the strength of character I seek

In my life, I seek to be like my late great-aunt Vi, who never stopped in her practice of her faith.

I have unending respect for Vi. She was a teacher who, in the 60s, taught her fourth-graders lessons about human rights and dignity, issues people were dying for daily in those years.

My great-aunt, Violet Panzram, 1910-1996
My great-aunt, Violet Panzram, 1910-1996

She did more than teach those children. She sent money to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as evidenced by a letter now in the archives of The King Center, dated April 20, 1967.

“You have been in our fourth grade Hall of Fame for many years,” she wrote to this great leader, “but never have I held you in such high esteem as since your strong statement against the war in Vietnam.”

She went on to refer to a slide show she’d seen of children affected by napalm. She was appalled.. In response, she sent a check to Dr. King “for (his) peace efforts,” and told him she prayed for him daily.

If she said she prayed for him daily, that’s what she did. There was never a truer Christian than Violet Panzram. Her faith led her to action and compassion, and a kindness that shown like a beacon.

In her 86 years no doubt she faced trials that tested her strength, character and faith, but I have no idea what they were. A few years ago, I found myself wishing I knew more about how she worked through her dark days as I faced my own.

I’d been betrayed by someone I trusted to a point where I’d lost my career, my home and my trusting nature.

I’d been betrayed by someone I trusted to a point where I’d lost my career, my home and my trusting nature. Thankfully, I didn’t lose my friends, nor did those who knew me best stop believing in me, and never did they believe the horrible lies that spread through our community.

I realize that because of mental health issues, I’m limited in some of the ways I can change in my behavior. There are times when the beast within me takes control, and I struggle to fight without fully realizing what’s happening.  I’ve sought changes in my life, but some won’t come until I learn other hidden truths & solutions, or until I die and shed the constraints I’m bound by in this life.

Me
Me

Yet thankfully there are changes no amount of depression, anxiety or the multitude of issues I deal with can halt. Some of those changes include the excellence of character my great-aunt demonstrated, so I pursue that through the choices I make every day.

Surely Vi had her good days and bad, perhaps not in the same manner I experience them, but with their own restrictive features.

I move forward, and trust I’ll be a better person tomorrow, and even better the day after. I’ll always have my faults and my failures that anger and frustrate those around me, but I pray the good in me will be what’s remembered when I’m gone.

Featured image credit: (candles) © 9comeback — fotolia.com; (background) © lpopba — Dreamstime.com; (background) © Leksustuss — Dreamstime.com.

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moving slowly

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
― Confucius

I’ve been moving slowly for a very long time. But, I’ve been moving.

The clock dawdles, or so it seems, when you’re waiting for change. If you’re watching and waiting, it may be times are hard and you’re looking for a better situation. Something that makes you happy to wake up in the morning.

At times the challenges may be so overwhelming you need time to recuperate. Recovering from an unfamiliar and frightening situation can be difficult, to say the least. We seek safety and comfort first, and change second.

That’s what happened to me a few years ago. I found myself overwhelmed by circumstances over which I truly had no control. I wasn’t sure who my friends were, and out of fear they’d all deserted me, I avoided everyone.

Eventually things began to right themselves.

A close friend reached out to me and told me the truth about what others were thinking. It was good. I found new friends, a new job, and for the first time in 15 years, I bought a new car.

I learned something through all of this. Before we can truly move forward, we need a level of security. Simply finding that solid strength within ourselves can be moving forward, despite how a lack of change in circumstances may appear to others.

There were those in my life frustrated by my slow recovery. Thankfully, others recognized how lost I was and how much healing I really needed.

If you’re struggling,

sunrise in savanna_

whatever your situation, allow time to restore your energies, and forgive yourself for not bouncing back like a child’s punching toy clown. Some things aren’t meant to be rushed. The smallest step is enough.

When times are hard, our hope is in anticipation of a promising future. It’s there, waiting for us. Life works that way. Can I guarantee that for everyone? No, that’s not within my power. But it’s what I’ve seen in the lives of those closest to me, especially friends I’ve known for decades.

Every move forward, now matter how slow, is taking you where you want to go. And really, we don’t always know how far we’re going to have to go anyway. The next step may surprise us with unexpected joy.


Image Credit:(top) hourglass © Alexey Klementiev; sky © Pakhnyushchyy; lights © mehmetcanturkei; background © averroe — All, stock.adobe.com. (Bottom) © GraphicStock.com

Dive in — The Water’s Fine

My world is changing, once again.

Actually there are lots of changes…the end of a truly difficult time is approaching, and there is hope for a future project. Someone I relied on is out of my life and isn’t coming back, but someone new has stepped in. I’ve been working full-time as a temp at a job that soon may be permanent. What’s more, it’s a job in my field — something I never thought I’d see again.

A few years ago things looked so bleak I couldn’t see my way out. Slowly the wind turned, and a fresh breeze began winding its way through my life.

I am grateful for the good in my life.

Still, I find myself sometimes focusing on my failures and shortcomings. I notice I still don’t have a sofa to replace the aging futon that sits in my living room. I struggle to pay my bills many months. There’s a difference in that struggle now, however. I do get the bills paid, I can buy groceries, and I can even buy the occasional treat for myself.

My makeup is running low and I’m not sure how I’ll afford to replace it, but I believe I’ll figure out a way. For so long I couldn’t afford it and went without. As someone who likes the way she looks better when there’s a little (just a little) war paint on, that was a challenge.

And I always have a ton of toilet paper. As God is my witness, I will never run out of toilet paper again. I think I said that once before.

I’m mindful of what my dad has told me: whether times are good or times are bad, we always think they’re never going to end. I’m enjoying the good times, but I know life, being what it is, will present me with challenges once again.

The good thing about surviving the storm is you feel prepared for the next one. Not that you want it, but it doesn’t scare you.

Jump. The water’s fine.


Photo Credit:  © raduga21 — stock.adobe.com

 

Better Choices, or, Better to Have Choices

Today, I’m grateful for CHOICES.

One of my blogging buddies, Deb, has a daily grateful post. It’s encouraging to read all she is grateful for, and while I don’t plan to copy her idea on a daily basis, today I’m saying, loud and clear, I’m grateful for all the choices I have in my life.

I can choose when I wake up in the morning, and when I go to bed at night. Yes, work and other obligations influence those choices, but the final decision is up to me. If I decide to stay up late to finish a captivating book, no one is going to challenge me.

clothes-2041864_640After I wake up, I can choose what I eat for breakfast and what I’m going to wear that day. Okay, work has this bizarre dress code — I have to wear black, white or grey — but outside of work, I can wear what I want to (well, some choices might get me arrested, but those aren’t my choices, anyway). I get to decide whether or not I want to wash my hair or work with what I’ve got.

My car, my precious little Prius, was my choice. The color was not — but I’m happy with it.

When I knit, I can choose what pattern I want to wool-1295262_640make and what yarn I want to use. There are more patterns out there that I like than I’ll ever be able to complete, and I’m grateful for that, as well. In theory, I can’t knit something I won’t like (nice theory, not always a reality!). But the abundance of beautiful patterns and even more beautiful yarns is awe-inspiring. And just plain inspiring.

Look at the multitude of blogs on WordPress alone — we have our choices of themes, and our choice of what to do with those themes once we choose the one that suits us best. We can easily switch to another, and no one can stop us.

filler-150980_640We can write about what we choose, and a lot of what we write about involves choices we have.

Best of all, I can choose how I will respond to all of life’s situations. It makes me who am I today and shapes who I will be tomorrow.

Over time I’ve learned from my previous choices, everything from what makeup looks best on me to what will truly bring me happiness in life. I’m grateful for the lessons learned from those choices, and for a life I can make better with stronger decisions.

I’ve listed basic choices here, but we all have simple and challenging decisions to make on a regular basis. When you get bogged down with having to choose, think of what a blessing the opportunity to decide for yourself is in this world.

Life isn’t easy, but it gets better. So do my choices.

Images courtesy of Pixabay. Thank you, Pixabay, for all the choices you offer, at no charge!

Everything in its Time…

…but I hope that time is soon.

I’ve written about one of my best friends here in the past before. Laurie has been through a series of heartbreaks in the last few years, but it looks like things are turning around. Fingers crossed, knock wood, please God. Please.

Sand storm

Her husband has been through two major health setbacks, and I do mean major. He had a benign brain tumor that slowly had taken away his ability to function in life before it was diagnosed and removed, days, if not hours, before certain death. A few years after that, doctors discovered he had colon cancer. It took three years for him to be cancer-free.

Laurie’s brother, Monte, wasn’t so lucky. He, too, had been diagnosed with colon cancer, sometime between Dave’s brain surgery and cancer treatments. He developed an infection after the initial surgery, which postponed chemotherapy and allowed the cancer to ravage his body. He died last year, a few months short of his 50th birthday.

Her mom had died only seven months before Monte.  Laurie is heartbroken and emotionally drained. Her reserves are depleted. She finds joy in her children, who thankfully are healthy, happy and on the right track, both in college, both sharp as tacks. Yes, they no doubt carry scars from the years of their dad’s decline, not to mention the trauma that followed, but Laurie and Dave are good parents, there to support them.

A couple of weeks ago I got a message from Laurie telling me Dave was interviewing for several jobs, and the interviews were going well. One lasted 75 minutes, and he was called back for a second interview. He hasn’t worked in seven or eight years, and that’s hard on most men. He wants to work, wants to contribute to the family income, wants to be a vital part of the community in that particular way.

Vorsicht Rutschgefahr!

This job sounded perfect for him. I was so excited, and I believed he would get the job. Moments ago I found out he didn’t, which has crushed Laurie. I told her how sorry I was, that I had thought this was it, and at least we know he interviews well, a very important part of the job hunt.

I suspect that piece of good news isn’t important to them right now, but soon, I trust, he will take hope in it.

I always interviewed well, but I remember a period of time where I was getting this close to several jobs, and inevitably I’d get the call: “I was up all night trying to decide, and finally I chose the other candidate. I’m so sorry. If we have any other openings or she doesn’t work out, I’ll call you.”

The first time, the rejection only stung a little. The second time, I was discouraged but had other interviews in the works. The third time, I admit I wasn’t even able to be upbeat when my prospective employer called with the disappointing news. I couldn’t summon the strength to say, “I understand, and I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you about the job. I hope we meet again sometime,” or something equally trite yet professional. I did say thank you, of course, but I was feeling deflated and overwhelmed, and it showed.

At some point after that, a former employer called and offered me a job with his new business. Okay, the story doesn’t have a truly happy ending here. It was the dream job from hell. Shortly after I accepted the position, but before I recognized the reality, I got a call from one of the companies I’d interviewed with, asking if I was still available. Given the opportunity to go back in time, yeah, I would have taken that job. But hindsight and so on.

I believe Dave will get a job. I pray it’s something he’s happy with, at least content with, for the time he is there. Yes, I’d love it if he could find something he was passionate about, but right now I believe he’d take a job that was less than his dream position, as long as it was rewarding in some concrete way.

Timing is everything. Persistence is critical. Hope is a gift we must make use of every day.

Remind me of this post in the weeks to come. My own job hunt is underway.


Photo Credits: (Desert Trees) © Nico Smit — Fotolia; (Leaves) © Marion Neuhauß – Fotolia; (Sunrise) © Pellinni – Fotolia

Danger, There’s a Breakthrough Straight Ahead

I want change in my life. And I want it now.

Problem is, some of the changes I want don’t come that easily. I look at where I am today compared to where I was three years ago, and there are some remarkable differences. There are also, annoyingly, some things that have stayed the same, and I’m uncertain how to move forward with those.

I’ve written before I believe in the power of subtle changes, and I maintain that thought. Those are the changes that can lead to the opportunities for a flash of major turnover in your life, opportunities that don’t present themselves often, but when they do, it’s so important to be prepared.

Blue Sky

It’s also critical to be open to the pain involved sometimes with moving forward. I’m facing a moment like that right now, and I don’t know how to approach it. I don’t know how to measure the problem, and therefore how to address the solution. I’m asking for help, but I don’t know if I trust those who have offered to provide me with that assistance.

So I rely on prayer and wisdom from others. Asking myself what I would say to someone if they presented me with the same questions I’m asking of those who I believe can guide me.

And putting my confusion in writing, and leaving it behind.

 


Breakthrough


Photo Credit — © Bigstock.com


With thanks to Boz Scaggs for inspiring the title…and for a darn good song, too

The Winding Path That Has No End

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Seeking your goal has a predictable life cycle. You may or may not encounter all the stages described below, and you may face some more than once. It’s all a journey.

A stone walkway winding through a tranquil garden.You start out and the path looks kind of like the start of the Yellow Brick Road. So pretty, so tranquil. It’s exciting, you have butterflies, and yet you’re strangely relaxed. A little relieved. You anticipate success.

For awhile you experience some. Things are leveling off a little, though. It’s maybe not quite as thrilling as it was at first, but you’re still happy and determined to pursue your dream, because you believe it will open doors for you that are otherwise closed tightly shut.

Then, perhaps, you get discouraged. It’s not what you expected, your skills and talents aren’t as great as you thought or had been led to believe. You’re a diamond in the rough, not as polished as you need to be.

So you take stock, add a few intermediary goals, and move forward.

Young girl on the winding mountain trekking path at Pico do AreeBut what happens when it looks overwhelming? For years I literally had nightmares about a mountain path such as this one. Narrow, with a plummeting drop to the side. In this case, heavens, on either side. You pray, you cry, you say no way. Then you find a way to make it safe, and you walk the path.

In my nightmares, I’d wake up, afraid to go back to sleep. Instead I’d lie awake and imagine a grassy field extending to the side of that precarious path, a safe place to land. You may need to find that metaphorical field in your own pursuit. Don’t let your dreams become nightmares.

Sometimes there’s a divide in the path, with no clear indication which way will keep you on track to achieving your goal. Decisions are difficult. Get a good night’s sleep. Take the counsel of others.

crossroadsIt is good to set goals, but it is also necessary to re-evaluate those goals from time to time.

If you expect to write six novels in six years, with each one becoming a best seller and at least one winning the Pulitzer Prize, ask yourself what you’re doing to achieve that goal. Are you getting your master’s in fine arts/writing? That kind of high-level writing takes particular skill, and it helps considerably to have direction in refining it.

But if your hope is simply to finish your current novel and get it published, that is more reasonable for most people. From there you research what it takes to get it done, evaluate your own skill, the market for the genre you’ve chosen, if an agent is a good idea, that sort of thing.

And if you find you’re not getting it done, take some time out to figure out why. I believe in having short-term and long-term goals, plans you can easily see achieving and dreams that can only come true with faith and a miracle. Give yourself a break if you keep failing in reaching your goals, and perhaps change them. There may be a legitimate reason you’re not able to do what you set out to do, something you can’t see but is real all the same.

Path through a mysterious dark old forest in fogThe path is foggy sometimes. One step at time. The fog will clear.

Of course many goals require persistence. If you want it badly enough, it may be worth the falls and bruises, the perpetual failure until you break through to success. Many writers face that experience. Look for the wisdom of others, stepping outside the familiar circle of family and friends if necessary to find someone who can objectively look at what you want to achieve, advise you on its possibilities and what it takes to make it.

Dawn on the road in the forestFiguring out how to get it done, taking the path to get there, may be more valuable than reaching your goal. The lessons learned along the way will serve you in other areas of your life, in ways you can’t imagine because you don’t know what lies before you.

Life is a journey, a series of paths that lead to a destination that’s likely very different than what you anticipated when you started. Enjoy it, and share it with others.


Photo Credits: (garden path) © onepony — Bigstock; (mountain path) © rechitansoren — Bigstock; (divided path) © rasica — Fotolia; (foggy path) © denbelitsky — Bigstock; (sunrise path) © Givaga — Fotolia