Fake Flowers – Search for Petals of Authenticity

Fake Flowers – Search for Petals of Authenticity

Captured by compelling visual subjects, I often instinctively reach for my camera.  This particular visual delight was a bouquet of hot pink lilies surrounded by periwinkle blue delphinium stems artistically arranged in a clear glass vase, a focal point on an entry table in an office building.

As I centered my phone camera on the colorful display in awe of the intense color fusion, I recognized my error.  Believing in the authenticity of this arrangement, my mind’s eye was fooled, and I found myself duped by a lifelike impression.  After seeing the humor in the situation, I quickly switched to a deep reflection followed by questions.

I’m on a search for authenticity.

Is there anyone else who ever finds themselves fooled by fake impressions?  

From a distance an arrangement may appear real; but upon closer examination, we may find it lacks authenticity.  Our world is filled with simulated and seemingly flawless representations of natural elements with the intent to enhance our environments, and yet all they do is detract from our overall sensory experience.

As nature’s images entice me, I find hidden beauty when I move in closer, as close as my camera will allow, to clearly focus on a micro-view of life that remains unobserved by the naked eye.  These unrevealed authenticities are unknowingly passed by every day as we may find ourselves distracted by “life-like” illusions displayed in counterfeit settings. 

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And now I go deeper, the petals unfolding…How much does my own life reflect this phenomenon?  How authentic am I? 

How much better would it be to reveal my natural self in my interactions rather than staying stuck sharing a generic impression, like fake flowers, a dust-collecting replica of who I only wish to be, devoid of flaws and authenticity, a life-like fantasy?

As an exercise, I opened up to a trusted confidante and shared an error in judgment, a perceived flaw in my character.  I wanted to bloom, allow myself to be vulnerable with the admission, and walk away feeling whole rather than unclothed.   Although it wasn’t comfortable for me, baring my truth encouraged deeper personal inspection and a revelation.

Watching my words wisely in self-protective conversations, I may be giving the impression of confidence in my self-assured aspirations; but, I may also be lacking authenticity by omitting the finer details of a messy aging process.  Within the constraints of self-imposed societal expectations, I am clearly missing opportunities to expose the authentic me.

Because impressions are perceived by the eye of the beholder, I recognize that I cannot impress everyone, just as I cannot always make a good first impression or a lasting impression. 

What I can do is slowly allow my petals of authenticity to curl open and welcome closer examination, as I embrace each new step forward, on the path of discovery.  I invite you closer, through my work today.

-Erika K Rothwell

Please read my simultaneous post, an expose’, “The Beautiful Eccentric.”

 

 

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The Beautiful Eccentric

The Beautiful Eccentric

How do you picture beautiful?  How do you describe eccentric?  I was drawn to her, but slightly bewildered.  There was an awkward dance between us, our words seeming to miss the receiver on both ends.  As I kept speaking, the words rolled out without much thought as my behind-the-scenes analysis was processing and slowing the intellectual output.  I believe she intimidated me in some unusual way.  She had a depth beyond a normal acquaintance.  I wanted more.

Her questions dug deep, unearthing my own questions.  How do you answer when you are so entranced by examining the question?  Opening up my pandora’s box of unknowing, I blabbered.

The writer in me was bewildered.  I wanted to show I knew something.  The more I write, the more I feel the enormous weight of unlimited potential.  Endless possibilities exist.  All I could do was express a lack of clarity with my response.

She exemplified a quiet and reserved wholeness from within.  Her carefully constructed questions gave me a glimpse of a life without self-judgment, an identification with her deepest and rawest self.

This human in a natural state struck me as beautiful.  If I described her in this way, most would hand me a pair of glasses.  Describing her as eccentric was a safe appraisal, or so I thought.

That word haunted me all night, as soon as I let it escape from my lips.  Could I have been misinterpreted, as I recalled the recipient of my description responding defensively and protectively?  Was it said in admiration or mystification?

Words often motivate those evocative feelings.  People don’t.  She did.

My eccentric nature was being exposed, by the magnetic pull of defining another.  I have discovered my own tendency to meander in “curiosities”.  Often when I speak after being provoked by deep questions, the glazed eye response I receive exposes disinterest along with a feigned smile that says, “I’ve lost you.”  Where my mind goes, not many follow.  There is a checklist to determine eccentricity.  What I do know is…I’m on the scale. 

I may or may not be comfortable with that discovery.  The questions that define eccentricity swirl in my head.  Do I see myself in someone who provides tantalizing mysteries to ruminate on?  How much do I care how I present to the world?  And am I content with just being me? 

When I present the non-eccentric semblance of the norm, I find my deep insecurity fueling my desire to impress. And this, I now believe, is when true beauty hides.

The gift of her example claws at my heart.  Labels incessantly follow us, attempting to define our deepest natures.  We are often judged from an outward appraisal.

Each person’s life follows a unique path, sometimes artistically rendered in an aged appearance, molded by the tides of time.  And beneath it all, the layers are pulsating with living history providing a sharper definition of distinctness.  True beauty is found close to the core of the humanness when it strikes your heart, something that cannot be measured by outward appearance alone.

In reality, we all exhibit some eccentricities; but what I have learned through this reflection is when I meet someone I feel compelled to label eccentric, from now on, I will just call them beautiful.   

-Erika K Rothwell

If you want to rate your own eccentricity, take this fun Quiz – A Different Drummer.

 

 

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Goodness to Greatness – Finding Resilience

Goodness to Greatness – Finding Resilience

An event arises in my life as a lesson in resilience.  Although it may seem like a small setback for some people, in my world, I saw it as tragic.  The words I so lovingly inscribed on the computer screen with hours of painstaking editorial creation disappeared in a flash, in an electrical surge that lasted less than ten seconds.

The devastation cannot be described in a grammatically correct format.  My poetic soul was reawakened with an intense raw pain.  My newly formed art form had disappeared before it could even be introduced to this world.   I searched for it for hours until I had nothing left but to helplessly admit it was gone forever.

Tears fell as torrents of hopeless waves shattered my calm satisfaction felt only after a good work is finished.  Circumstances beyond my control had obliterated my work.

What can I learn from this unfortunate disaster?  Best laid plans…No matter how hard you work, you will face futility in the face. 

And it is here in this hopeless moment I recognize, in order to help others, you must learn how to help yourself.  In order to learn how to help yourself, you must focus on helping others.  Circles, unending connections that take us back to the beginning of the cycle, in everything we do.

This depth of reasoning is pouring out from my exhalations of surrender.  My body shakes with sadness, and I feel foolishly revived.

The words keep replaying in my head, “attitudes of gratitude.”  How do you find gratitude in a moment of dissolution?  Why must we fall down to get up? 

We all follow the same pattern of growth as we are unwittingly thrust into this world, forced to take the next step of humanness.  And we start with one deep breath of oxygen, a chemical composition foreign to our tiny little lungs, yet so powerful that it sustains our life on this planet, for close to a century, among all the other humans that began their life the very same way.  Who can control that mighty power?

The same power reminds me sternly and daily that I am ultimately not the one in control.  Trusting myself as the guide and the only guide leads to a false sense of security.  The rug of uncontrolled circumstances can be ripped out from underneath me at any given moment.  So where is the encouragement?  I will turn the table for you.

Growth, change, and resiliency have much in common.  We physically grow and change often without our initial determination and yet great resiliency is required on our part at times.  Babies grow stronger and advance from crawling to walking, and we’ve all watched the tedious process of falling to get back up.  Teenagers mature and are faced with hormonal challenges that knock them back to toddlerhood to work through the adaptation to adulthood.  The silent growth often goes unobserved, yet a process we undergo throughout our lives, requiring the greatest resiliency.

Because we don’t often volunteer for the hard lessons, outside circumstances force their way into our lives requiring mandatory submission.  Our choice remains to choose resilience and change our attitude to gratitude.

The lesson of assigning too much importance to my own abilities, recognizing the wondrous source of my creative and curious mind, and surrendering to fateful circumstances rounds out my repertoire this past week.

The gifts of my soul are granted to me to share with you.  Messages originating from my heart connect the dots.  The message I lost was a good one, but I see now it clearly was missing the point.  I spent hours crafting a message on intuitive guidance, focused on self-driven ambitions, rather than maintaining a trustful reliance on the direction of a great and almighty force, who guides my steps and makes them sure.

May you also find your way through the powerful surges of unexpected events by relying on, whomever you believe to be, the force of greatness.

Lifting my eyes up from staring at the floor in defeat, has brought me to you today.

-Erika K Rothwell

“When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.”

Napoleon Hill

"Are we trying to force our way past the infinite velocity of fate?" - Erika K Rothwell
Photo Taken by Erika K Rothwell
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Practice Until Perfect? Or Perfectly Good?

Practice Until Perfect? Or Perfectly Good?

It all started with a horrible mess in the kitchen.  How could I have been so careless?  I watched helplessly as the egg yolk poured down the side of the refrigerator door that I had just cleaned a week ago, and onto the floor.  Has this ever happened to you?  My “hangry” state pushed me into a state of exasperation.

Fortunately, no one was home so my derogatory remarks were shared only with the dogs.

And all I could think after I vented was, these “perfectly good” eggs didn’t have a chance, they just went to waste.  And I reflected, how many things in my life are like that?

My words continue to be written, but many of them are never given the opportunity to be consumed.  They are perfectly good words, worthy of savoring, yet they go to waste because I choose not to share them.

Hesitancy is my middle name.  I often hesitate, waiting until the perfect time.  And yet that perfect time never comes.  Holding out for perfection only impedes my progress.

With that, I bring you an essay I wrote days ago.  Feeling like it’s not perfect feels like the perfect time to share it with you…

“Practice until perfect.”, a cliche you’ve all heard.  What’s not considered enough is the paralyzing effect these seemingly motivational words have on you as its successor, perfectionism, slowly and unnoticeably begins to rule your life.

Perfectionism often leads to our dissatisfaction and unnecessary self-devaluation.  Perfection, the highest bar you set for yourself hangs as an elusive carrot in the sky.  No sooner are you granted a victory, does someone bypass your achievement, leaving you holding an outdated medal for a record surpassed long ago.  Rising to the peak of success only brings you closer to the next peak.  And when you finally stand at the summit, you know you can still go higher.

Striving for perfection remains admirable.  Practicing with the realization that perfection may never be reached is most admirable.

My husband loves the movie, “Rudy”.  Do you know the story?  I feel like you might since I’ve personally heard the story many times from him, after watching it.  Rudy was gifted a small frame, with an inexhaustible, grandiose desire to be a star football player.  His plight as he faced continuous rejection and even ridicule set the stage.  His ability to rise above the adversity lands him a bench player seat at Notre Dame where he was eventually put in the last game of his senior year.  We all counted him victorious as he sacked the quarterback in the last few moments of the game.  Of course, Rudy’s story is a motivational example inspiring persistence even when odds are stacked against you. 

Ironically, I now see the story as modeling an additional example.  I will call it “practice although imperfect”.  Rudy could not change his stature.  He could not change his overall athletic ability to compete equally with those gifted with talent.  What Rudy could do was practice, practice more, practice until he could prove to himself and others that he had reached the pinnacle of his dream.  Did Rudy become a star football player?  No, he became an inspiration.  I would guess he went on practicing to reach other lofty goals with the same amount of perseverance.

Analyzing from another angle, those who become star athletes still continue to practice. Musicians also continue to practice their music after creating a composition or winning a Grammy.   Reasonably, you may conclude perfection summits are an illusion.   

From this perspective, I realize perfection cannot truly be reached by any of my efforts.  Practicing until perfect may keep me constantly growing and improving, towards mastery…never perfection.  As I reflect on the true definition of perfection, I recognize, in a large sense, nothing is ever complete since every great work of humankind can be improved upon.  So without the goal of perfection, where’s the motivation, you may ask as well?  

My new goal is as follows.  “Each day, as you wake, take a moment to consider how life on this beautiful planet entices you to grow and learn, giving you another day to practice whatever it is you’ve chosen to master.”  Our individual motivations may differ; however,  moving forward in our chosen ventures often requires discipline and tenacity of practice.  I have learned to replace the goal of perfection with the fuel of determination, a strength of purpose, and continued appreciation for the lessons along the way.  Therein lies the true accomplishment.

Each accomplishment builds a step to the next step.  Don’t keep striving for a mirage of perfection.  Celebrate your personal victories along the way.  Release yourself from the pressure of perfectionism and embrace momentary contentment when your work is perfectly good.

-Erika K Rothwell

 

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Mother Bird’s Babies

Mother Bird’s Babies

FANTASY:  Wanting to achieve all the things.

AMBITION:  Pursuing a number of goals simultaneously.

REALITY:  Achieving one thing.

This list doesn’t always apply to my life.  Last week, it did.  It was a week of preparation to send another little bird out of the nest.  And this one literally wants to fly.

As we moved our oldest son into college and simultaneously watched him take his Oath of Office as  an HSSP Air Force cadet, my maternal self wanted to yell “No, not yet!”  He’s ready, but apparently, I’m not.   Running blind through the torrential wind-wrapped rain on the college campus to make it to the official event on time, I could think only metaphorically…”I don’t have to cry because the heavens are drowning me in mommy tears”.  For the public eye, it was fortunate my cerebral control kept things in check, even though all my heart saw was this…

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I am so very proud of my son’s achievements thus far and am quite confident he is going spread his wings and soar, his childhood dream only beginning to unfold.  And as it goes with his running, I’ll be lagging some distance behind navigating the ever-changing terrain of motherhood.

I’ve been here before.  Memories of his older sisters’ journeys out of home base engulf me, as I recall pushing one out of the nest hesitantly and reluctantly letting the other one fly out with a powerful trajectory.  While managing to help them on their way, my joy competed with my sadness.  This dichotomous transition is clearly never easy.

I achieved one thing last week, one monumental thing. 

As the fantasy was replaced by reality, my unfinished writing is waiting patiently for my return.  My goals remain in a holding pattern, dependent on my undivided focus accessible only after releasing the weight of this sentimental recollection.

-Erika K Rothwell

In order to catch up on the business of writing, this post is short but I wanted to share a silly little poem I wrote years ago when I sent my firstborn daughter off to college since these emotions are raw, yet again. 

“Mother Bird, why do you cry?”

“I had to push my baby bird out of the nest today,

I don’t know why!”

“Mother Bird, of course, you know why

Your baby is gone

but

don’t  despair

She will come back to you

someday

and will not deny

 she learned to fly

because

her mother cared enough

to show her

the sky!”

– Erika K Rothwell

 

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