The Power of Illumination (or lack thereof)

When nightlight bulbs start burning out all over the house, some people would dismiss it as cheap bulbs or wiring issues, but to someone like me, it was a sign.

Over the past two weeks, the nightlight bulbs in my house have systematically been burning out. First, it was the nightlight in the kitchen, then the one in my daughters’ bedroom, and finally the one in the hallway. As I was out of replacement bulbs and kept forgetting to get more, I lived in relative darkness at night for a week or so. I still had light at night from the fish tank in the girls’ room and the LED flower nightlight in the bathroom, but the rest of the house existed bathed in shadows.

At first, I dismissed it as cheap bulbs but I quickly realized that it was a sign. I believe that there are always spirits around me to guide me on my path and redirect me when I step off the correct trail. I’d temporarily wandered off my positive path with some rather negative thinking and the spirits and my house responded to that energy by making it rather dark in my world. I re-examined my thoughts, corrected my thinking, and sought out the light once more, both metaphorically and literally.

When I went to the store to buy new bulbs I discovered that LED nightlight bulbs exist now. The bulbs seemed like an energy-efficient, more durable, and safer option so I chose them instead of traditional bulbs. The LED nightlight bulbs come in colors like green, blue, and “soft white” and I grabbed a package of each to mix things up a bit around my house. I put the soft white ones (they’re really more bluish than white) in the kitchen and hallway nightlights and a green one in the girls’ nightlight. I chose green for that one because it’s a little resin Pooh Bear house and the green light looked neat shining out from the green tree.

Once I’d replaced all the bulbs, I then did a sage smudge to cleanse my house of any accumulated negative energy. Changing my thinking was the first step toward abolishing the negative energy but I knew it could linger in my home if I didn’t deal with it appropriately. I love the smell of a burning sage stick and I let the aroma and cleansing energies wash over me and restore the light that had become temporarily shadowed within me.

Image courtesy of A Fanciful Twist

Dealing with that whole experience reminded me about the power of illumination and how it feels when it’s not as present as I’d like. Stumbling around in a dark house at night is an inconvenience but easier to fix than being in the dark about other things in my life like friendships. When my cellphone screen doesn’t light up with a text response from a friend as often as it used to and when everything else in their life seems to come before their friendship with me, I feel the shadows of doubt creep in.

Though some might see them as weaknesses, I believe two of my strengths are my open heart and giving nature. I am perhaps a bit naive because the truth that a once valued friendship is no longer as important to the other person doesn’t always dawn on me right away. It’s difficult for me to accept sometimes that other people’s actions aren’t necessarily a reflection on who I am, but on who they are and that they just decided I don’t have a place in their life at this time, or anymore at all.

Yet even the hardest truths to swallow have something to teach me and shed light on realities I’ve tried not to face. I know that while the light has faded or completely gone out on that branch of my path, new paths will open up that are brighter and easier to navigate. I don’t believe that every path has to be easy and I learn a lot from the more difficult journeys, but there comes a point when it’s not worth trying to cut through the thorns when the person on the other side of the path isn’t cutting their way toward me. That path goes dark for a reason and it’s up to me to focus on a different path and those who seek out and appreciate the light I have to offer.

Courtesy Goes Both Ways

Graphic by Jordan

Graphic by Jordan

First off, I must give co-credit for this blog idea to my awesome girlfriend Rebecca. I was texting her last week, complaining about how customers expect us to be courteous to them while they’re busy growling at us and blaming us for things we have no control over. Such are the joys of working in the customer service industry. I told Bec that I thought everyone should work in customer service for a week to see how it is on the other side. She replied that a year of retail and year in food service should do the trick. I’m paraphrasing a bit.

I’ve worked in customer service since I was 16 years old. My first job was in a clothing store, then there was the pretzel making place, then the bookstore and then my first job as a secretary. Working those jobs and dealing with some customers that were less than nice taught me the value of courtesy. I was always kind, patient and smiling even when dealing with irate customers and very few of them appreciated my efforts. That doesn’t mean I stopped being courteous. I will always believe that when you put positive energy out there, it returns tenfold.

I do understand the frustration of being a customer with problems but as I’ve been on the other end of the line most of my life, I don’t take it out on the customer service representative. When I shop in stores I always put back any clothing I take and do my best to refold anything I’ve looked at, though I admit I’m awful at folding. I always say please and thank you to waiters, waitresses and food service cashiers and quite often leave a bigger tip than is “necessary.” While I have of course encountered many nice and appreciative customers in my line of work, I know that for the most part, being in customer service is a pretty thankless job.

I do hear the complaint that “There’s no such thing as good customer service anymore!” and I beg to differ. Sure there are people who hate being in customer service and express that in their attitude when dealing with customers and I agree that such behavior is inappropriate. But quite often I’ve picked up the phone in my usual pleasant manner only to have the person on the other end speak to me rudely, sometimes even swearing, as they blame me for personally targeting them and making their lives miserable. I work for a company, I don’t make the rules, I just follow them so being hostile and mean to me is unneccessary and uncalled for.

If you’ve never had the “pleasure” of working in customer service then I envy you. What I do wish people would remember is that we’re all human beings and we’re all worthy of courtesy. Courtesy goes both ways and if the other person doesn’t always reciprocate, then you need to be the better spirit, allow them their choice and focus your positive energy on people who can appreciate it.

Leading the Pack

My dog Jazzmin “Sundance” Corbin is an adorable and loving mutt, just like me. I adopted her from a local shelter in January 2012 and my life has never been the same. I wasn’t a strong leader or an alpha dog when I adopted her. I was lonely and wanted a dog to be my companion when my daughters were with their father. Jazz happily took on the role of mama caretaker and pack leader because she sensed weakness in me and thought she needed to be in control. I only know all that now that I’ve started reading Cesar’s Way and watching The Dog Whisperer on Netflix. I can now see everything I’ve done wrong with Jazz and I’m working diligently to fix things.

I should have started reading Cesar’s books last summer when my close friend recommended them. He’s had dogs for most of his life and knows far more about them than I do. I grew up with dogs but I was never solely responsible for one until I got Jazz. My friend has met Jazz and while she dragged me along when he and I walked, the moment he took the leash from me, she was a totally different dog. Calm, obedient, attentive and eager to do whatever he asked.

In truth she was still the same dog but the energy my friend emitted was far more in control and “calm assertive” than my usual tense, worried and uncertain energy. That day he showed me that Jazzmin could be the dog I wanted her to be. Did I run right out and get Cesar’s books that moment because he suggested them? No. Why? A mixture of stupidity and stubbornness I suppose. But that was then and this is now and as Jazzmin lives in the now, all she cares is that her mama is finally fulfilling her as a dog.

While watching The Dog Whisperer I see a lot of dogs with behavior issues similar to Jazz. What that really means is that their owners are emitting the wrong energy and those dogs have become the pack leaders. I’m working really hard on improving my energy. I can be an overly perky and optimistic person sometimes but I have trouble believing in my own strength. I need to focus my positive outlook on myself and stop doubting my abilities. Becoming Jazz’s pack leader is extremely beneficial for both of us. Having more confidence in myself and taking on the role of pack leader allows Jazz to relinquish the role she never really wanted. It also improves who I am as a person and how I function in every aspect of my life.

I’ve been working on asserting myself as the pack leader for almost two weeks now. I get up early on the mornings I have my girls and walk her around the yard and driveway for 20-30 minutes. When I don’t have the girls I take her for longer walks after work. Jazz and I have greatly improved on the walk. She’s not pulling all the time and she’s less distracted by every bird, leaf, stray breeze and particle of dust we walk by. We’re still working on how she reacts to other dogs but we’ve made great progress! Last night I walked the “Doggy Gauntlet” with her. The Doggy Gauntlet is how I describe purposely walking by houses where I know the dogs are allowed to run free and it also includes walking by a local kennel. I walked Jazz with a Gentle Leader and an Outward Hound backpack weighed down with a couple of water bottles. (The Beanie Baby cargo in the pictures was just to get her used to the backpack and to make my youngest daughter smile.)

How did our walk through the Doggy Gauntlet go? Well, we lived to tell the tale but that tale will have to wait until the next post. Stay tuned!