A Woman's Voice


THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY ~ Unconditional Love versus Conditional Love ~ June 2, 2011 by Dolores Ayotte

A friend of mine has been having a difficult time the last couple of months. She has a married son. He is her only child and he has one son, her only grandchild. They live several hundred miles apart so she doesn’t see this precious little family very often.  My friend has gotten to know her infant grandchild very well through the use of Skype and other means of communication with her son and daughter-in-law.

However, last time they came home to visit, there was an unfortunate turn of events and things did not go well. Now, the communication is no longer the same. There is no more Skyping and the emails are few and far between. She mentioned something that prompted me to write this article. She said that when they do communicate, that the “sign off” is now different. They don’t always “sign off” with their name or they don’t “sign off” with the word “love” anymore. I find this very odd.

I have also had the misfortune of unsmooth relationships in my life. How about you? Please bear with me as I ask a few more questions. Does anyone really know and understand the meaning of “unconditional love”?  When we are not offering others “perfect love” which is what “unconditional love” is all about, what are we really offering? We all know that there is no such thing as perfect people. If the love we have for others is based on the expectation of perfection or requires others to conform to our way of thinking, it is doomed to fail.

So I dare to ask, what kind of love do you offer?  Loved based on conditions is really not love at all. It is a pseudo-love that must be earned in order to receive it or we must behave in a certain way to in order to be worthy of it. When someone upsets us and we still need to communicate for whatever reason, it may be merely as simple as looking at how we now “sign off” in our communication after the altercation. Take a moment to think about it and you will know exactly what I mean. We really can be a lot more apparent than we realize.

It’s can be likened to child’s play…I won’t love you anymore if…I won’t play with you anymore if…I won’t help you anymore if…

Have you altered your relationships and now wonder why things are different?  Try to keep in mind that for every action….there is a reaction. Have you changed your “sign off”? How have other things changed and why? Have you spoken “about” the person instead of “to” the person? Simple questions but not so easy to answer.  It is very difficult to take responsibility for our part in unsmooth relationships.

It’s easy to love someone when we agree. To love “unconditionally” is to love others like God loves us. The true test comes when we don’t agree and there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. This is “unconditional love” and it makes a whole world of difference.

“To love is a beautiful, mysterious event; do not miss it.
Be neither too cautious nor too absorbed. Too many of
us reason with our hearts and experience with our heads.
It cannot be so. The heart knows no logic beyond need
and desire; the head has no senses except the common
and the pragmatic. Neither, frankly, is useful in love
anyway. Rely on your sixth sense, that little voice within.
There is no preparation for or protection from the joy and
pain of relationships. They are inseparable twins. One follows another. And make no mistake, love is not gay abandon; it is to be courageous, to take risks and be disciplined.” (Ramya Varma)

FREE DRAW ~ Anyone who leaves a comment on any article from now until June 15th, gets their name put in a draw for a free copy of my book ”Growing Up & Liking It”.  The more comments that you leave the greater your chances of winning. Good Luck!

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THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY ~ Peace in Life’s Simple Pleasures ~ May 26, 2011

My dear friend Vivian sent this message the other day. It has been an inspiration to me today as I write my article for THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY. So many people touch my life is such a positive and inspirational way that I want to share some of their beliefs and ideas with as many people as possible. This is another example of one of life’s simple pleasure.

Vivian wrote…How are you enjoying Spring? I have been spending long days outdoors working in the yard and cleaning up the gardens for Summer. I hear the birds singing and busily eating at the feeders, and wonder, who needs radios and cell phones when there is so much to enjoy in the natural world all around us? What peace there is in just melding into the world around you and doing ordinary things and realizing that “This is as good as it gets! “

When I first received this little message from Vivian, my imagination took me into my own garden and how I feel when I am there. In the Spring, as I clean up my garden with the help of my husband, I feel the exact same way as Vivian.

I get so lost in the wonder of it all that the work I am doing doesn’t feel like work at all. I look in awe as I see the bushes and trees bud and turn green almost right before my eyes. I watch in amazement as I notice “new growth” sprout from the soil after a long cold winter. I gaze at the birds and listen with pleasure to their sweet songs as they go about their daily routine. I see the empty nests in our trees and bushes and I know a new season of life has begun.

I have a little garden sign in one of my flower beds which reads “Life Began In A Garden”. Every time I read this sign, I am reminded of how close I am to Our Creator as I cultivate this little piece of earthly heaven that I call home.

Yes Vivian, “This is as good as it gets”. Thank you so much for being an inspiration to me today!            

FREE DRAW ~ Anyone who leaves a comment on any article from now until June 15th, gets their name put in a draw for a free copy of my book ”Growing Up & Liking It”.  The more comments that you leave the greater your chances of winning. Good Luck! 

 

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY ~ You Asked…I Answered (part 4)~ May 19, by Dolores Ayotte

What concept or scripture is God revealing to you in this season of your life? And how is that revelation influencing your life? 

The concept that God is revealing to me in this season of my life is that by learning more about myself and what caused my depression in the first place (what I refer to as getting to the root of the problem)  I have found a new image of a loving and merciful God.  I discovered that when I felt the least lovable, God actually loved me with such an abundant and unconditional love which sustained me throughout my whole ordeal. 

Although, I never lost my faith, it was necessary for me to revisit some very old teachings and learn to know God in a new and healthier way.  By going back into my past to figure things out, I was able to accomplish my goal of overcoming my childhood teachings of fear and guilt.  In doing so, I was able to embrace and enhance my own healing process.  I discovered a strange kind of strength that one finds in the depth of despair. 

It is in your darkest moments when you feel the true presence of God.  He is true to His word.  Most of us know the story of Footprints in the Sand.  There is not one ounce of doubt in my mind that God is there for all of us, satisfying our every need.  All we must do is admit this need.  “That man is perfect in faith who can come to God in the utter dearth of his feelings and desires, without a glow or an aspiration, with the weight of low thoughts, failure, neglects and wandering forgetfulness and say to Him, Thou Art my Refuge.”(George MacDonald)

Yes…without my faith, I would have been nothing but a sinking ship. 

To be continued…please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or ask a question. 

FREE DRAW ~ Anyone who leaves a comment on any article from now until June 15th, gets their name put in a draw for a free copy of my book “Growing Up & Liking It”.  The more comments that you leave the greater your chances of winning. Good Luck!

 

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY ~ You Asked…I Answered (part 3) ~ May 12, 2011 by Dolores Ayotte

Who did you picture in your mind when you were writing this book (I’m Not Perfect And It’s Okay)? I ask because I felt like you were talking to me at my kitchen table over a cup of coffee! 

When I first started to write my book, my children were very young so they were not the ones that I was trying to address.  I was basically trying to reach my peers. So in essence, it was each and every one of you that I was talking to across my kitchen table over the cup of coffee that you mentioned.  I thought that my age group could possibly be the ones who might suffer from the stresses of life and a similar inability to cope.  Perhaps, they could identify with what I was trying to share. I hoped that they could learn from my experiences in such a way that they need not drink so fully from the cup of suffering and despair. 

It is interesting to realize that it is still my peer group who is showing the most interest and pleasure in reading my book but it is from a totally different standpoint than I expected.  They can relate to my experiences based on their own lives and they want to share my insights with their children, family or friends.   Some see my book as a teaching tool to reach out to others in a healing way.  Others feel that it better explains their own personalities or hang ups because they can identify with parts of my story. They then utilize my book by sharing it with their children in the desire to be better understood.  

Why did you start writing and when? 

As answered earlier, I started to write my self-help book over twenty-five years ago, but it did not take long for me to put that idea to bed. I just did not have the experience or life skills to be giving any sage advice.  Although, I read and saved many articles and quotes which I stuffed in my notebook, I only revisited the idea of actually completing this project 2 years ago.  As a young girl, one of my daughters whom is now in her thirties was well aware of my notebook.  She wanted to write a book herself and she asked for my notes. 

I gladly shared my information with her but soon afterward she became pregnant with her fourth child.  Her oldest was seven at the time.  As soon as I learned this wonderful news, I suggested she give me back my notebook.  I told her that the odds of me completing my dream were far greater than her at this time.  Besides, my notes made a lot more sense to me than they did to her and I had far more available time.  I really feel that her interest and inspiration was actually God’s hand spurring me on to complete the project that I had started so many years earlier.  The timing was now right! 

To be continued….please feel free to ask a question. I will answer it to the best of my ability. The above questions were asked by Laura Davis on Interviews and Reviews   

 

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY ~ Reconciliation versus Resolution ~ May 5, 2011 by Dolores Ayotte

A while back I read an article that mentioned the difficulties a family had experienced before and after the death of their mother. The author of the article went on to say that she prayed for things to be resolved amongst her siblings and herself. The answer from God wasn’t quite what she expected it to be but in the end she felt that her prayers were answered nonetheless.  Reading this article motivated me to have a look at my own life and my personal ideas about resolution and reconciliation. Is there a difference and if so what is it?  I decided the best thing to do was to look up the exact meaning to these two words before I try to discuss this topic.

One definition for the word resolution is “the power to make choices and set goals and to act upon them firmly in spite of opposition or difficulty”. Another definition is “unwavering firmness of character or action”Yet another is “the quality of mind enabling one to face danger or hardship resolutely”. When I look at the meaning to the word resolution, what I see is a strong acceptance of a situation that you can’t do a thing about. I think that once you are resolute in your decision, you become unwavering no matter what the consequences. One of those consequences may very well be standing alone.  

When I looked up the word reconciliation, this is what I discovered. There were also several definitions but the one that stuck out the most was the meaning  “to bring something into a state of agreement or accord”. After careful consideration, I would have to say that reconciliation (agreement) is not always attainable while I believe resolution is. Perhaps, the first goal of any disagreement is to try to achieve a reconciliation whenever possible but if an agreement cannot be reached, then the next step is a resolution. I think that the writer of the above mentioned article was alluding to this fact with her family. Obviously, they were not going to agree, but no one was willing to compromise on their stand. In other words, it was a stalemate. 

In truth, she may have been praying for reconciliation with her family and ended up with resolution, although, this was not her first choice. The only possible answer to her prayers may very well have been resolution, which to me, means accepting that reconciliation is not possible for the parties concerned. The best course of action is to accept this fact and move on with life in a respectful and civil way. Resolution does not change anyone’s stand.  In other words, it’s agreeing to disagree without rancor.      

 

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY ~ Pointing The Way ~ April 28, 2011 by Dolores Ayotte

Posted in THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY by doloresayotte on April 28, 2011
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At times, I know that I have a somewhat different philosophy on life than other individuals.  I have always considered myself to be a teacher even before I had formal credentials.  Although I left the classroom many years ago, the classroom has never left me.  I feel like I am now very much “a teacher without walls”. When I did teach elementary school, we used to have “show & tell” on a regular basis. The children loved this little practice, as I am sure they still do to this day, in many classrooms around the world.

I think the children enjoyed when another child had a story to tell but I think they especially enjoyed when they had something to show. This visual aid made their story all the more enjoyable. As teachers, we also had a little saying that goes something like this. Tell me and I forget… Show me and I remember… Involve me and I learn. It has been my experience that telling someone what we think or believe may not always leave the mark we want it to. Showing them by leading with our example may have a greater impact and others will probably get a better idea of our message. Involving these individuals in what we are trying to teach will indeed have the greatest effect.

One of the things I have come to realize is that when we involve others, it is necessary to know when to get out-of-the-way so that they can see the path clearly ahead. A good teacher needs to know when to “back off” and let the student forge ahead on their own. If we are constantly pointing the way, we could very well be hampering the student’s line of vision and future learning experiences. Therefore, at some point, we may actually be doing them more harm than good.

Part of being more than a good teacher is knowing when to stop teaching and “let go…let God”.   The time when good teachers become great ones is when we figure this out. Do you know when to “back off”  when necessary or “teach” when needed?  It is no easy feat to discern. Therefore, being the most effective teacher may be a task similar to doing a balancing act or walking a tight rope. It’s a slippery slope to say the least.

There is also a very fine line between what is seen as preaching versus teaching. Preaching may have a negative connotation if it isn’t done in the right setting.  We must be in tune, not only with ourselves but with those around us, in order to achieve the best results. Effective teaching usually has a way of positively involving others.  I’m not so sure that preaching is seen in this same light. Preaching by our peers can be seen as a lot about telling and very little about showing or involving. Being told what to do or how to behave doesn’t always achieve the desired positive results. We all have the opportunity to teach or to preach in our everyday lives. What I’m suggesting, is that we take a moment and ask ourselves how we’re coming across.  

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY ~ You Asked…I Answered (part 2) ~ April 21, 2011 by Dolores Ayotte

What was the hardest thing about writing this book? (I’m Not Perfect And It’s Okay)

The hardest thing about writing this book was making the decision to be so open and honest about my feelings.  I had hidden my depression from others, with the exception of my husband, for so long that I had no idea how people would react to this revelation.  I have discovered since the launch of my book that many people are willing to share their journeys or tales of depression with me, however, most prefer that they remain anonymous.  Still to this day by what I’ve heard and observed, depression is not looked upon by all, as merely another type of illness or disorder. 

One of my closest friends asked me if I felt more vulnerable after writing about my mental illness which is what depression is considered to be.  Without a doubt, I certainly did and still do at times!   The most difficult part was facing people after they had read what I had shared with them.  I did not want my relationships to change.  Generally speaking, they have not.  In fact, my fears have been put to rest because several people have demonstrated more admiration and respect for me as a result of my efforts. 

Of the 13 tips you shared for getting through life, which do you feel is the most valuable? 

Of the 13 tips that I shared with my readers, the one I feel is of the most value is the very first one, that of learning to love yourself.  During this very difficult stage of my life I not only suffered from depression but I also had a very negative self-image as a result.  At that time, I could hardly bring myself to look in the mirror and love what I saw in it…my own image.  I not only felt self loathing, I felt that others could not find much to love in me either.  Thus, first and foremost, I had to relearn to love myself instead of looking at my reflection in such a negative way…that of an utter failure. Due to my illness, I could not return to my teaching career and was at a major turning point in my life. It was necessary for me to figure things out. Therefore, this book is actually being written in retrospect.  I needed to live life first and then reflect back to better describe the choices I made along the way in order to have a full and rewarding existence. 

As in all recipes, some ingredients are vital to the recipe and cannot be substituted.  In my book, I feel that the first step is the most essential in order to make this recipe work.  A lot of people are unhappy with themselves.  My recipe calls for admitting this fact if it applies. I also stressed learning how to be happier with whom you really are rather than what you may want to be. It doesn’t mean to say that a person cannot grow but growth stems from an honest assessment of self.  This process requires some self-examination, a dose of truth serum, and the desire to move on from this point.  This could possibly be done by incorporating some of my recommendations into daily living.  When I have off days, which most of us do, I still refer to my own book and try my best to follow my own advice. 

I recently wrote an article about the “stigma” of mental illness.  Mike Falcon’s article  (Spotlight Health) with medical advisor Stephen A. Shoop M.D. in USA Today coincides with my post titled “Dear Abby”.  I hope you will take a moment to check it out.  Two more articles you might want to read regarding depression are Here To Help and About Depression.  The more aware and informed we all are about this oftentimes, debilitating condition, the more compassionate, empathetic and tolerant we will eventually become.  

To be continued…also, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask and I will answer them to the best of my ability.  The above questions were asked by Laura Davis on Interviews and Reviews.        

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY ~ You Asked…I Answered ~ April 14, 2011 by Dolores Ayotte

Dolores why did you write “I’m Not Perfect and It’s Okay” ~ A Baker’s Dozen ~ (Steps To A Happier Self)? 

Over twenty-five years ago, I went through a very difficult period in my life.  I was in my early thirties with a husband, a young family and a full-time career as an elementary school teacher when I experienced a bout of severe depression.  It totally knocked me off my feet and left me at an utter loss.  Due to a negative drug reaction to a prescribed anti-depressant, I was hospitalized for a couple of weeks and I had no idea what the future held for me.  At that time, the prognosis was not encouraging.   When I returned home from the hospital, one of my first desires after tending to my family was to try to share what I was going through and to try to prevent others from facing a similar experience.  My situation was so debilitating and devastating to me that the only positive conclusion I could arrive at was to try to help spare others this kind of ordeal.  It was at this time when I initially decided to write my book. 

How did you decide on a baker’s dozen? 

I decided on a baker’s dozen to honor my elderly mother as well as the memory of my late mother-in-law whom were avid bakers/cooks in their time.  As I tell my story, I share with my readers some personal anecdotes about life’s recipe for more peace and happiness according to my own experiences.  Due to this fact, I have chosen to refer to my suggestions as a baker’s dozen.  In other words, there are thirteen recommended ingredients to my recipe for a happier life.  Like all recipes, these can be adjusted to suit the individual’s tastes or needs.

Although I consider depression to be a serious condition, I have used many quotes and much humor in my writing to lighten up the topic and to show my readers the brighter side to life.  Usually the sharing or swapping of recipes denotes pleasure or joy.  A reader mentioned that she thought my book was a “feel good” book.  This has always been my goal, that of encouraging others to feel good about themselves and to have a better self-image.  

To be continued next Thursday…..please feel free to leave a question in the comment box. I will answer it to the best of my ability. The above questions were asked by Laura Davis on Interviews and Reviews. 

I recently discovered this quote by Dr. Ashley Solomon and I decided to share it with you.  She states, “Give me a break, people. I’m not sure where this little rumor got started, but it’s about time it was laid to rest. More than 20% of us will suffer from depression during our lives, and not a single one of us will avoid be affected by depression. While this doesn’t mean that we have to accept depression as the status quo, it points to the fact that being happy all the time isn’t in our biological or cultural reality.”

According to this quote, it would seem that depression is a fact of life. I’ve been saying this for some time now. If we don’t suffer from depression, we can be darn sure that we know someone who does. I still have bouts of mild depression. I merely know how to better cope with it so that it does not get  as severe as it once did. 

Self-acceptance of my condition certainly helped me make a better life for myself and those around me.  

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY ~ Knowing Where You Stand ~ April 11, 2011 by Dolores Ayotte

I like to know where I stand. Do you? For those of you that are new to “A Woman’s Voice”, I want to take a moment to explain the format I use.  My reason for doing this is so that you will know where you stand when you visit my blog site. Usually I post four days a week.

On Monday, I post a variety of topics. These articles are always on a lighter, positive,  more upbeat note. This is when I might post an article from a guest blogger or write a book review. I might also share an inspirational story or take a walk down memory lane and share a story from the past. Sometimes I will also write about present day events.  

On Tuesday, there is no post.

On Wednesday, I have what I refer to as “Blog Hopping Day”. On this day, I share another blogger’s post by writing a few comments as to what the post is about and I publish the link so you can check it out if the topic is of interest to you.  I only connect you to blog sites where I feel the topic is pertinent, well-written and worth reading. Sometimes the topics are light-hearted and other times they are serious. I think “Blog Hopping Day” is a wonderful way to share other people’s talent. At times, other writers will put into words a topic that I have been unable to express the way I want to, therefore in essence, it opens it up in a new way. I’m delighted when I find a writer that can be an inspiration not only to me, but to you as well.

On Thursday, I have a category that I have labelled as “Thoughtful Thursday”. On this day, I write posts which are usually on the more serious side. As much as I wish everyday could be a Monday, where life is so positive and light-hearted, it would be unrealistic of me to present life this way. If you visit my blog site on Thursday, you might find the odd subject that a few people just as soon not address or might find uncomfortable. On the other hand, some have found these topics to be a refuge whereby a door has been opened for them. They now can express some things that they have found difficult to deal with in the past or even in the present.

On Friday, there is no post.

On Saturday or Sunday, I usually post an inspirational, spiritual or motivational poem or story. I’ve had the good fortune of having Charles Betts supply me with numerous poems over the last several weeks. I will continue to post these items as long as I receive them.  He is a very gifted poet and I am honored to share my space with him.

I want each of you to know where you stand when it comes to “A Woman’s Voice” so that you can pick and choose what day or days you would like to visit. I truly appreciate each and every one of you for the support and encouragement that you have shown me since the inception of my blog. May God grant you His choicest blessings.  

 

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY ~ Two Wrongs ~ April 7, 2011 by Dolores Ayotte and Charles Betts

My Dad used to have one of the neatest sayings. It’s been nineteen years since he passed away. I still miss him and the impact he had on my life to this day. He was not a well-educated man nor was he perfect. I certainly remember thinking he was when I was a young child right up into my adult life. I had such an innocent love and high regard for him that I had him on a pretty high  pedestal. It took me well into my adult years to fully realize that my Dad was human just like the rest of us. I used to think he could do no wrong. I spent plenty of time listening to him and the stories he had to share.  He also had quite a few cute sayings.  One of them that has come to mind many times over the years is “two wrongs don’t make a right”.

I can’t count the number of times I heard him say this quote throughout my life.  When people hurt us, we have the tendency to want to hurt them right back. There seems to be a trait in our human nature that likes to get even. As I write this, there is something that happened to me to make me think of this adage. Not all people are kind and it’s very difficult to be kind to people who have shown unkindness to us.  Today is a day when I need to remind myself to be kind to unkind people. This is when I can hear my Dad say, “two wrongs don’t make a right”. To be unkind toward someone who has hurt me will never make things right and I will be no further ahead than the person who was initially unkind.  Yup…my Dad may not have been the best educated man nor was he perfect but just the same, he sure had plenty of wisdom.  

It’s neat how God works to get us the messages that we need to hear if we are in tune to His communication and open to this concept.  Before I went to bed I wrote this article and the next morning before I even had a chance to post it, I received this unexpected comment from Charles Betts. I guess we need to hear things more than once. At times, it is beneficial to listen to the messages outside of our own thoughts and prayers. It may give us the clarity and vision that we are seeking. God works through people and by being open to their ideas and voices of wisdom, we can also find answers to our prayers and the inner peace we are striving to attain. Perhaps you can also benefit from the wisdom of Charles’ words and my Dad’s as well.

Good morning Dolores. I think the word (sm-eyes…smiling with our eyes) and its concept are a beneficial principle to apply to our daily routines. The eyes are for sure a window to the soul. I have known some people in life who have, due to rough circumstances in life, drawn the shades over the windows and refuse to let people see in. From my perspective it appears they feel that if no-one sees in then they are safe. They feel that any intruders are there only to take things from their soul which they do not want to give away or share. Their world becomes smaller and tighter and they eventually dry up inside.

When my two daughters were in their formative years and would come home from school, having been hurt or disappointed by their friends, they would express a desire to have nothing to do with that friend. I would say : “If you continue to cut off your friends when they hurt you, eventually you will end up in a small circle by yourself”. I wanted them to learn that pain will come but we must overcome the pain with love and forgiveness. Love will never dry up as long as we let it flow. Only when we dam it up inside does it dry up.

To get back to the “sm-eyes”, yes we are benefitted when we learn to let our eyes express the beauty of our souls. If someone abuses that beauty then they have some issues in their own soul. They need our friendship and prayers. As does God deal with us, we can be blessed when we love because it is in us, not because someone deserves it. In this way we are in control of our own happiness, not those we deal with. So it is that we sm-eyes all those we contact. Both they and we are blessed. Have a great day, Charles Betts.

Thanks Charles for sharing your wisdom! I especially like the down to earth way that you tell stories to demonstrate your point and to help us better understand your message. 

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