Contemplative Photography & Reflections

Fifty by Fifty

Hello, dear ones! It’s been a while.

The last time I published a blog post was after I finished clearing out my parents’ house nearly two months ago, in preparation for closing on the house. After that, I took a little breather and then embarked on a mission to clear my house of clutter, for life had become chaotic in recent years, and even more so with my dad’s health crises last summer, his death from Legionnaires’ Disease in October, having to attend to estate matters, and the quick sale of his house (my childhood home). Caring for my own house had gone by the wayside, and when I finally landed back home after the house transaction was completed in January and opened my eyes, so to speak, I felt like Rip Van Winkle waking from a long, enchanted sleep.

My life had changed dramatically in the 8 1/2 years since we moved into this small 1840s house on the Hudson when my youngest child was entering fifth grade, and particularly in the last few years. Now my son is in college, and my daughter has a daughter of her own, which of course makes me a grandmother.

My grandmother and parents passed away, a close relative came out as transgender, family dynamics shifted considerably, I resigned from my teaching career, and I was approaching my 50th birthday and menopause. So much water had flowed under the bridge in front of my house (literally and figuratively), and the point is that my house had become quite cluttered and overgrown with possessions from previous chapters that were no longer relevant. This had a strong, adverse effect on the energy inside the house, which felt confused and in disarray.

When I stopped and really took a good look around, I realized things needed to change. It was time to regain control of my life and home so they would better reflect the current vision I hold for my life, and I declared February to be a month of deep, divine decluttering. I envisioned a clutter-cleared home as a birthday gift to myself that would feel amazing. I’m about halfway done at this point and intend to write more about the remarkable process soon. But anyway, that’s how I’ve been spending my spare time over the past month and a half and is why you haven’t heard from me!

Yesterday I turned 50, and it was the best birthday ever! I had given a lot of consideration to how I wanted to celebrate this milestone birthday and planned activities that spanned a week and a half, including:

  • An astrological reading with someone I’d been wanting to have a reading with for years
  • Creating a “spirit lantern” the evening before my birthday, which coincided with the new moon and Losar, the Tibetan New Year (I sell this kind of custom-made lantern in my Etsy shop)

  • My first adult birthday party in nearly 30 years.

In addition, I had a dream about an old friend and housemate from my 20s that prompted me to get in touch with him after more than 25 years. I stopped by the old homestead on my way home from the retreat center, and the visit resulted in a hefty dose of post-retreat, birthday week magic that left me inspired and uplifted in so many ways. Experiencing the wildly creative and aesthetically and energetically incredible heaven on earth he had created both indoors and outdoors over the past 30 years was powerful beyond words. That visit was a sweet surprise that helped me to recover some parts of myself that I had forgotten about. It left me determined to infuse my life with more joy and play.

In another stroke of birthday magic, yesterday I received from Artful Ashes a beautiful, glass heart memorial that was made with some of my parents’ ashes (the white swirls). It arrived on my birthday, of all days!

One of my retreat goals was to compose a letter to my one-year-old granddaughter, for her to open and read later in life. In the process of doing that, I ended up creating a list of 50 things I’ve learned as a result of my 50 years on the planet – wisdom I want to pass on to my children and grandchildren. I finished the list on my birthday and offer it with love and sincerity as  my birthday gift to you. I’m sure your list would be very different, based on your own personality, experiences, and “issues”, but here’s what I came up with, based on mine…

  1. Your most important relationship is the one you have with yourself (your Self). It is the basis for all other relationships. The health of all other relationships depends on the quality of your relationship with yourself and the extent to which you accept all parts of yourself. Your relationships with others are ultimately reflections of your relationship with yourself, and the way you relate to others is a reflection of how you relate to yourself. If you tend to see the worst in people, inflate their flaws, and find them deficient, perhaps you need to work on your own, inner critic and loving yourself. Until you have a healthy, loving relationship with yourself, it will not be possible to have a healthy, loving relationship with anyone else.
  2. Stop compromising on what you really want and then blaming it on not wanting to disappoint, hurt, or inconvenience someone else – because those who truly care about you would want you to be happy, and it’s not fair to put that kind of burden on anyone or to give away your power to make decisions about your life. You don’t need to ask anyone for permission to do what you know is right for yourself. Claim responsibility for your life, and do it!
  3. When you experience rejection, don’t turn it into a story about your self worth and convince yourself that you’re not good enough and should give up what you are trying to accomplish. Resilience is every bit as important as talent, skill, and capability. Trust that you will find the right opportunity at the right time and that any door that did not open for you simply wasn’t right for you. You have no idea what the powers-that-be were looking for. It might be something very specific, such as a particular style or chemistry. Don’t ever let what you perceive as “failure” define you. More likely, it is about whether or not someone or something is truly a fit for you. It is a blessing not to be bound to a person or situation with whom your energy, values, etc. are incompatible. Believe that something even better is in store for you!
  4. If you really want something, don’t give up! You hold a key to a door that will only open for you. All you need to do is find it. Even if everything seemed to go wrong today, tomorrow might be the day when the universe aligns, and you will find yourself drawn to the right place at the right time, interacting with the right people.
  5. No person, situation, achievement, or anything outside of yourself will provide abiding fulfillment, happiness, or peace of mind. This includes finding your soulmate, having a nice house, well paying job, or successful career, being able to go on exotic vacations, etc. Such states of minds can only be generated from within. Any satisfaction that is dependent on external factors is only fleeting.
  6. Relationships and love endure beyond physical death. There are so many ways our loved ones reach out to us! We just need to pay attention.
  7. People really don’t care so much about what you do or don’t do. They’re busy with their own lives! You are only the magnified center of your own universe, not anyone else’s, and this is good news because it takes off a lot of pressure! Worrying about what others think about you is perhaps the greatest impediment to living the life you were made for and fulfilling your unique potential.
  8. It is empowering to take responsibility for your role in situations and relationships! Thinking of yourself as a victim, blaming another person for wronging you, and holding him responsible for your happiness and peace of mind is disempowering. Accepting your responsibility and claiming your power sets you free and feels great. So does forgiveness! Holding a grudge is like ingesting poison. and forgiveness is the antidote. 
  9. The people who seem most confident and sure of themselves are often the least so. Don’t be fooled by appearances.
  10. You don’t need to save the world. Start with saving yourself by doing your inner work and evolving, and then the benefits from that will ripple into your world. Begin within.
  11. Our parents and grandparents are human and therefore imperfect. They are learning just like we are, and chances are they never intended to hurt us. We need to forgive them for the mistakes they made, just as we will want our own children to forgive us for the mistakes we inevitably make. We are not here to be perfect, and we cannot hold anyone’s imperfection against them.
  12. It is impossible to please everybody, no matter how talented, successful, or enlightened you are. Don’t even try.
  13. When people criticize you, take what is useful, and let go of the rest. So much of what others say – including their opinions of you – is more about them than about you.
  14. Do what you love. And if you love it, don’t give it up for anyone, for that is far too great a sacrifice. Don’t give up on your own talents and passions in order to be more appealing to someone who doesn’t value them. Be faithful to what lights you up and ignites your creative passion. Instead of trying to make yourself more attractive to a certain person, put your energy into pursuing your dreams. Then you will be more attractive to people who are more compatible with your vision of who you want to be, and that is who you really want to attract, even if you don’t realize it. Doing what you love is one of the most attractive qualities of all.
  15. Don’t listen to the voices that insist you won’t succeed at a certain endeavor. If it really calls to you, you owe it to yourself to pursue it or risk spending the rest of your life regretting that you didn’t and wondering what might have happened if you hadn’t listened to the naysayers.
  16. Trust and follow your intuition. It is your internal, navigation system that keeps you aligned with your True Self and saves you a lot of pain and suffering.
  17. Strive for authenticity, not perfection. The greatest perfection you can achieve is to be more fully yourself.
  18. When you feel inclined to walk away from someone or something, be really honest with yourself about whether you are truly done and complete with it or whether you are deferring to fear, avoidance, or the hopeful delusion that the grass is greener elsewhere.
  19. Make decisions based on love, not fear. Never allow fear to be in the driver’s seat!
  20. Cultivating gratitude can transform your life. It is a powerful practice.
  21. You can’t change another person. You can inspire someone to change or support him in his effort to change. But if somebody does not want to change, there is nothing you can do to change him. And you need to be okay with that and let go of your need to “save” him (and consider what motivation is behind that need). Focusing on helping others can be an excuse for not doing your own inner work. Believing someone needs to change is arrogant and belittles him. When you can see through your illusions about who you want someone to be, to the reality of who he is, you can choose between accepting him as is or releasing him with love because who he is doesn’t fit with the vision you have for your life. Both options are much healthier than being in a relationship with someone’s potential rather than the actual person.
  22. Don’t beat yourself up for not doing better or accomplishing more. Instead, consider your desire to improve yourself as movement in a positive direction.
  23. Every now and then, it is useful to consider what has outlived its usefulness in your life and to let go of those things (including relationships), to make room for something new and wonderful to come in.
  24. You are enough as you are, right now. Don’t let anyone (including yourself) convince you otherwise. You are worthy of love simply because you exist. 
  25. I used to think there was one, true vocational path I was created for, and I needed to find it or my life would be a waste. But there are so many different ways to shine your light in this world. So many possibilities! You can do it in whatever job or situation you find yourself in. And if you find yourself unable to bring your light to your job, then you need to seriously consider releasing yourself from it or changing the way you relate to it – because you were made to shine!
  26. It is never too late to engage with a creative passion or learn something new. You don’t have to disrupt your whole life and accumulate a lot of debt by going back to school. You need not make it your career. You can find a way to do it on some scale, whether through volunteering or learning on your own, just like my mom took up guitar in her 70s and was able to reconcile her lifelong love of music with her unfulfilled dream of being a nurse, by playing guitar for hospital patients as a volunteer.
  27. When you are considering what vocation to pursue, be honest with yourself about what is most important to you. For example, if living comfortably and having the finer things in life is most important to you, you might want to think twice about pursuing a career in a low-paying or risky field (like social work or the arts). If creativity is most important to you, then you must find the courage to live a creative life rather than stick with what feels “safe”. Have the courage to specialize if there’s something you’re really passionate about, rather than take the generalist, “safe” route that covers all bases. There is always a way to do what you feel called to do, even if you don’t make a career of it. And sometimes not making a career of it or demanding that it pay your bills allows you to enjoy it more.
  28. There is guidance all around us. All we need to do is ask for it and be open and receptive to it. Synchronicity is one of my favorite forms of guidance! 
  29. If you’re feeling down or off, focus on the basics. Are you getting enough rest? Movement? Good nutrition? If not, start there.
  30. You weren’t supposed to know back then what you know now. It doesn’t work that way. So give yourself a break, and be grateful you know it now, without second-guessing what your life might have been like if you had learned it earlier.
  31. Nobody’s life is perfect, no matter how it appears on the surface. Everybody has issues. Other people’s issues might be very different from yours, but they certainly have them! So don’t spend any time hiding behind a wall of shame erected by your perceived faults. So many people have parts of themselves or their lives that feel too shameful to admit to anyone. Things they never imagined they’d experience and that even cause them to question their goodness and worth. But telling the truth to a trusted person often reveals that you are not alone (you never are) in what you are feeling and experiencing. Sharing like that can release you from the shackles of shame. I have experienced so many things I never imagined I would – things I would have judged others for had I not “been there, done that” myself. As a result of all my experiences, I have developed greater compassion for others and am someone people can be open and honest with, without being judged. Everything we experience offers us a gift or opportunity, if we hold it right.
  32. Don’t pass judgment on what you don’t understand. If you truly understand someone, you can’t help but find something to love about her. Everyone has reasons for his/her behavior. But that doesn’t mean you need to take on someone’s problems.
  33. Our obstacles, challenges, handicaps, etc. are in our lives for a reason and have gifts to offer us. They serve a purpose and are perhaps our greatest teachers. This includes difficult people.
  34. The things that are most important are not things.
  35. You can be grateful for the blessings in your own yard and also seek to experience new horizons. Find something to appreciate and enjoy wherever you are. Don’t make your happiness dependent on being somewhere else. You won’t be happy there, either, unless you carry happiness inside you.
  36. Do not guilt yourself into living in poverty because other people in the world have so little. With greater abundance, you can do more good in the world. You don’t have to choose between being “spiritual” and being prosperous. You can be both. It is more about the attachment you have to money and material things and whether you attach your self-worth and happiness to your possessions or bank account balance.
  37. Jealousy is perhaps the most misguided and unproductive emotion of all. 
  38. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. You have your own, unique talents and style. Other people can inspire you, but believe in yourself, and shine your light without worrying how you measure up to anyone else. The world needs you to shine your light. Don’t keep it inside!
  39. Since we and our loved ones are not guaranteed tomorrow, don’t leave any kind or loving words left unsaid. Don’t hold them in or put them off. Let your heart speak when it has something to say, for tomorrow might be too late.
  40. Don’t take yourself or life too seriously! Never underestimate the value of a good sense of humor and the willingness to look like a fool every now and then.
  41. The company you keep matters. Surround yourself with healthy people who believe in you and encourage you to be the best you can be. Stay away from critical, cold-hearted people and those who stomp out your light.
  42. You are so much stronger than you think.
  43. It’s often easier to forgive and have compassion for others than it is to forgive and have compassion for yourself. This is where we your work lies, and it is important and worthwhile work. “Love your neighbor as yourself” works both ways! Don’t deny yourself the gift of forgiveness and compassion.
  44. A pretty/handsome face is but a crumb compared to the banquet of a kind and loving heart.
  45. Sometimes the Universe provides you with an alignment of factors that creates the perfect storm for you to challenge yourself and grow.
  46. There is a big difference between your inherent worth and your sense of self-worth. What you accomplish and how you are treated by others are reflections of your sense of self worth. They do not reflect your true worth. Love yourself enough to teach people how you deserve to be treated.
  47. If you find yourself in a situation or relationship that feels wrong, there is always a way out. If you can’t come up with any options, ask for guidance. Even pray for guidance! Pay attention to what appears, and have enough faith to take the escape chute the universe sends your way. It is a great relief to free yourself from something that feels wrong.
  48. You are a more powerful co-creator of your life than you can imagine, and your imagination is the key to it! “Mind over matter” is for real. Have fun experimenting with manifesting what is in alignment with your true Self. Be very clear about what you want, and imagine how it will feel to have your wishes fulfilled, as if it is a present reality. You could begin with manifesting small things like parking spaces and work your way to bigger things. Creating a vision board can help!
  49. Your true Self cannot be defiled by anything of this world. It is indestructible.
  50. This, too, shall pass.

And with that, this very tired birthday girl is heading to bed, hoping to write very soon about the magical journey of clutter-clearing!


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The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2017. SHARING IS CARING, and I appreciate my work being shared with others! Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (River-Bliss.com). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. In other words, I put my heart and soul into my writing and photography and want to be credited for it and have some traffic sent my way. It’s the high vibration thing to do!  🙂 

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