Keeping Your Heart Open

by Mariya Dondonyan
Guest Author

After the world gives us plenty of reasons to close our hearts and completely shut out from the world, it's difficult to find reasons and feelings of trust to open our hearts again. This broken heart reaches not only levels of a lost relationship, but from a lost friendship, family member, co-worker, boss, classmate--all human interactions and relationships. Being heartbroken is not only from a loving partnership, but from all means of meaningful interactions with others. Whether you have just been dumped, got into a deal breaking argument with your roommate, lost a living family member, are being mocked by a colleague or have been scorned by your boss, it is difficult to stay emotionally centered during all of the hurt. 

It is a difficult time in life when somebody does or says something that temps us to close our hearts because their hearts were closed. Yes, I will admit it is hard--but it is also how we grow. We go through these circumstances in order to evolve into people who can subsist with the circumstances and prosper through with an open and happy heart. It's easy to shut down and keep to yourself. After being hurt so many times, you begin to lose hope in all that is good in people. Magnanimous and gracious individuals are hard to come by, and the world seems to continue to challenge our principles by introducing us to arduous people who may or may not be trusted. You will never know if one could be relied on until after you have been hurt. Is there a solution? Why continue to keep your heart open when you know that more often than not, it will be disappointed? 

After a certain amount of time unfortunate events occur to you, you shut others out completely and don't let anyone in. You truly believe that no one else has your best interest in mind and the happiest you will be is with yourself. I have learned to love my own company. After all, if you don't enjoy you're own company, no one else will. And through enjoying my own company, I have come to prefer it. This is great because I am preventing any hurt from entering my life. I am sheltered and protected. No one knows my secrets, no one can use any information against me, no one can hurt me. I'm protecting myself from those whose intentions are not to do good, but then I am also protecting myself from those who could truly love and care for me and want to be part of my life. Blocking others out and preventing them to enter your life can be a negative result from building very high walls. If you don't keep your heart open, you will never have the opportunity to know whether a person you meet is meant to help you or teach you a life lesson. 

The choice is ultimately up to you: either you stay closed off and not leave any room for hurt, disappointment, and unnecessary suffering, yet ruin the possibility of strong relationships, or be an open book and give everyone the starting chance...the benefit of the doubt and test the waters until they have proven themselves or have given you a reason to leave. 

Mariya Dondonyan is The Gracious Lady. Check out her Gracious Thoughts on growing and thriving as an individual and being the best version of you.


*This note was previously published at and republished with permission.

The Past is a Neutral Story. You Define Its Meaning.

Maybe I watch too much Doctor Who.  The British show starring a space and time traveling alien has a consistent saying that "time can be rewritten." (It's true most of the time on the show.)

As 2013 draws to a close, people (including myself) engage in self-reflection and think of plans and goals for the upcoming year.  Not only do I usually reflect on the past year, but my whole life so far.

Like all humans, I make mistakes.  Sometimes I have a nasty habit of dwelling on them.  Every day I make significant efforts to reconcile my past so I can brighten my future.

I've been told that the past is made up of neutral events; we give them meaning.  I've also been told that the past is just a story; we can choose to tell it in a way that empowers us or not.  If we view our own history as a negative disaster, it is.  If we see it as a learning lesson, then that's what it is.

We can be like the Doctor: we can rewrite our own history to empower us for a hopeful future.


Everything is Alright

During the difficult stages of my life, I've been very fortunate to have been surrounded by supportive people.  In every tribulation, various people have told me that it'll be okay.  Although at those times, I (respectfully) completely disagreed, they turned out to be right: everything turned out alright.

I wonder if they knew it or were just being encouraging; maybe both.  I'm thankful for them being there.  I probably wouldn't be who I am right now without them.

The problems of my past are better now.  Some are long solved and others I learned to manage.  People were right back then.  Things turned out to be alright.

If everything will always be alright, and the future always turns into the present, then that means everything is already alright. We just need to see it that way.

Now I can faithfully say that everything is alright.  I trust that my present issues will be fine in the future. I take comfort in knowing that everything is where it needs to be now in order to be fine in the future.  Healing and progress is a process.

Time makes everything alright.


The Invitation (a poem)

Come over and sit.
There's a chair 
reserved for you
at the table.

Relax and eat.
Drink a glass 
of orange juice,
      or tea.

Let's share a meal
and tell stories
of what once was
and discuss
what might possibly be.



Right now I'm feeling a whole lot of pure joy. When I was a little kid, I wanted a of of stuff for Christmas. I wanted lots of toys (clothes were always so boring). I'd be blessed with a lot of family and friends that spoiled me with video games, puzzles, and pretty much anything a kid could want.

Now that I'm older, I want less "things." It's weird. I don't need physical things to make me happy. Maybe since I'm older and more established I need less things. Maybe I'm just more mature now: maybe. 

Even though that materialism and consumerism hits me once in a while, I can say that I'm perfectly happy. I have everything I need. I also have (almost) everything I want: a wonderful loving family, a career that I'm good at and absolutely love, and a beautiful home. (A great big 5 bedroom house with a huge backyard wouldn't hurt though.)

Today I got to spend time with my loved ones for Christmas. I have a big extended family and it seeing the one thing I look forward to most during the holidays. People came from all over California. It was great family reunion. It all filled my heart with so much joy. 

Santa doesn't need to bring me anything. 


How Do You Think People Choose to Be Remembered? You Might Be Surprised.

Saturday I went to the funeral of my mother's aunt. For my whole life, I've known her simply as "Grandma Pat." I haven't seen her in years, and it breaks my heart a little knowing that I didn't see her recently before her passing.

During the memorial, I was reminded of how joyful she was. Every time I saw her, she was always really happy. I'm glad that she was like that even when I didn't see her. One thing that was said over and over was that she was one of those lucky people to have both quantity (she lived to be 96) and quality of life. That is quite exemplary. 

Walking to the burial site, I couldn't help but look at all the tombstones that I passed by. Each one represented a human life that existed in this world. It made me think of the question, "What do you want it to say on your tombstone?" It's a questioned aimed at inciting self-reflection and motivation. 

All of the gravestones had names. Most of them said, "Beloved Mother/Father/Grandmother/Grandfather/Brother/Sister."  That is how they chose to be remembered or how their loved ones choose to remember them. Grandma Pat and Grandpa Paul's (He passed 8 years ago and they adorably share a gravestone) says, "Beloved Parents and Grandparents." Looking at the other gravestones, a couple of them contained their military rank.  I found one or two of them with a bible verse on them.  None of them said, "Here lies a person who earned a lot of money" or "This guy was really good at handling paperwork." This made me think about what really was important in life. 

If my gravestone said I was an amazing husband, father, (and possibly grandfather), then I'd be happy. Being a family man would be my life's ultimate accomplishment. I may be known for being an outstanding educator or the founder of Nourishment Notes, but ultimately it's the people in my life that matter most.


We All Have a Vision for the Future. This is How It's a Life-Long Work in Progress.

The future belongs to those who believe in it. I like to believe that this includes everyone, especially me.  I've always been a dreamer. I can't help but be one.  As a child I've often imagined a world full of possibilities and wonder, and even though sometimes life shows me small pieces of evidence proving otherwise, I still hold on to that belief. 

My daily goal is to take my vision of the life I deeply want and take action towards making it happen.  Sometimes I need to adjust my vision based on what is currently happening without lowering expectations on myself.  Almost every day I need to remind myself not to forget about my vision.  It's easy to get distracted by everyday life.  

For most of my life I've envisioned having a wonderful family, having a nice house to call home, a career I'm proud of, and being authentically happy.  For the most part, I do have all that, just not to the extent I deeply envision.  I'm still working on making today's ceiling tomorrow's ground floor.


Power in the Present (a poem)

It is often spoken in circles
that the past can't be repeated. 
To attempt is to find
oneself disappointed and defeated. 

I would love to spend infinity
immortal in a precious memory,

but it doesn't work that way. 

I'm endlessly stuck in the present,
the only place I can ever be. 


the present 
is the only time 
can ever be done. 


8 Great Inspirational Quotes for the Week


This is What Goes Through My Mind Every Time I Eat

Every time I eat anything, it's a humbling experience. Eating is the act of receiving something that will physically provide me with the nutrients required to live.

At restaurants, I'm thankful that someone put the time and effort to make a delicious dish for me. Even though I'm paying for it, I still know that the chefs, cooks, and servers are putting work into giving me a good experience at their establishment. When I'm singing with my family and friends, I'm thankful that we just get to enjoy the benefits of their effort without worrying about cooking or the cleanup. 

There is also nothing like it when other people make food for me, whether it be at their home or a potluck.  Sometimes they make their specialty and want me to experience the benefits of their cooking skills. Other times they make an ethnic dish and share their culture. Usually people also make dishes that are important to them. Sometimes there is a significant memory or family tradition behind it. Whichever way it's made, it's made from the heart. 

When I make food at home, I reflect on how fortunate I am. Looking at the food as I cook or clean it, I think about how blessed I am to have food. I'm grateful that I have enough food for myself and my family knowing that world hunger still exists. I think about the chemicals in processes fast food and appreciate that I actually do have healthy food in the fridge. While preparing breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I constantly think about how happy I am to be able to serve this to my family. 

With all my food, it came from the hard work of others. Someone had to grow it , pick it, maybe cook it and prepare it. With every bite, I am getting the luxury that many people aren't afforded. With that in mind, I'm thankful.


People Don't Normally See This In Fullerton. You Might Be Amazed.

One of my English professors in college told me that he believed one of the biggest issues he saw in society was that people were more separated from nature than ever before.  Living in the city is being surrounded in a concrete environment.  Watching television and focusing on computer/tablet/smartphone screens takes people's attention from focusing on the beauty that surrounds them.  Luckily, the Fullerton Arboretum helps remedy that.  

Located on the Cal State Fullerton Campus, it's a FREE destination.  It's a great place to take a walk, look at plant life and relax.  As I walked through today, I saw a couple couples taking engagement pictures, people taking naps by the stream, and families taking walks.  I was so mentally sucked in to the scenery that I didn't notice until later on that I wasn't thinking about all the daily stresses I usually do.  

Here are some pictures of today's walk, but they pale in comparison to the actual personal experience of being there.  (Click to enlarge photos.)

For more information on the Fullerton Arboretum, check out 


Train Trip (a journey in photos)

For many people in California, traveling by train is not a common experience. Commuting by car, bus, and walking are usually the methods people make to get from Point A to Point B. Thursday was the first time in a very long time (about 17years) that I actually took a train trip.

Overall, I must say that the experience was pretty awesome. It was nice not having to drive. I was actually amazed to see the cities I was used to seeing by car from a different point of view.

Below are photos from the Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink Station all the way to Union Station in Los Angeles. (Click to enlarge photos.)