A Balanced Diet for the Starving Soul

Of the few things I can say I like about myself, my curiosity is one. I have always loved to learn, and I am excited by new topics and tidbits from history to philosophy, math, and science.

When a new question occurs to me, I hold onto it and excitement fills my chest knowing what comes next, feverish searching through Google web and image results, skimming Wikipedia pages, adding books to my Goodreads TBR. I am excited to learn to grow to become more whole and free and aware. I love to stretch my mind and consider new facts and concepts, but I’m not good at making it happen every day, and I’m not good at recognizing the difference between knowing things and understanding things. I’m not good at keeping my curiosity alive.

I admit, this only occurred to me yesterday when I saw this comic by Austin Kleon—an inspiring author I admire greatly—came scrolling up my Instagram feed.


A post shared by Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) on


Yep, that’s me. I check the news first thing when I wake up too. I don’t think about what I want to know, what I need and should know, to grow as a person. I don’t think of all the wonders of the world and wonder at the way they work and how they came to be. I wake up, and I want to know what new drama has unfolded in the petty politics we humans have made for ourselves.

Not that I don’t think learning is important. I consider myself a smart person and I even think of myself as a curious one too, but Austin’s comic reminded me that learning, real learning, has not been a priority in my life. I am learning Spanish. I am learning new math. I have my flashcards on geography, state flags, and the anatomy of the eye all on my phone, but it’s not really learning, and it isn’t healthy.

And not that I don’t think current events, politics, and even pop culture are important. You have to know the world around you to navigate it, and you have to navigate it to live and find your happiness, but sometimes it all feels like a play put on the stage, and I’m following the story. It’s a good one, but I want to know what happens backstage and how the script materialized and how I might write my own one day.

The drive to know, to learn, and to discover can easily be tricked. Humans love novelty. We love to discover things and make things. We like to be smart. Social media, TV, tech companies, and advertisements all exploit your curiosity. They make you feel like you are learning and growing wiser while your soul dies of malnutrition.

My phone beeps pleasantly for breaking news and trending topics. It glows cool blue from the side of my bed, enticing me with promises to tell me all I need to know to make polite conversation and bond in mutual anger, outrage, and anxiety at work. I pick it up and scroll. I learn things. I know things. I am in the now in the know. My mind is happy, but not healthy.

Too much of anything is bad for you. A balanced and varied diet has always proven the healthiest.

All your knowledge should not come in the form of 140 character tweets, or sensational images on the news, or click-bait headlines on Facebook. You should know more than what happened yesterday, and you should look further than your own city, country, and conventional beliefs. Your day should be more than breaking news, and your mind should have more to live on than what bring in rating and advertising money. When you are starving can eat rocks and feel full, but you’re still dying.

Mindfulness is key. Become aware for where your information comes from and what kind of information you are consuming. Ask yourself how much time you devote to learning and if you are really learning anything at all. Your day should be more than breaking news, and your mind should have more to live on than what brings high ratings and cash from advertisers.

A starving person can eat rocks and feel better, but it won’t stop death from coming.

I want to study something. I want depth and context. I want to get frustrated by the work of understanding.  I want to stay curious and to feed my soul something good.

Just like the body feels hunger when it needs food, and thirst when it needs water, the mind feels curiosity when it is parched and starving. And like good eating habits, or remembering to drink the right amount of water every day, it takes mindfulness and willingness to forget, fail, and start again for long-term happiness and health. You have to bring learning into your life from something that happens passively and by accident to something you make time for because it’s critical to your well being.

I want to change my diet and learn to keep my soul alive.

I’m not sure yet what that means for me. I’m not sure yet how to do that with my schedule and limited resources, but maybe I can start by picking one or three things every morning that I want to know. I can ask a few questions about how the universe runs and how humans came to be who we are. I can start the day with burning curiosity over anything I choose from trivial to monumental and make time during the day to find answers, not just to know, but to understand.

“It is simply this: do not tire, never lose interest, never grow indifferent—lose your invaluable curiosity and you let yourself die. It’s as simple as that.”

― Tove Jansson, Fair Play


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Featured photo is by Lacie Slezak and available freely on Unsplash


Go and Heal Someone Else

“As soon as healing takes place, go out and heal somebody else.”

— Maya Angelou

Humans have a hard time accepting that other people might have an easier way in life than they did, even if the easier way in life is all they ever wished for when they were struggling. What I mean is, if we see some going through what we have but we see them being given the support, patience, and understanding we weren’t, we get angry, and we cry over what we didn’t have and what no one else should have either.

We’re just bitter. We feel we have been wronged and since those wrongs can’t be helped or undone the least we can have is that everybody is wronged in the same ways we were. It feels like some kind of justice or validation of what we went through if at least it is universal and enduring. There is relief in seeing others fight and struggle the same as you. I suppose it makes us feel superior for having survived while others fall behind. It gives us a little bit of power and control over the world and other people we’ve never had.

But it’s wrong, and we know it’s wrong.

What are we all fighting for if it isn’t so other people don’t have to go through what we did?

This week, listen to the ways you talk about what other people should have, what they deserve, and why you think they aren’t as strong or as smart as you if they had it a little easier. Listen to the ways you talk about change and what benefit you think there comes with keeping things the same?

I’ve heard people say we shouldn’t be fighting bullying in school, we shouldn’t have kids wear seat belts, we shouldn’t have therapy, we shouldn’t have later start times for schools, or awards for kids who do their best, why?

The only answer I get is because they didn’t have that when they were young, and they turned out fine so no one should. I always ask if they think they might have turned out better, happier, or more successful if they’d had more support, understanding, and a better sense that they were good enough, smart enough, and strong enough already to do anything they wanted in life. They always answer yes, and they have no answer for why they wouldn’t want that for everyone, even if they didn’t have it themselves.

For the most part, I’m aware of when thoughts like that creep into my head, but I still struggle with believing other people should be able to do everything I can with the same limited resources and assistance I had. I forget that I don’t have a corner on suffering and that I don’t get to decide what other people need or what they can handle. I can be just as hard on other people about their lack of progress as I am on myself for mine. I can forget to have a little understanding, patience, or empathy.

What healing I have done has taken a lot of work. Work that would have been so much easier if I’d had more support and understanding. I want to help others in all the ways I needed help when I was struggling rather than talking trash or thinking trash thoughts about how weak they are or about how much I did with so much less. I want to heal people, not hurt people. I want to teach what I have learned and make the world better for the next person who feels alone and lost. This week, try to do the same.

Of course it isn’t your job to heal anyone, just as it’s no else’s job to heal you either, but we are social creatures, and so much of our lives are wrapped up in other people’s lives, in society, and culture, and community, we all benefit when we build each other up and do our best to meet one another’s needs.

You can’t fix it all, I’m only asking you to do one thing you wish someone would have done for you when you were hurting. Try checking in on people, especially people you haven’t spoken to in a while, or people you think are strong and don’t need it. Try really meaning it when you ask how someone is doing. Encourage others to open up to you. Try opening up to other people and letting them know they are important to you and that they make you feel better. Try actively listening and not just waiting your turn to talk about yourself. Offer advice if it’s asked for. Offer a hug if they want it. Offer some words of validation always.

Heal yourself first. Get what you need, do what you need to, first, always first, but after you have made some progress and stored up some strength yourself, go out and help the rest of the world heal.


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Work From Where You Are

“In human life, if you feel that you have made a mistake, you don’t try to undo the past or the present, but you just accept where you are and work from there. Tremendous openness as to where you are is necessary.”

— Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Transcending Madness

For a long time now I have been trying to move beyond this blog and into writing that is more challenging and more rewarding too. I’ve had a few opportunities, but they’ve all fizzled out. Some of them I missed, some I messed up, some simply faded away, and now I’m beginning to feel discouraged. I’m unsure of where I want to go and wholly ignorant of how to get there even if I did.

All of this has snowballed, and these last few weeks I’ve gotten worse. I am distracted, lost, and honestly, afraid.

I’m watching other people more and more. Other writers who are moving on, finding jobs and a following and I’m trying to puzzle out how they got there. I’m trying to figure out the formula to progress and telling myself that it eludes me, but that is a lie. I know how to get there, but I just can’t move. I’d rather spin my wheels instead because it feels safe. You can’t fail if you never start, right? That’s another lie. I am failing every day that I do nothing, but I want to stop. I want to let go.

This week I watched my girlfriend start from nothing, a hobby, something to do for fun, and suddenly she was on a path forward. Things happened for her, and I am jealous, but instead of letting my jealousy further hold me back, I’m trying to learn something from watching her.

She started by making birthday cards for fun using watercolor paints and paper. Then she made some for our mothers on Mother’s day, then Father’s day, then one for my cousin’s daughter’s dance recital.  That cousin took the card to work to show off to co-workers, and soon my girlfriend got a text asking if she could make five congratulatory cards each for a new baby and a new home.

She worked all week to get those ten cards done not once stopping to worry about whether they would be liked or what would happen after. She focused on right now. She used what she had and simply started.

We’re not sure what will happen yet, but even when I bring up future possibilities, she hushes me. She isn’t on that step yet she tells me. She is simply having fun and seeing where it leads. She is simply doing the work without worry.

I want so badly to be like that. To just do it without caring what other people will think. I don’t want to freeze up because I am comparing myself to others or doubting my own talent. I want to just do what feels good, what is fun, what interests me and share it with others, the same as her. I’m not positive that this way will work for me, but I do know that what I have been doing isn’t getting me anywhere. What I’ve been doing has been holding me back.

What I’ve been doing is a lot more consuming than producing. What I have been doing is trying to find what it is that other people have that I don’t. What I have been doing is making a whole lot of plans and taking almost no action. What I have been doing is talking the talk and standing completely still. I have been failing by refusing to act. I have made a mistake by doing nothing because I thought I could only do something very little, and stupid, and uninteresting, and ugly…That was a lie too.

So, I have accepted where I am, and I have beat myself up enough for it. Now it’s time to start again, again. This isn’t the first time I have admitted to being frozen by self-hate and fear, but the difference is, I have seen first hand what just working and worrying about nothing more than this day and this task can do.

I am incredibly proud of my girlfriend and a bit jealous that she could do so easily what I am struggling with week after week, but again, I have to let that go and move forward on my own path.

If you have been like me, unsure not only of which road to take but which road you are worthy of walking, take some time to look around, admit your mistake, and take stock of your options. Then take a breath, forgive yourself, and take your eyes off the horizon. Stop looking at the people around you. Stop looking at where you wish you were. Stop looking at where you messed up and missed out. Just look down.

Look down until you can only see the next step you must take. Focus on what you want to do today, not next week, not five years from now. Focus on what you want to do right now because it feels good and right.

Remember why you started in the first place. You didn’t start because you thought you would be perfect or the best, or because you thought you would be popular, go viral, or get rich. You started because this is simply what you enjoy doing. So, just enjoy doing it.

Take it one step at a time and let your feet and your passion lead you where you want to go.


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If This Were Your Last Moment

“Stop, breathe, look around
and embrace the miracle of each day,
the miracle of life.”

— Jeffrey A. White

Sometimes I like to pretend that I was popped into existence just in this moment and in only a few seconds, I am going to pop back out. This moment and whatever setting I am in, whatever people are around, and whatever thoughts and feeling I have are all I am ever going to have.

I look around and wonder if this was the last moment I was ever going to have, would it be enough?

It may sound like a strange or even morbid practice but it forces me to be mindful and to take quick stock of my life and where I am at. Every time I have done this I have found that instead of being disappointed by wherever I am and whatever I am doing, I feel grateful and I can see so much more beauty around me than I otherwise would.

I realize what is important to me, and it is always surprising. It doesn’t matter as much how many adventures I have had because if I were to pop out of existence just now, none of it would matter to me anymore. What matters is who and what I am leaving behind and who and what I will spend my last moments seeing. I thank the universe I got to be alive at all and hope the people who will live after know I loved them with every part of my being.

Then I pop back into being regular old me, feeling my regular old feelings about my life. I still feel guilt, and shame, and regret, and jealousy only now it’s a little less.

It’s a useful practice and gives me a bit of perspective, but it would probably be exhausting to live every moment of your life that way. For all the woo-woo talk of the “enlightened,” I don’t think the average person can or should. What I think this practice does is teaches your brain that it is okay not to spend so much time “elsewhere.” On what you wish you had, or what you hope you have, or what you shouldn’t have done, or what others think. None of this is now, and none of it is helping you.

None of this will matter when your last moment comes.

What matters, what I think and what I hope will matter in the last moments is the beauty and miracle and love of it all, and all of that surrounds you every day, you only have to get outside of yourself and the bullshit. Sometimes you have to see a patch of grass, or a cloud crossing the sky as the miracles they are. Hear your breath, feel your heartbeat, listen to the voices around you and remember how rare it all is. This world, you, and whatever you are doing, are some of the rarest things in the universe.

Of course, life isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. This sink full of dirty dishes, this pile of work on my desk, and the complaints and critiques we hear in meetings and at home don’t feel much like miracles or wonders of the universe, but they are. You don’t have to love them, in fact, I encourage you to do what you can to change what you don’t like, but you still must acknowledge the beauty of every moment and the privilege you have to be there to experience it.

These unpleasant moments usually come and go either unnoticed or unwanted. I moan about my life too and wish it were something else until I force the realization that this is the only life I have and it is a very beautiful and special one, especially when you consider that there are so many who get no life at all.

There are vast stretches of the universe where no life exists. There are some who had life yesterday and don’t today, and there are many who aren’t alive today to see what you do but will be another day when you no longer are.

This week, just take a few moments from time to time, to look up from your screen and find some beauty and wonder around you. It is there, I promise, no matter how much you hate work, or your commute, or coming home to dirty houses, grouchy spouses, or demanding children or pets. I promise there is are wonder and beauty to be found, in this moment and throughout your life.

Take time to find the good, and work on making more of it, slowly, every day, every minute, when you can. Imagine what would matter, how would you feel, or what you would look to if this moment was all you had.

Maybe another day at the office isn’t the worst thing. Maybe a patch of grass is a miracle. Maybe the swirling dish water is beautiful. And maybe every human you know is the most important thing in the universe and you should feel grateful, special, honored, to be a witness to such marvelous and transient moments.

Attention must only be paid to what is around you, now.


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Perception is Everything

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting nothing more than to crawl back into bed and escaping the world.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s imagine that Mondays are the days when we get to start all over again. Let’s imagine all the bad things that happened last week don’t matter anymore and that we’ve been given a second chance to do it all again, and this time, we might even get it right.

From now on Monday’s are for making the changes we want to see in ourselves, and for thinking about the changes we want to see in the world. Monday’s are our new favorite days!

As for me, this Monday started out a little off. I forgot to set my alarm last night, but the Universe was smiling down on me and woke me up just in time to make it to get half-assed ready and get to work on time. I had braced myself for the rest of the day going the same way, but it turns out, my route is canceled, and I have hardly any other work scheduled. Today will be easy-peasy which is always a blessing on a Monday.

I hope yours will be just as easy.

“Reality is irrelevant; Perception is everything.”

— Terry Goodkind

I spend a lot of my time trying to get at the truth of everything. I want to know what the world is like outside of human meaning and influence. I want to see myself and all humans from the outside. I to find out what we are and where we are going, from the outside without having to use my tiny flawed human brain. I want to see what reality is.

But I can’t. I can never get outside of my mind, and humans can never see the universe from outside of our human perception. So maybe, looking for the true reality of things is a futile endeavour. Maybe I should be looking at the messy and varied perceptions of things.

Perception seems to be all we humans have, and I think we don’t spend nearly enough time considering it.

This week try looking for and understanding yours and others perception of things. Perception determines what is true and what isn’t, it determines what we think and feel about a person or an event, and it is all we are ever talking about.

We don’t live in a fact-based society. We don’t live in a cold and uncaring reality. We live in a world created and maintained by human thoughts, feelings, and emotions. The only way to get anywhere in this world is to learn to recognize and navigate that landscape.

I used to struggle with this fact. I always thought truth and reality would make all the difference; I thought telling people the facts and pointing out what is right, fair, and best would change people’s hearts and minds, and the outcome of everything. It doesn’t. People don’t care about facts; they care about how something makes them feel.

If you want to change the world, you have to feel the fact with feeling, or else humans can’t perceive them.

This week, consider yours and other perception in all things. Notice how many times the perception of events means more than the reality. Pay attention when you hear or feel yourself disregarding and dismissing facts in favor of a feeling.

Don’t change anything, just notice. Roll those feeling over in your mind, and try to get at the reasons why you do this. Try to find out why other people do it too. Learn to separate reality from your perception, if you can, and consider how you might feel if you weren’t you, a messy emotional human.

Perception is everything in humans; there is just no getting around that, but it might be useful to get outside of ourselves and look at things in a more detached way.

Let’s find out.


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Feed Your Hope

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting nothing more than to crawl back into bed and escaping the world.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s imagine that Mondays are the days when we get to start all over again. Let’s imagine all the bad things that happened last week don’t matter anymore and that we’ve been given a second chance to do it all again, and this time, we might even get it right.

From now on Monday’s are for making the changes we want to see in ourselves, and for thinking about the changes we want to see in the world. Monday’s are our new favorite days!

For me, this Monday is an easy one. I have the whole day off from work, tomorrow too! I’m up and working, though. I have a long writing to-do list and one by one I’m going to make it through a few posts, a few pages, and a few submission pieces. I’m going to do my best to avoid distraction, the couch, and junk food. Part of my thinks I won’t make it past lunch time before Netflix is up.

Wish me luck!

“But what we call our despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope”

— George Eliot, Middlemarch

Hope is a part of who we are. We are a species that looks toward the future and sees only optimistic results. We are a species of silver linings and hidden meanings. We are a species that knows in our hearts that everything will work out and always for the best. Hope sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, we think. We hope for success, for love, for peace. We hope for ourselves, our loved ones, and for the entire world and for all time.

Sometimes—more and more often it feels like—we lose hope. Over our lifetimes we get knocked down, we get disillusioned, we fail, and we are defeated, over and over again. We encounter grief, confusion, and frustration and find no answers or comfort. Things don’t work out in the end; there is no happily ever after, life is hard, and it hurts, and we lose hope. We give up, and when we look to the future we no longer see light and happiness, we see darkness and despair.

Worse, we think those trying to find a way out are foolish, and those who still have hope are blind. They will learn we say. Secretly we hope they learn; we hope they find grief, confusion, and frustration so that our feelings might be validated. We wish to spread despair.

There is a way out. There is hope. There is still hope for and in you too. Hope is a part of who we are, and we only need the slightest excuse to feel it. Hope serves a purpose, without it none of us, either on our own or as a species, could have done so much. Without it, we can’t enjoy this one—shockingly short—life we have.

But there is hope for the hopeless. If you have lost hope, there are a few things you can try to feed that tiny glimmer of hope left in you. There are things you can do to feed it and help it grow.

Think about the good things you’ve done. Your life hasn’t been all pain and defeat. Some of it has been, it has been for all of us to varying degrees, but you have survived it. You are strong. You have done more than that too. I bet if you thought about it, you could list a lot of things that you have done and can be proud of. Remember those things and remember that before you did them you didn’t know you could just like now you cannot know what you can do in the future.

Do something different. Sometimes we just get stuck doing the same things and seeing the same people and we forget there is a whole big world outside of what we do day in and day out. We lose hope because we feel trapped in a mental cage and the best way out of that cage is just to get out of it. You don’t have to do anything radical. Start by eating lunch somewhere new. Take a walk through a neighborhood you haven’t seen. Draw something you normally wouldn’t. Read a new book. Anything!

Talk to someone, lots of someones. Sometimes hopelessness is worsened by being around other hopeless people. Try talking to different people about what is going on with you and how you feel. Try to get a few perspectives that are different from your own. Also, try talking to someone you haven’t in a while. Someone you want to reconnect. They might be just what you need.

Do a small thing you can be proud of. Call your mom. Clean out the cluttered closet. Go for a jog. Write a few pages of that novel. Do something on your to-do list. Just one small thing. After you do that thing, take a moment to think about how awesome it feels to have done something you needed to do. Then, if you feel up to it, do another thing. Keep going even when you think you can’t. Each accomplishment, no matter how small, adds a little hope that you can do the next thing.

Do nothing. I know people who have lost hope because they feel they must always be accomplishing things. They have lost hope because they are in a trap of always going and doing. Responsibilities and expectations can turn into a cage for the mind too, and it’s important that we all have time that isn’t filled with to-do lists and tasks. Take a break and do nothing at all. It’ll help your mind and your blood pressure. It’ll remind you that there is more to you and the world than what you can give and do.

Cry. The world we live in can feel lonely, unfair, and frustrating. There are things we don’t like and don’t want to do, and changing your life isn’t always so easy. Sometimes we have to retreat, lick our wounds, and fight another day. Make sure you aren’t holding your feelings in. Make sure you are allowing yourself to acknowledge and release your despair. Crying is a refreshing activity. It can cleanse and rejuvenate you. Try it.

Hopelessness doesn’t have to be n inevitable part of our world. Hope isn’t just for the foolish; it can give light to all our lives. It keeps us moving forward and making the most of our lives. Don’t give up, don’t let yourself be trapped, don’t lose your hope.

You can do the things you want to, and you can be happy, you might just have to do it a little at a time.

And that’s okay.


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Look at How You Love and Have Been Loved

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know I know, Mondays aren’t supposed to be good days, but let’s imagine for a moment that they are. Let’s imagine that Mondays are the days when we get to start all over again. Let’s imagine all the bad things that happened last week don’t matter anymore and that we’ve been given a second chance to do it all again, and this time maybe even get it right.

Monday’s are for making the changes we want to see in ourselves and for thinking about the changes we want to see in the world. Monday’s are exciting!

For me, this Monday is flying by much too quickly. I am late for just about everything, I’m even late getting this post up! I thought about just giving up and trying again tomorrow but that didn’t feel right. I felt I should still give my all and try to do everything I set out to, including writing this post anyway.

Better late than never.

“..it’s awful not to be loved. It’s the worst thing in the world…It makes you mean, and violent, and cruel.”

― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

This week I am finishing up John Stienbeck’s East of Eden and I just know this is going to be a book I am going to be thinking about for a very long time. There are a lot of lessons in it about love. About everyone’s need for love and what can happen to us when we grow up without that love.

What particularly struck me was the time spent on people who on the surface did look like they needed love but on the inside both craved and gave an immense amount of love.

Sometimes those people, because they hadn’t gotten the love they needed, acted in ways that prevented others from loving them easily. They felt inadequate and unworthy. They felt inherently bad and incapable of attaining the beauty and perfection of othere they saw getting the love they so desperately needed.

In contrast, the one who were loved easily grew to take it for granted and could not look past other people’s perceived flaws and mistakes in order to give love in return.

I have been thinking about how these scenerios might have played out in my own life, or how I might have acted or felt similarly.

As a child I was deeply sensitive and craved love from the adults around me. Unfortunately the adults in my life had their own problems and lacked the emotional capacity to give the kind of love I needed. I went through many fazes trying to get that love. I tried to be perfect, that didn’t work. I tried being bad, that didn’t work. I tried not caring, and that didn’t work either. Eventually I had to leave behind the people who couldn’t love me to search for people who could.

I found that love, and later the people who couldn’t love me found me again and they had grown and matured enough to try again. I am lucky, some people never get that love. I wonder how I might have turned out if nothing had changed for me?

I wonder how many people around me, people I have written off or not taken an interest in because they are not easy to be cared about or wanted, are filled with a need for love they’ve never had and love they’ve never been able to give?

This week, look inside yourself and look back into your past, all the way to your childhood. Think about all the way you have grown and been shaped by the presence or absence of love. Think about who has loved you and who you wish had. Think about the love you have now and whether it excites or scares you. Think about the ways you accept love and the ways you give it too. Think about the kind of people who think deserve love, and the ones you think don’t, then ask yourself why?

This week take a little time to look around yourself. Look at the people who aren’t perfect who aren’t easy to know, the people who might’ve made mistakes or who might be hiding behind a facade to avoid pain. Try to see the beauty in them. Try to see them as a person, a whole human being like yourself with all the same needs and pains. Try to find love for them, in your own way. Even if it is only a secret love.

It’ll keep you from becoming too cold and cruel.

As always, try to be the change you want to see. Examine yourself and those around you and adjust accordingly.


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Featured image via Unsplash