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Are You Participating in Your Own Life?

By Debbie Gisonni

If life were a pair of DKNY jeans, what would yours look like? Would they be worn and faded, thinning in spots, soft to the touch with the hem unraveling? Or would they be crisp and clean with perfect creases and the tags still on them? If my mother had her way, mine would be the latter. I was raised with what I call a life-saver mentality. No, not the candy but the kind of environment where couch cushions were covered in plastic and never touched by human flesh, where bathroom towels were only for show or company, where money was saved and only spent on necessities, where new clothes were never worn right after you bought them, where entire rooms in the house were not used, and where the only lit candles were on birthday cakes or in church.

Many women in my mother's generation saved and collected a lot of things they never used. Nothing too expensive maybe a series of decorative plates you see on late-night TV or a porcelain doll advertised in Reader's Digest, complete with the birth certificate.

When my aunt died, we found dozens of limited-edition plates depicting everything from Elvis movie scenes to Chinese children playing, all in their original boxes with protective coverings and sales receipts, tucked away in drawers and closets, never displayed, never used, never enjoyed. Why spend the money just to hide them? Too often we save things in life for the wrong reasons. Besides material goods, we save our emotions because we don't want to be hurt, our appearance because we don't want to look old, or our flaws because we don't want to be anything less than the perfect woman. All this saving prevents us from fully participating in the journey of life. We become bystanders watching our lives go by instead of participating in new experiences.

Today, make a point of lighting all the candles in your house and allowing them to burn instead of collecting dust. Although some prefer to stoke a log or two in the fireplace, I prefer to line up about a dozen candles in my fireplace all different sizes, colors, fragrances, and shapes and light them, while becoming mesmerized by the dancing flames that look as if they're playing a well-orchestrated piece of silent music. Just like the unique direction each life takes, and the variety of experiences that await us, no two candles melt the same way - some drip slowly like sap on a tree; some widen their walls like the mouth of a cave, exposing their shimmering light; and some collapse inward, engulfing their flame like molten lava. You'll never know how yours will burn unless you light it. A half-melted candle is like a wise middle-aged woman who has enjoyed and savored life - a goddess who is not afraid to continue to ignite the flame of life until there is nothing left but a tiny piece of metal that once held the cord to that life's existence.

Allow the flame of life to entrance you, burn you, titillate your senses, soften you. Participate in life and you'll have more fun than you ever imagined!

Debbie Gisonni, aka 'The Goddess of Happiness,' is an author ('The Goddess of Happiness: A Down-to-Earth Guide for Heavenly Balance' and 'Bliss and Vita's Will: Real Life Lessons about Life Death & Moving On'), speaker, happiness expert and columnist for iVillage.com.
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