an inventory; re-labeling my life

Noah and Luke

None of our cats have loved getting attention from Luke, but Noah has always been really afraid of him. Yesterday was different. I looked over and saw Luke licking Noah’s head, and my first reaction was to shoo him away, but as I waited a second, I realized that Noah was enjoying it. Something changed, something became easier between them and I was about to stop it because it didn’t fit the pattern that I was used to, even though that pattern wasn’t that great.

Negatively labeling people is such a bad habit. It tends to restrict their future behaviour, at least in my eyes,  to only what they have done in the past. It is like taking an expansive, multidimensional being and stuffing them into a little, neat box so I can make sense of their behaviour (even when I don’t like it!). They also tend to start showing me only that face, only the traits that fit the label, because that is what I expect.

It’s not the same with positive labels. Somehow even the words, “She is a lovely person”, she is kind, he is generous, he is open-minded…” feel different. I want to give to the world my best, and to call forth the best from others. Maybe this would be a good weekend to do an inventory; to look at all of the labels that I have stuck on people (me included), places, situations and animals, dust them off, and re-label them with words that hold high, positive and expansive energy.

Once you label me you negate me“. Soren Kierkegaard

34 thoughts on “an inventory; re-labeling my life”

  1. Couldn’t have said it better Mary, your words are so uplifting and positive ~ what a fabulous message to put into action today.
    Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

  2. …and love this photo of Luke and Noah…so happy that they have discovered what we humans sometimes find so hard to do, to live in peace and harmony. Give all your pets a big hug from me.

  3. Oh! This is such a relevant and timely message for me! We are having very nice new neighbors for dinner tonight. I wanted to invite another neighbor to join us but I knew they were not comfortable with the new neighbor’s lifestyle. So I did not invite them. I should have invited them and let THEM make the decision as to whether or not to come. Somehow I made their potential discomfort, my discomfort. And I did not want anyone to have an uncomfortable or awkward evening. And, perhaps in this incidence, I am only seeing what I had unconsciously labeled them. So I was labeling both the situation and the person. I will definitely take an inventory this weekend…and begin to ‘call forth the best from others’ and from myself. Who knows, perhaps some perceptions could have been changed for the better. Thank you Mary.

    1. Yes, Kathye. I am guilty of this often! I believe I know best who would make other people comfortable or not, therefore depriving everyone of a possibly enriching experience. Maybe I’m nervous that I’ll be the uncomfortable one. So, I’ll make it a point to remedy that when I plan my next get together.
      Thank you!
      From Fran

  4. You waited a second, you didn’t force time, so time was on your side! Actually on Noah and Luke’s side too! How lovely on many levels.
    Re-labeling life situations with words that hold high positive and expansive energy is a perfect project for making 2012 productive and satisfying.

    I love Noah’s mittens and I bet Luke is delighted to have a new buddy to perhaps eventually cuddle with. Thank you Mary for creating the environment for this to happen. Win-win situation for all!

    Have a happy weekend,
    From Fran

  5. Last weekend we made a pact to catch ourselves if negativity threatened to rule our thoughts. Well maybe this weekend we can focus on banishing labels. Kierkegaard’s quote is so powerful – and so true. We really do negate the uniqueness of another once a label is bestowed. Like the glass half full, let’s look for the incredible potential in everyone to live up to their fullest, brightest light. Luke is an Ambassador of Love shining the way, and Noah’s just made a new buddy! Sweet! Happy Weekend All!

  6. i’m on! i was having this conversation this morning as i walked; deciding what i was going to say to this individual. i was labeling him “meth monkey” because he chatters incessantly.

    inventory time. bingo. because of your timely words mary, i won’t be doing this. wow, that was close.

  7. A couple people flashed into my mind as I read your post today Mary, what a timely post. In this new year I want to take inventory of who I am labeling. I am learning thru you Mary that what we think can be expansive and open and inviting or closed and negative. Thank you once again for opening up new thought patterns in my mind, I am grateful every day. I love the picture of Luke and Noah, so sweet!

  8. A wonderful post, Mary and such a poignant photo of Luke and Noah. I am reminded every day by the animals in my life that they don’t do labels….I want to be just like them when I grow up. Thanks for a positive suggestion for this weekend (and beyond) of catching that labeling-making tape in our minds. I think sometimes that when I label a person or even a situation in a limiting or negative fashion, I am really labeling myself. Ahem. A good wake-up call.

    1. profound words Debra…and I so agree with you that the labeling says more about me than the one I am labeling (it always comes back to us doesn’t it!?)

  9. Another great post, Mary. I don’t know how you consistently turn out such meaningful subjects on a daily basis, but we love you for it!

    As an aside (this has nothing to do with today’s post but it’s a venue for me to our flock), my CT scan was stable and I don’t need a repeat for one year. Thank you all for your wishes and prayers, and thank you, Mary, for helping me grow into a whole different place in my life.


    1. Your news made my evening Suzanne! …the love is flowing back your way!

    2. Thank you for letting us all know the positive outcome of your test. We were all thinking of you. Nice to be part of such a caring group.

    3. Oh Suzanne! Wonderful news to read at day’s end! I too, love the sharing and support that grows and grows among us. Last week, Kelly’s Skeeter was held in loving arms and now, you Suzanne! We celebrate your good news!

  10. I adore this quote!!

    I think follows along those lines………………I guess I just changed her label:

    I had difficulty with a co-worker thinking that she was not very friendly and even vicious until I got a different view of her through the eyes of a patient. It put a whole new light on her personality. I decided to treat her with respect in conjunction with how she was able to instill confidence in this one patient trusting that there was another level to her that I hadn’t observed in the past.

    She has slowly and strongly been much more pleasant, or at least my perception of her is much more pleasant. Treating people with the respect they deserve in conjunction with their positive sides is a very powerful tool in creating a calmer world for ourselves. At least it has worked for me in this one instance. And I couldn’t be more pleased that I was able to turn a stressful situation into a more positive one.

    It has also helped me to remember to try to find the positive in others, or like you say re-labeling, in order to tap into that corner of them and to appreciate their goodness. My mother always used to tell me that there is good in almost everyone if you look hard enough. Glad to finally figure out what she was talking about.

    1. Thank you for sharing this Susan…it is so uplifting and encouraging to us all!

  11. Mary,
    What an uplifting way to go into our weekend. Thanks. And prayers to Suzanne – health starts with a healthy spirit – and that is what White Feather Farm is.

  12. Once again Mary you gave us your magic. My New Years resolution for this year is to not judge and label people. I have a friend who called recently and labeled a young man without meeting him and after she met him she told me he was the sweetest young man. What! So quick to judge and I’m not going to take part in it. You are always right on time.
    What a relief to hear your good news Suzanne.

  13. This such a great reminder and a good assignment for this weekend. Also, it is good to remember not to let the labels other people put on us govern who we are and what we believe. So glad to hear your good news, Suzanne.

  14. Hi Mary, This is the sweetest photo.We’re lucky you were able to catch this!
    How often I project my feelings onto others. I’m guilty. I have to catch myself and say,”Wait.Give this time. Don’t say or do anything until you think this through…” This is gradually becoming a natural, reflexive way for me.
    I think of M.J.’s “Man in the Mirror.” Such a truism.

  15. I’m so happy for your good news Suzanne! Mary, my puppy has been trying to make friends with our cat, Velcro, for months and last night, for the first time, Velcro actually came up to Stella on his own accord and licked her on the nose. It just takes time and patience. What you said about not stepping in to “help” is so true. I’m finally learning that I don’t need to fix everything for everyone. They can work it out for themselves and everyone will feel better for it.

  16. Mary, this is a very interesting post and I wonder how often you manage to go to the heart of the matter and the hearts and minds of those you share these observations with. Labeling is not something those in the mental health ‘business’ have been willing to do in recent years other than if the diagnosis is a firm one feeling I think that once labeled the person remains the label. Some years ago my husband was diagnosed, wrongly, with a medical label and having lived with someone with that diagnosis, I knew it to be wrong. Yet, this man was one of the tops in his psychiatric profession. It’s a tricky path to follow. But it was Kathe’s comments: ” I should have invited them and let THEM make the decision as to whether or not to come. Somehow I made their potential discomfort, my discomfort” which brought this into my everyday life. I have new neighbours and for the first time ever in my life I have had no contact with these neighbours since they moved in last Aug. We are in the country so our ten acres and theirs, while abutting, our home is so far back on our acreage that we have almost no visual contact with them. It is weighing on my mind…who goes first…I’ve taken a gift to them, left it in their barn the day they moved in as there was a lot of confusion, noise, etc. next door that day and I did not want to interfere but there has been no response nor contact from them. I’ll be mindful of this message for I am beginning to feel as Kathe did and am trying not to prejudge these folks. It’s a first for me. The me being the me of my ego.
    Sandy P.

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