their challenges – is the issue.

You see when I think about their complaints about me, I realize its not just my tone that they don’t like.  It’s how they interpret the tone.  When I am firm, they hear you’re not good enough, you’re a mess, you are just terrible and you really don’t have it together” and there in lies the suffering – the sever in the relationship.

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Stuck, it’s my lack of desire and willingness to placate them. To sit with their suffering. To buy into their woe is me helplessness.

For this I have been pegged as emotionally unaware, arrested in my growth and a non-compassionate person. Which is the farthest thing from the truth. I am wildly compassionate and loving but also a huge fan of the being absolutely honest with ourselves.

So, I do two things at once. I call bullshit on their desire to expect me to sit and stir the pot of sadness and sorrow that they decided to make for dinner and eat for left overs.

But, more importantly, I apply a bit of compassion to their pain and suffering by asking myself two questions before we begin –

What does she need right now?

What does this person fear right now?

These two questions help bring us closer together as humans.

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Riding Shotgun in The Sky

We are limitless. Eternity. Capable of imagining anything. By Madeline Johnson

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Well, I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, Tell me, where are you going
This he told me
Said, I’m going down to Yasgur’s Farm
Gonna join in a rock and roll band
Got to get back to the land and set my soul free

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

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Well, then can I roam beside you?
I have come to lose the smog,
And I feel myself a cog in somethin’ turning
And maybe it’s the time of year
Yes and maybe it’s the time of man
And I don’t know who I am
But life is for learning
We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

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By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere was a song and a celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bomber death planes
Riding shotgun in the sky,
Turning into butterflies
Above our nation
We are stardust, we are golden
We are caught in the devils bargain
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden
  • Written by Joni Mitchell

 

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FEATURED ART BY EDWARD FAIRBURN

Origin of Riding Shotgun

Riding shotgun was used to describe the guard who rode alongside a stagecoach driver, ready to use his shotgun to ward off bandits or hostile Native Americans. In modern use, it refers to the practice of sitting alongside the driver in a moving vehicle.

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Firing Your Mind & Taking Stock of Your Personal Inventory

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Dear Mind of Mine,

Oh, how you trouble me so. Fretting and worrying about things completely out of your control.  I remind you today that I am not getting involved in your ridiculous melodrama.  As a matter of fact, it’s time you and I took an extended vacay. 

– Me, Myself & I

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Now that I’m not playing those mind games anymore, what will I do with all this free time?

I’ll start by taking inventory- pause, take that deep breath – oh, dear, what the hell is my heart feeling now?

What are my shoulders doing? How is my stomach feeling? How about my right toe? Is my mind wandering off into fantasyland and nightmares again?
Checking in with myself.

Stopping a moment to take my inventory. What am I lugging around that I no longer need?

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What Makes Life So Damn Complicated

You.
You make life complicated.
You think you’re so important.
You want it your way, or no way.
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You have a choice right now. A choice that can change everything. You can continue to choose to push against reality and struggle with it or you can choose to move with the world and use that energy to create something new.
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Use the forces you have within your power your strength, courage, and conviction.
Light
You always have something within your reach.
Today it may as simple your smile, but the energy of a smile can light up a room and lift spirits.
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Life is not complicated at all. We make it that way.
It’s when we behave selfishly.
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Take advantage of every moment that presents itself as an opportunity to be kind, compassionate and easy to be with today.
And if for some reason you don’t have the bandwidth for that, then do no harm.
How can we uncomplicate things today?
Be the missing ingredient.  The one to soothe each situation and to raise the vibes. Be the listener, the lover, the mender, the healer and the bigger person with a generous heart.
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Read The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer

 

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Artwork by Peter Beard.

He married a supermodel, photographed rock stars and came from a wealthy family.  Easy on the eyes too.

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Peter Hill Beard is an American artist, photographerdiarist and writer who lives and works in New York City and Kenya. His photographs of Africa, African animals and the journals that often integrate his photographs have been widely shown and published since the 1960s.