Taking a Short Break

Image by Still Unique Photography

Image by Still Unique Photography

Image

Moving On

Image by Still Unique Photography

Image by Still Unique Photography

The fourth and final in a series of essays about my relationship with my 1970 Karmann Ghia.

Nothing ever stays the same. As the years rolled by, I finished college, got married, found a job, had a baby, and moved from California to Tennessee. During all these changes, I had my faithful Karmann Ghia. Though driving my Karmann Ghia while nine months pregnant was a challenge, I never once thought about selling it. Even after our son was born and there was no place for the car seat, I still never dreamed of getting rid of it. And though we lived in Tennessee and the car had no air conditioning, I never imagined I would part with it. Instead, we adjusted and my husband used it to drive to school, which we felt worked out just fine.

However, I don’t believe my Karmann Ghia felt the same way. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my car sensed it was time to move on. It knew it had served its purpose in my life and it was no longer the right car for me. My Karmann Ghia recognized that my needs had changed and knew it could not meet them. So, it did the next best thing, it found a car that could.

Without warning one day, my Karmann Ghia stopped running. The mechanic said someone had poured powdered sugar in gas tank which destroyed the engine. Unfortunately, we were living on a very limited budget, and could not afford to fix it. Then, lo and behold, my husband’s boss had a car he wanted to sell. It was a four door, LTD with air conditioning. When he heard about our Karmann Ghia, he offered to make a trade, which we accepted.

I have to admit that this was a very clever and well-orchestrated plan. I don’t know if I believe the part about the powdered sugar, but I do believe my Karmann Ghia unselfishly gave of itself to do what was best for me, one last time, and for a love like that I am forever grateful.

To this day, 30 years later, I still miss my car and I would give almost anything to see (and drive) it again. I have to admit that whenever I see a Karmann Ghia, which is rarely, I can’t help feeling an immediate Karmic connection. If at all possible, I go over to it and take a peek inside. It’s like seeing an old familiar friend. I know I said that nothing ever stays the same, but I was wrong because my love and appreciation for my unique little car is parked in that special “reserved” space in my heart…..where it’s always been.

What Really Matters

Orange yellow 1970 Karmann Ghia

Image by Still Unique Photography

The third in a series of essays about my relationship with my 1970 Karmann Ghia.

One valuable lesson I have learned from my Karmann Ghia is that perfection isn’t a requirement for love and acceptance. As I mentioned earlier, I had a vision of the kind of car I wanted – a red convertible Fiat sports car. However, the car I ended up with was nothing like that. It was a funky orange color, with no air conditioning, and two cracks in the dashboard. It had a big steering wheel and no power steering. Not only that, the trunk was in the front and the engine was in the back, which was unlike most other cars. Being a VW, it definitely didn’t have the prestige or class of a Fiat and it had the reputation of being a “poor man’s Porsche.” Simply stated, it was far from perfect. Although I could have chosen to see these imperfections as “defects of character” and used them to judge the car as “less than,” I didn’t. Instead, I saw some of these little flaws as wounds from childhood and felt compassion for my car. Others I viewed as unique physical traits that were just part of who my car was. The truth is, my car was in a league all its own, and I loved this about it. It was full of character, dependable, and unique which, I came to learn, mattered more to me than being perfect, red, and a Fiat

A New Direction

The second in a series of essays about my relationship with my 1970 Karmann Ghia.

Image by Still Unique Photography

Image by Still Unique Photography

I never would have thought it was possible to have a Karmic connection with a car, until it happened to me. From the first time I got behind the wheel, I felt we were kindred spirits – both a little different. However, while I viewed my car’s uniqueness as a positive asset, I viewed my own sense of being different as a negative. This would soon change, as my unusual little car would lead me in a new direction.

Because my Karmann Ghia was unlike most cars, it received a great deal of attention. Everyone noticed it, commented on it, liked it, and wanted to drive it. This kind of positive attention was a new and transformative experience for me. It opened my eyes to see that being different could be a positive experience, and I embraced it. I was beginning to see myself through a new set of headlights. I was now someone who owned a spunky, unique, little sports car, instead of someone who didn’t quite measure up. As I traveled through that dark tunnel of low self-esteem, my eyes were opened to the road ahead. I soon discovered my own unique talents and skills which allowed me to pursue a fulfilling and rewarding career. While it is true that my self-identity was tied to being an owner of this special car, nevertheless, because of this spunky, little, unique car, I was able to change direction and head toward a new destination, and for that I am eternally grateful. In short, I can honestly say that this little car was like a boost of STP to my s self-esteem.

A Karmic Car Connection

This is the first installment in a series of short essays about my relationship with my first car, a 1970 Karmann Ghia.

KarmannI have had only one true car love in my life. It began quite unexpectedly when I was 21 years old. When it finally came time for me to buy my first car, I went used car shopping with my dad. Like many young people during the 70’s, I really wanted one of the ever popular red Fiat convertible sports cars. However, within minutes after talking with the salesman, it became blatantly clear that I did not have the financial resources to purchase such a car. Knowing that I had my heart set on a sports car, the salesman showed me the only option he had: a 1970 yellowish-orange VW Karmann Ghia. I have to admit, I did not care for the color, wasn’t thrilled that it wasn’t a convertible, and was more than a bit apprehensive about it being a stick shift (my previous interactions with driving boyfriends’ stick shift cars had been less than positive). Nevertheless, I agreed to take it for a test drive. After a crash course from the kind and patient salesman, it was my turn to get behind the wheel. From the moment I grabbed the big black steering wheel, shifted into first gear, eased up on the clutch, and lurched down the street, there was no looking back. I felt an immediate bond, or Karmic connection, to this spunky little car and I knew we were destined to be together. So, I wrote the check, signed the papers, and off we drove (although not so smoothly at first) into the sunset.  As we traveled down the path of life together, little did I know how this car would steer me in a whole new direction.

A Success Story

Image by Still Unique Photography

Image by Still Unique Photography

I’ve been thinking a lot about success lately.  And what I discovered surprised me.

In the beginning, all I had was a yearning, or perhaps it was more like a beckoning:  to nurture my creative side by pursuing my passion for photography.  This yearning soon expanded to writing insightful messages about my photographs, which expanded yet again to wanting to share these with others.  Following my bliss and doing what I felt I was meant to do, filled my soul to the brim with joy and peace.

Soon, however, a little nagging voice emerged saying that if I really wanted to experience fulfillment and satisfaction, then I needed to have a “real” purpose; one that involved something of true value and worth, such as earning money, helping others, and receiving recognition.  As I listened to this voice and believed it, a hole in my soul began to develop, and so down that path I went trying to fill it up.

I enrolled in an on-line “start your own photography business” course, got a logo, a Facebook page, a website, an Etsy shop, a Pinterest page, a blog, and hooked up with Fine Art America.  I read books about how to create the life you desire, took on-line courses, and read blogs and articles about how to get noticed in web searches and promote your business.  The more I learned, the more I realized how much I needed to do if I wanted to be successful.  I felt like a rabbit hopping quickly down the path chasing a carrot on a string that is always just out of its reach. I set goals, visualized, affirmed, and believed. I reached deep down and felt what it would feel like to be a successful still life photographer and blogger.  I did my part daily and trusted that the Universe was working in the background pulling it all together.  I believed that success was just around the corner, and that I would one day “get” there.

In the meantime, the hole in my soul grew wider. The joy and peace I once felt was slowly leaking away, until one day I woke up, empty.  Fulfillment and satisfaction were replaced with anxiety and inadequacy. I looked around for my motivation, but it was nowhere to be found.  I realized that my enthusiasm, joy, and contentment had suffocated in my pursuit of success.  Right then and there, I stopped, looked around and sensed that I might be on the wrong path.  As I contemplated this, several questions surfaced:

  • What is it I really want?  A deep sense of personal fulfillment and satisfaction
  • What is my definition of success?  Attaining specific goals such as making money, helping others, and having a certain number of Facebook and blog followers
  • What is the relationship between those two answers?

Wait a minute….didn’t I experience personal fulfillment and satisfaction in the beginning when I was following my heart’s desire and doing what I enjoyed?  I wasn’t making money, helping others, or receiving recognition.  Right then and there, I realized that I had been duped and was on the wrong path!  I had bought into our culture’s definition of success.  I fell hook, line, and sinker for the belief that fame and fortune are not only more important than following your heart, but are also the true pathways to peace, fulfillment, and joy.  Not wanting to venture down this path any further, I quickly  gathered up my camera and tripod and headed back home.  To my surprise, when I arrived, I found my passion and my authentic self waiting for me.  As I wrapped my arms around them and held them to my heart, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be and my soul was once again filled to the brim with peace and joy.

From time to time, I believe we all wrestle with success.  What is your success story?

You’re Much Bigger than You Think

iceberg

Ralph Clevenger

I know, I know…. you don’t want to hear this.  However, fear not.  I’m not talking about getting on the scale and seeing a number that makes you queasy or putting on your favorite jeans and getting a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach because you can hardly zip them up. In fact, I’m not talking about anything physical at all.  I’m talking about that part of you that has always been and will always be; that part that existed long before you had a physical form and will exist long after the physical part of you is gone.

If you are like me, you probably live most, if not all, of your life on the surface, like the tip of this iceberg.  You identify almost exclusively with your thoughts and emotions.  Your happiness is largely dependent on your current life situation.  Most of your thoughts are either about the past or about the future. You may even live with a constant subtle feeling of dread or fear, of which you are hardly aware because it feels so normal.  Life is mainly about being successful and feeling accepted.  Like the tip of this iceberg which has no control of where it goes, you, too, may feel as though you have little control over your life. You may suspect there are forces acting upon you that you can’t specifically identify. At best, you try to go with the flow and hope to not hit too many grade 5 rapids along the way.

Maybe at some point you begin to question your limited “tip of the iceberg” understanding of yourself.  You explore more deeply within and discover there is another enormous part of yourself just below the surface.  Here you discover hidden beliefs which have had an incredibly strong influence on your life. When examined closely, you may find that many of them have not served you in positive ways and you begin to replace them with beliefs that do. You also may find old thinking patterns that have continued to replay in your mind, like an old eight track tape stuck on repeat.  You realize that those outdated patterns may have been helpful when you were a child, but now they are no longer needed.  You awaken to the fact that you have an ego, which isn’t the real you, but has been running “The Daily Drama Show”.  As you learn to step back and observe the ego, you realize that it thrives on creating fear.  It now has become painfully clear that your ego can no longer be a valuable source of wisdom for you and, in fact, you decide that the wisest thing to do is separate yourself from it.  And, as you learn to do so, you are delighted to find that you are much bigger than you thought. In fact, you feel a bit like the beggar at the city gates, who, hungry and dressed in rags, has spent his entire life sitting on an old wooden crate.  One day a traveler asks him what is inside his crate. Though he has never looked within, he is adamant it is empty.  However, because of the persistent encouragement of the kind traveler, the beggar agrees to pry it open. And, of course, we all know what he finds inside.

In the beginning of this great discovery, you spend much of your time moving up and down the iceberg.  There are times when you are back focused only on the tip of the iceberg, forgetting completely that there is so much more beneath the surface.  Fear creeps back in, as you get caught up in “The Daily Drama Show” of life.  Then, there are other times, when you sink below the surface and remember, with gratitude, that you are much bigger than you thought.  As time goes by you learn to keep more and more of your focus beneath the surface while allowing a smaller part to venture up to the tip.  Dealing with life’s situations now is so much easier because you are not totally invested only in what is happening above.

Yet, would you believe you are bigger still? As you remove yourself from the clutches of your ego mind, spend more time in the quiet below the surface, select beliefs that serve you, and replace old negative thinking patterns with positive truths and affirmations, you begin to sense there is yet another level of your self.  You become aware that there is a calm, powerful and perfect presence beyond the iceberg, of which you are part. There, you find the peace, fulfillment, and joy you have always sought through your life experiences. Like the beggar, you realize that what you wanted was always with you. As you contemplate this, you are amazed to discover that you are far bigger than you ever imagined.  You are not just the entire iceberg, you are the whole ocean, too.

The Head Judge

The Head Judge

Image by Still Unique Photography

I live with a judge who is a real hard ass; there is not a bit of leniency in him.  He scrutinizes every thought and passes judgment on my every move.  Though he has many pet phrases he likes to use, such as, what should you be doing, you better get busy and make some progress, you need to be doing something worthwhile, etc., his three favorite words are:  NOT GOOD ENOUGH.  These words echo in my head at least a hundred times a day.

The idea that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing is a totally foreign concept to him, especially if I am not doing something productive, which by his standards means earning money, helping others, or producing something useful. Unless I am actively doing one or more of these, then it’s just not good enough, and if I am not careful, he’ll pronounce with a bang that I’m not good enough.

Living with him is very stressful; I can never just relax and be.  I always feel I have to be working, improving, and moving forward.  Instead of a gavel, he uses guilt to control me.  He is constantly in my face telling me that I can’t slack off or I will never reach my goals and if I don’t reach my goals, then I’m a lazy failure. He warns that if I waste time, I’ll end up doing nothing of any value or worth, such as earning money or helping others. And if I do nothing of value or worth, then I have no value or worth.  He is ever so quick to remind me that I don’t want to end up like that!

This judge has a way of turning the idea of embracing my passion, expressing myself creatively, and sharing this with others into a forced labor situation requiring unrelenting perseverance on my part. There can be no breaks to read a book, or do something non-work related during the week.  Each moment needs to be centered on moving forward and pushing ahead. I have to be focused, to have a plan, and to accomplish something specific. By the end of the day, I better darn well make sure that I made some documented progress, or there’s gonna be hell to pay!

Needless to say, the judge and I are not getting along very well. It’s blatantly clear, that one of us needs to leave, and I know for damn sure, it’s not going to be me.  I’m done with his threats, guilt, and criticism. He’s managed to turn what was once a positive, joyful venture into a negative, nerve-racking chore.  I think he may be on to me because it looks like he has stepped out for a few minutes, probably to refuel. So if you’ll excuse me, I am going improve my situation, make some real progress, and accomplish something of true value and worth…. I’m gonna quickly pack up his crap and kick his ass outta here!

Do-Be-Do-Be-Do-Be-Do

DoBeDoBeDo

Image by Still Unique Photography

Have you ever noticed how much emphasis we put on doing?  It seems as though every moment is spent “doing” something.  Even when we say or think we aren’t doing anything, we are. We’re watching TV, texting, waiting, checking Facebook, reading, meditating, or even relaxing. We measure our value and self-worth by what and how much we are doing. There are even times when we question if we are doing enough. We wonder constantly, “What should I be doing?” or “What am I supposed to be doing?”  Our whole purpose in life has become wrapped up in doing, doing, doing.

When we think about not doing anything, we feel anxious. We worry about being bored and we feel guilty when we think we aren’t doing something or doing enough.  Fear creeps in when we are unsure whether we’re doing the right thing or not.  Doing nothing is frowned upon because we equate it with being lazy and unproductive and this makes us uneasy. The bottom line is, we just aren’t comfortable with the idea of doing nothing.

This attitude of doing has gotten completely out of hand.  Because we have not given ourselves permission to do nothing, to just be, we are out of balance. We are so busy doing, we can’t see the “being” in ourselves or each other. And because of this, we can’t sense our connectedness and our oneness with all that is.  I propose we change the way we think about this. Let’s give ourselves permission to do nothing every day.  Let’s give ourselves permission to just be.  If you are like me, when I meditate, I feel like I am doing or supposed to be doing something because meditating is something we do.  I’m proposing we simply do nothing.  We give ourselves permission to just sit and be. We can say to ourselves, “I give myself permission to do absolutely nothing right now. There is nothing I need to do or am supposed to do.  I don’t need to meditate, think, focus, or concentrate on anything.  I give myself permission to just be.”   As you do this, I believe you will feel an opening within and will discover that giving yourself permission to do nothing is one of the greatest things you can “do” for yourself.

Each Unique Piece

Each Unique Piece

Images by Still Unique Photography

Has a PlaceFinding our place within the One Magnificent Whole is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.  Even though we know how to do it, it is still a long process; one that honors our uniqueness and acknowledges it as our most important asset.   

Like the pieces of a puzzle, in the beginning, we are segregated.  We’re lumped together based on a quick observation of our physical appearance, with little or no attention given to our uniqueness.  Finding our place starts as a trial and error process, which can be painful at times.  Because of this quick “first impression” assessment, it is often assumed we will fit into certain spots.  We may even be forced into a position and remain there for quite a while.  During this painful time, we feel pressured and out of sync and begin to wonder what is wrong with us.  While it sure looks as though this is where we are supposed to be, it just doesn’t feel right.  We see that, not only are we miserable, but we are also adversely affecting the pieces nearest to us.  It seems that we may be hindering or preventing them from fitting in and finding their unique place.

After we’ve tried everything we can think of to fit in, we finally come to a time when we shift our focus.  Instead of wondering what is wrong with us, we begin to entertain that idea that maybe we’re just in the wrong place.  We begin to understand that just because we look a certain way, does not necessarily mean we have to fit into a particular place.  In time, we learn to look more closely at our uniqueness and to honor it.  With patience, we examine our options carefully until we find the one that was created just for us.  As we settle comfortably into our perfect place, we feel secure, confident, and fulfilled.

From this process, we’ve acquired a deeper appreciation of our uniqueness.  Like the pieces of a puzzle, we proudly acknowledge that none of us is exactly alike. Sometimes, one has to look very closely to see our uniqueness, but it’s there.  We’ve learned that there is no need for comparisons or judgments because we are all equal; no piece is better or of more value than any other.  If any one piece is missing, the Magnificent Whole would be incomplete. We each have a place which has been created specifically for us.  No other piece can fit into our spot as perfectly as we can.  In addition, while others may help us find our place, we are the only ones who can determine whether we are in the right place or not.  Finding our perfect spot is what we are all here to do and it is both a process and a journey. With patience, faith, and determination, we each will find our unique place within the One Magnificent Whole and experience the peace and joy of knowing that we are exactly where we are meant to be.

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