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Posts Tagged ‘choices’

Calendar CoverI’m in my ninth year as a ReadAloud volunteer. I love interacting with the fourth graders on a weekly basis, reading, talking, laughing, and sharing our lives. Last year I presented the classroom a copy of my art calendar as a Christmas present. The following week one of the girls gave me a set of 36 watercolor paints. What a thoughtful gift!

Over Christmas break, I wanted to see what each of the colors looked like on paper, and so I drew 36 different colored swatches in a circular pattern. After they dried, I started doodling inside the colors and then created a sweet little bird to go in the middle. It was a whimsical piece, the result of playing around to get a feel for the strength of the pigments.

As I was painting and then doodling, I thought about the kids. I went through each face in my head many times, smiling again and again, appreciating the unique energy each one brought to the group.

The next time I went to the classroom, I gave them the painting, telling them that I believed each of the colored doodles represented one of them and that the bird in the middle was their teacher, Mrs. SINGleton. I said, “Even though each of you is very different, your teacher brings you all together to create a colorful, harmonious, fun classroom.” They cheered and applauded. Really!

Then I asked each to pick a favorite swatch. I said, “Whichever one you like best will be YOU in the painting.” What fun we had! I still remember: “Can I be the pineapple?” … “I want to be the orange flowers!” … “You know which one I’m going to pick, don’t you Ms. Dallmann?” … And on and on. There was no arguing, just joy. And every child made a choice.

I picked this painting for the cover of my 2019 calendar because I believe it represents the essence of why I paint. It’s all about having fun, creating, discovering, laughing, and connecting with others. I play with colors, shapes, and textures; I explore emotions and ideas. I laugh a lot when I paint. And every painting is part of a process, a very human process.

 

If you’d like to see more or place an order, click here: 2019 Calendars

 

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Around my 40th year, I heard a speaker on the topic of prosperity consciousness. A new way of thinking about money began changing my life for the better, and I am still regularly engaged in many of the practices that emerged a quarter of a century ago.

One of those was making a spiritual practice out of the routine task of paying bills. Way back then, I wrote many checks each month. As I signed them, I wrote the word “Gladly,” above my signature. As I did so, I carefully considered the reason I was glad to be sending my money to the water company, the gas company, the Internal Revenue Service, etc. Every time I wrote a check, I found a reason to be grateful: for a reliable supply of clean water, for heat throughout my home all winter long, and for the National Parks Service.

You see, I decided every last penny of federal tax I would ever pay would go directly to supporting the National Parks Service. On the memo line, I used to write, “For the National Parks.” I feel ownership every time I enter one of the parks, walk the trails, or attend a ranger led hike. Whenever I feel like I’m sending a lot of money to Washington, I think about just how much it takes to operate my beloved national parks, and then I realize how small my contribution is in comparison.

Paychecks to my employees were signed “Gladly.” All personal and business checks were almost always signed “Gladly.” Those that weren’t, represented my decision to pay grudgingly. When I made that choice, I also took responsibility to do what needed to be done to change the situation. When I battled with my cell phone company over incorrect roaming charges, I did not pay gladly, but I did change cell phone carriers. If I can’t find a reason to be glad to circulate my money in one place, I will find a new place.

Since the ’90s, things have changed a lot. I rarely write checks anymore. Utilities, medical bills, and even taxes are all paid electronically. When I use my credit card at the store and sign my name with the “magic pen,” I usually scrawl the word “Gladly” as part of my signature. It continues to work as a reminder to be grateful for the opportunity to circulate financial energy.

Today I received an email from PayPal: “You’ve Got Money,” it said. It was from my son sending partial payment for a loan I made to him last year. The transaction details included a note from him: “May and June. Gladly! Love You!!”

Wow! Gladly is a powerful word. It can bring tears to my eyes and fill my heart with gratitude … writing it … and reading it.

Estimated Taxes Check

Signing checks gladly for 25 years

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English Country House

English Country Home (I took this photo in 1989 when we took our Britain to Great Britain)

I began a 12-week Artist’s Way workshop at the beginning of January. Already my “Inner Artist” is enjoying the attention. I’m painting more and writing more. Below, I have written a bit about my process of awakening to a new level of creativity.

I have been daydreaming a lot lately. It feels like traveling to a country home–one of those thatched-roof beauties in the English countryside that has been closed up for a long, long time. Dusty and dark. Shutters on the windows. Sheets on the furniture.

Slowly, I open the front door. The air smells stagnant and woody, like long unread books and lonely dining room chairs. But then, curtains thrust aside, sunlight awakens the interior. Bright, lively colors emerge from slumber. Each room is a surprise as long forgotten joys emerge: Oh, that rocking chair! My hand mirror! I remember where I found those shells!

Discovered treasures warm my heart and kindle a fire of possibility. The Spirit of Adventure prods me to open more doors, pull up blinds, and allow breezes to pour through the windows. I race to see more, to love more, to dance in delight at the wonder of it all.

Why was it that I closed off this bit of myself? What caused me to think I no longer needed these parts of me? I have been living in three rooms, dependably going through the motions of life, all the while feeling closed in, uninspired, stuck, and bored. There have always been so many rooms. A mansion of rooms. Some forgotten; others, never explored.

I’ve been so afraid of the mistakes, the things that broke my heart and seemed to crush my soul. I thought if only I could curl up here in the corner, I could stay safe. Sorrow would roll over me and onto someone else.

But it has been sorrow’s companion, fear, that took up residence in my heart. Whispering warnings. Shouting horrifying scenarios. Until my energy was gone. It took so much not to listen.

NO MORE! The sun. The fresh air. The ideas. The dreams. They are all so full of energy.

I am remembering so many things I wanted to do “BEFORE.” Before the fear and sorrow began closing the windows, pulling the blinds, locking the doors. Run! Hide! Protect! Armor Up! Close Your Heart!

Too many days of rain and clouds. Winter cold. Dark, dark nights and foggy days. Weeks. Months. Years.

But Spring is here! Seeds planted long ago emerge, to grow, blossom, and flourish. This is my final chapter, my closing act. I have ample time for one more spectacular performance.

And they will say: “She saved her best for last.”

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Injured deer

A single gunshot and I’m weeping. What is this immense sorrow? The fawn had two broken legs and no chance for survival in the wild. Putting its suffering to an end was the compassionate thing to do. So why all the tears? Why the sick feeling in my stomach? Why the pounding in my head?

The story is a short one. I found a baby deer on the path to the cottage this morning. I could tell she was hurt, but in the dark, I couldn’t see how badly. When I went back to the house, she was still there. As she fearfully used her front legs to pull herself away from me, she went tumbling over the hillside to the brush below. That’s when my tears started. My good intentions had sent her over the cliff!

I found her down below hiding behind our garbage cans. Again, she scrambled to get away from me, wedging herself between my son’s truck and the hillside. As she moved, I could see that both of her back legs were broken, bones sticking out. It was a brutal sight. I couldn’t even imagine how much pain she must be feeling, and it amazed me that she made no noise. Her mama was pacing on the hill above. I put my hand on the baby’s neck and felt her racing pulse. I spoke to her in hushed tones, and she calmed down. I covered her legs with a sheet to keep the flies away and then left her alone as I searched for help.

I posted on FaceBook and then started making calls. After several unsuccessful attempts, my friend Linda found someone at DNR who was willing to come out. It didn’t take long for him to assess the situation, and he asked my permission to shoot the deer. I said yes and thanked him for doing the hard things that most of us would find impossible.

The sorrow and tears persist. They seem to be springing from my conscious choice to allow myself to acknowledge just how vulnerable this whole thing makes me feel. As I open my heart in compassion, I open my eyes to the truth: Everything,  everyONE dies, eventually. Pain is real. Suffering is real. The deer did nothing to “deserve it.” Sometimes, stuff just happens: to deer, to strangers, to those we love. I know it is impossible to selectively numb feelings. We cannot numb sorrow without also numbing joy.

And so I will sit here, grateful for the depth of today’s sorrow, knowing I have the capacity for equal measures of joy. I will hold myself gently and compassionately as I recommit to living life fully, with my heart wide open. Tears and laughter, sorrow and joy, death and life. This time around, I’m playing full out: Show Up – Be Seen – Live Brave!

Vulnerability is the Birthplace

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watercolor painting

A Time To Heal (watercolor and ink by Barbie Dallmann)

When I was a senior in high school, I broke my left knee playing flamingo football–boys against the girls. After six weeks on crutches, my leg wrapped in plaster from thigh-top to toe-tips, the day came for cast removal. I vividly recall my first glimpse of the leg. I say, “the leg” because it really didn’t resemble MY leg. The leg was shriveled, dirty, and hairy! But even worse than how it looked, was how poorly it functioned. The knee didn’t bend, and it couldn’t hold any weight whatsoever. It was a useless, pitiful little thing, just hanging there with no cast to protect it.

After weeks of physical therapy and excruciatingly painful exercises, I was able to take my first tentative steps without crutches. It was over a year before I could attempt running and even longer before I could operate the clutch pedal of our extended bed International Harvester pick-up truck.

Now, over 40 years later, there are still times my knee “acts up.” It’s not particularly fond of steep, downhill descents on rocky trails. For the most part, though, I go through life, walking three or four miles a day without giving it much thought. I climb stairs, ride bicycles, and easily deploy a clutch pedal. Once healed, it’s hard to remember the process of recovery: limitations, pain, frustration, and wanting to give up.

I think the same is true for healing emotional wounds. For a little while, it’s okay to wrap ourselves in protective armor while the worst of the injury heals. But the longer we wait, the more we atrophy and the harder it is to return to normal. And it’s no more realistic to expect instant emotional recovery than it is to remove a cast one day and plan to run a marathon the next.

Sometimes the recovery period feels worse than the initial injury, and certainly some wounds are worse than others. The more traumatic the injury, the longer the recovery period.

Ultimately, I believe in the wisdom of the body and heart when it comes to healing. If we take our bruised egos out of the picture, surrender to the reality of the situation, release whatever needs to be forgiven, and listen to the small, still voice within, we will heal. Healing–both physical and emotional–calls for patience, kindness, self-compassion, and self-love. Lots and lots and LOTS of self-love. And maybe a trusted friend or two to lean on while you’re learning to walk again.

 

 

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20150418_082154-2(Originally Posted May 11, 2010)

In March 1993 two bad things happened: (1) My kindergarten age son’s favorite riverside play area, “Magic Island,” was flooded, and when the waters receded, the area was covered in garbage. (2) Someone shot the windows out of my car, which was parked right in front of my house.

I was so angry about my car. I didn’t even bother with feeling worried or scared. Natural fighter that I am, I went directly into rage. Adrenaline was pumping through my body, and my heart was beating through my chest. I was shaking all over, ready to find the culprit and pound the crap out of him! That was my first reaction.

Through the inner roar that demanded revenge, I managed to hear a small, quiet voice: “You have a choice. You don’t have to respond with violence. You can choose peace instead of this.” I listened, but I didn’t know what to do with all that “violent energy” surging through my body. I NEEDED to hit somebody!

Then I remembered the playground, and it occurred to me that I could use my surplus energy to pick up garbage. I thought, “I’ll just pick up as much as it takes to get rid of this emotional super charge.” And so I grabbed a box of garbage bags and loaded my son and his friend into our truck, and we headed for Magic Island.

All I can say is that it took a long, LONG time to dissipate the energy. In fact, I filled over 20 giant garbage bags as full as I could get them. Add to that the work the boys did, and we pretty much cleaned up the flood’s footprint from Magic Island. When it was over, I was so tired and so happy. I had turned my violent rage into something useful and helpful and hopeful.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. The next morning while driving to work, the Mayor noticed the change on Magic Island and called the Parks Director to thank him. Of course, the Parks Director knew nothing about it. Enter the local press with the front-page newspaper headline: “Mayor wants do-gooders to come clean.” My best friend in Illinois turned us in. I had shared the story with her, and she’s the one who ended up calling the Mayor’s office to tell the tale. A couple of weeks later, the my son, his friend, and I received a Mayor’s Award for Community Spirit.

The best part, though, was the follow-up newspaper article in which I told my story about turning something negative into something positive in order to stop the cycle of violence. For many weeks thereafter, local pastors used the story in Sunday sermons, and something amazing happened as people began spontaneously getting together to pick up garbage all over the city. I’m still amazed by it all!

And so, next time you hear a quiet voice from inside telling you that you have a choice, believe it. We always have choices. We can choose to react out of fear, revenge, or self-righteous anger . . . or we can make choices and take actions that will lift us into a higher place, into a new, more peaceful way of being.

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Ika Rose and the Trees of Kanawha State Forest

Ika Rose and the Trees of Kanawha State Forest

I went hiking today. Just me and Ika Rose. I chose a challenging climb, and took off enthusiastically upward with lots of energy. Before long, however, I was breathing hard and stumbling a bit where a scattering of rocks and tree roots required careful stepping. I became so intent on looking down and deliberately placing each foot, that somehow I lost track of the trail. I suppose I followed the dog, who was following a game trail, which eventually became impassable, at least for a novice hiker like myself.

Can you see the blaze on the big tree? How about the one behind it?

Can you see the blaze on the big tree? How about the one behind it?

I couldn’t get oriented just looking around, so I went back down the hill until I was sure I had found the trail, turned around again, and resumed climbing. I worried I would repeat my mistake and found myself wishing there were signs to guide me. That’s when I remembered that this was a blazed trail. I just needed to purposefully look up and search for the markings on the trees. Funny how easy they are to see when you’re looking for them and how they totally disappear when you’re not.

It made me think about my latest professional journey: creating and planning my first Daring Way™ weekend retreat. I started out enthusiastic about the challenge. I tackled the tasks with lots of energy, doing a lot of time-consuming preparation and marketing. I started to focus on the details a bit too much and got bogged down in the process. I started wishing for “a sign” to lead the way.

Actually, there had been several indicators (aka, “signs”), but I hadn’t paid much attention. I was busy placing one foot in front of the other.

What is it in me that refuses to read the signs until I get lost?

I always think I know where I’m going.

I always think I know . . . .

I always think . . . .

When does listening occur to me? When does it seem appropriate to ask for guidance? At what point do I give myself permission to admit I’ve never done this before, and simply walk back down the hill and start again, this time paying attention to the signs?

But enough about my all-too-human foibles. I’ve decided to read the signs and reschedule the retreat. As I try again, I’m going to “look up” and search intently for the signs to guide my way.

A vivid blaze

A vivid blaze

Close-up of a hard-to-see blaze

Close-up of a hard-to-see blaze

In the woods, the signs are often hard to recognize. Sometimes the yellow paint is vivid and discernible from yards away, but other times, it’s overgrown with moss or eroded by the elements. What I noticed during today’s walk, however, was that the signs ARE there and are quite unmistakable when recognized.

So it seems in life. When I look for signs, I find them. When I listen to my heart, it’s much easier to discern their messages.

And much like today’s hike that ended where it began about 90 minutes later … my spiritual journey isn’t about doing everything perfectly, and it isn’t even about “arriving,” it’s about exercising my spiritual muscles, enjoying the journey, and occasionally remembering to read the signs before I get too lost.

The signs are there! (By the way, did you see the blaze on the tree in the very first photo? They disappear when you aren't looking for them.)

The signs are there! (By the way, did you see the blaze on the tree in the very first photo? They disappear when you aren’t looking for them.)

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