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.

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

“Three Day” Quote Challenge

 

Quote.png

Normally, I don’t do these challenges…and I’m a little late in responding, my apologies. But the blogger who nominated me has touched me lately, so I want to honor her with what is, for me, a full-throated response.

She has a fun, honest, straightforward approach, so if you like that style, check out her blog at Stealing Quiet Time in Noisy Disorder.

Of course the problem for me is leaving it at the quote. I want to expound…I think a future post is germinating…

That First Magic Step

I could use a little disruption in my life to change my focus, if only for a moment. Enough of a spark to take my mind off of that which usually occupies my thinking.

It might open me up to a refreshing change in my life.

It’s scary, and exciting, to think we could work to make our dreams come true. Scary, because we might fail. Exciting, because we might succeed. I know by now it takes more than a simple wish on a shooting star or a genie’s lamp.  It takes action. I want to turn things around for myself, but first, I think, I have to change my thinking. If I don’t I’ll end up in the same situation I’m in now. The details may be different, but the resulting satisfaction, or lack thereof, will be the same.

The question, of course, is what part of my thinking needs to change? There is a large part of me that has grown in a positive way in recent years, yet I’m stuck in a place, physically and mentally, I don’t want to be.

There is a seed of thought of exactly where I do want to be, and I have to be willing to dream it’s possible. Then, I have to take the steps to make it happen. One at a time. If I think too far ahead, I’ll freeze up and it will never happen.

I’ll worry about roadblocks and setbacks, heartbreak and disappointment. Already I can hear this little voice in my head saying, “you’ve done this before, where did it get you?”

I think even the middle ground could be a pretty fantastic place to land.

It got me pretty far, actually. Just sometimes I fail to remember what I now take for granted.

If life has taught me anything, it’s that reality is usually a middle ground, not as terrible as we fear or as incredible as we hope, but in this case I think even the middle ground for me could be a pretty fantastic place to land.

As I write this my body is aching, I’m worried how I’m going to pay my bills this month and I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in more than a week. Reality can sap the joy out of dreams if you let it, but today I’m not going to let it.

I’m going to wish on a shooting star, then take the first step to make my dreams come true.


Image Credit: (Magic Lamp) © Flynt – Bigstock

Facing the Fire

One of my best friends’ heart is breaking this week.

Her younger brother is dying of cancer; he may be gone by the time you read this. He was diagnosed several years ago and immediately went in for surgery. After the surgery, he developed an infection, which prevented him from getting chemotherapy in a timely manner. Despite that, once he did receive that treatment it initially seemed to be successful, however, eventually the cancer spread, and he will lose his battle.

He is a man of faith,

and while this is not a blog about spiritual things, it’s important to know I share his faith and look forward to an eternity of fullness with God. I speak of it here only because for a long time I wondered if I really believed in an afterlife. Faith is a funny thing. You speak the words, but do you believe them? When I learned how close this young man was to death, my immediate thought was, soon he will be with his Savior. My faith, thankfully, is real.

Stormy skies IIIMy friend, Laurie, has faced so much in recent years. I don’t know how she bears it, but she does it with grace and humor. And probably the occasional meltdown. About seven or eight years ago her husband Dave, whose mental state had been failing steadily throughout their marriage, was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. He was on the verge of death when he had his surgery. Fortunately, he’s had an incredible recovery from that trauma — and it is a trauma, don’t let the word benign fool you — but his troubles weren’t over.

Sometimes the hits keep coming.

About the time Laurie’s brother was declared cancer-free, before it came back with a vengeance, and maybe four years after her husband’s brain surgery, Dave was diagnosed with the exact same kind of cancer her brother had. She was in shock. Thankfully, mercifully, his treatment went beautifully, and he was cancer-free at the end of the chemo treatments.

Except — wait — a brand-new tumor developed three months later. So they started all over again. By this time they knew her brother was in dire straits, and while Dave’s situation still looked a whole lot better, it was cancer. Cancer is a bitch.

Oh, I forgot to mention. During this entire time Laurie’s mom’s health was steadily failing. She died last December.

Dave is cancer-free now and we’re believing the best.

It can be a lonely journey sometimes.

Those of you who’ve been through this sort of thing know the myriad of challenges that come along with trials like these. Laurie has had to take time off of work and that has put a strain on her relationship with her employer. Their finances have taken a hit.

The golden moments have come from their children. Their incredible daughter will be a junior in college next year and their adorable son graduates from high school shortly. Thank God for healthy, happy children, although Laurie is aware there are probably issues from the time Dave’s mental state was deteriorating.

lightstock_209357_medium_user_7579580 [Converted]There are people in our lives who face a far greater share of life’s challenges than others well before they should. Laurie had more than a few burdens to bear before this as well, but her faith, her family, her friends have carried her through the hard times.

I went through a hell myself of an entirely different sort several years ago and she was there for me. We need people who have faced the fire and survived to help keep us strong. How unfair that seems, so let me be strong for my friends in return.

I will face the fire with you.


Image Credits: (SuperWoman) © Pearl — Lightstock (Sailboat in Storm) © brickrena — BigStock (Stormy Skies) water © AG — Fotolia; skies © Andrii Salivon – Fotolia; clock © Jakub Krechowicz – Fotolia; dock © Filip Miletic — Fotolia

I Made Up My Mind … but Forgot What I Decided

Ah, life. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.

AdobeStock_100009763 [Converted] c geosapI finally figured out what I was going to do with the next ten years, and what do you know, a few other people had some input into those ideas…people whose input matters. So the figuring is starting all over again.

But these are people who love me, so not to worry, right?

Yes, I’ve figured out a few things. Life is going to get you, one way or the other. You’re going to have good times, bad times and a lot of everyday, ordinary times.

You’re going to learn and grow (or not). You’ll think you’ve made it, only to find the rug pulled out from underneath you. You’ll think all is lost, only to have it given back to you again.

Those you think are for you will betray you and those you think could not care less about you will save your life.

It’s not all that mixed up, to be sure, or unexpected. But I made up my mind.. and forgot what I decided. And realized, it’s all a process leading to a destination we can’t imagine.

So here I go again.


Image Credit: (Cat) © geosap — Fotolia

Different than I Expected

I’ve found life isn’t getting harder, or more challenging, or more difficult than I expect it to be. But it’s getting more difficult in ways different than I expect.

I seem to be able to divide my life today into several parts:

making the same mistakes with the same predictable results; facing the same problems but with new challenges; blazing new, hopefully more productive trails; and dealing with the unimagined, some of it wonderful, some of it sad.

Dad, me, Beth
My Dad, me and my sister

Then there’s always the predictable, of course. My parents are aging; both will turn 80 this year. On my dad’s side of the family, that’s nothing. On my mom’s, it’s a little more meaningful. While today they’re healthy, the reality is, it doesn’t matter what you might reasonably anticipate, they are at an age when death might be unexpected, but you can never truly say it’s shocking.

I don’t worry about them dying, but I’m acutely aware they will someday, and I’m not looking forward to it. From time to time I’m made aware of the possibility that something I never thought of could happen, and one of them would be gone, just like that. I can’t dwell on those thoughts. Awareness it could happen is enough.

My friend Sandy, looking at family history, had no reason to believe her mother would live past her early 70s.

Now her mama is 90, and in reasonably good health, but little by little, her memory is diminishing. Sandy didn’t anticipate facing all the problems of finding care for her mother, who’s become increasingly incapable of caring for herself.

Fortunately, she found a good assisted living residence, and that will greatly take the burden off her shoulders. Believe me, she’s happy to have these problems, thrilled to have her mother with her. When she gets a chance to put it in that perspective. So often, she’s so tired.

She’s also dealing with the declining health of her husband, who’s doing well at this point but could turn at any moment. Or, live for years. That man is stubborn. In the back of my mind (okay, I have said it out loud once or twice) is the thought maybe we should worry a little more about Sandy’s health. She’s almost 70, but you forget it to look at her. If she died, a lot of things would fall apart for her husband and mother. Quickly.

That’s the sort of twist life seems good at turning. We expect her mom to go, we’ve been preparing, mentally, at least, for her husband to leave us, but one day she could just be gone without warning.

Many years ago my then-boyfriend’s childhood friend Dan had a rare form of cancer and was given months to live.

Because of his prognosis, he was asked if he’d be willing to take part in an experimental drug treatment. He did, and it extended his life long enough for another experimental drug program to come along…and then another. Eventually, Dan was cancer-free.

Dan had been prepared to die. He was left instead struggling with how to live, and floundered while adjusting his thinking.

Some days the little things throw me for a loop.
Mimi looking out the window
Mimi looking out the window

Today I reached over to scratch my cat Mimi behind the ears, and she cowered, terror in her eyes. I had no idea what was wrong. I held out my hand so she could sniff it, but she would have none of it. She walked away and sat five feet from me, staring in apparent deep contemplation.

That was three or four hours ago. Just now I got up from my desk and walked over to her, and she was fine. I have no idea what was wrong before, and I likely never will know. It upsets me. It’s never happened before.

If my cat is terrified of something, that’s not a little thing. Certainly not to her, therefore not to me.

I didn’t expect my life to be the way it is today,

and sometimes I’m at a loss with how to deal with the sense of sadness that surrounds me when I think of what I did expect and did want from life. Those moments don’t last, however, or dominate my thinking.

I’m proud of the skills I’ve developed in dealing with the pain and sorrow I’ve felt over the years, in the unexpected as well as absolutely foreseeable events that have transpired.

So now I’m going to cuddle with my cat. If she’ll let me.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: (Winding Path) © PetarPaunchev — Fotolia

Fear, the Future and Moving Forward

When I was just under two years old, I feared nothing. Okay, not true. The only way I’d go down the slide was on my tummy, feet first, so apparently my fear of heights started early. But feeding ducks? Couldn’t get me to do that today (what if they bit me?) but as a toddler, if Grandpa told me it was okay, I was a trusting soul.

 

Admittedly, it took me a little bit to get into it, but once I did, I was all in.

Not too many people I trust that implicitly any more, I’m afraid. I’ve learned there’s value in counsel from many, and accepting the advice of one person in a life-changing situation, no matter how adamant they may be that they are right, is rarely the wise thing to do.

It takes me time to process things. Sometimes someone will make a suggestion and I’ll dismiss it out of hand. If they push it, I’ll push back, and get angry, defensive. I need time to think it through. Later I may come back and say, “hey, what about…?” and make the same suggestion they did only days before, frustrating the bejeebers out of them.

Other times I know I’m right, and I’ll push back, and that, too, will irritate my friends, who don’t see the difference. Not long ago I had a friend who, in all sincerity, thought I was taking a situation “too seriously” and not looking at things “the way they really are.”

I was living the situation; he wasn’t. I knew just how serious it was. He was frustrated because of my perceived attitude; I was equally perturbed by his stubborn refusal to accept my experience as valuable in evaluating the situation.

me graduation
Me at my college graduation — finally, at the age of 30

I struggle, daily, with important decisions. I seek advice from friends and family, and I look at past decisions, I write blog posts (some published, some not) about what I would or would not like to see happen.

There are aspects of my life I want changed now and things I want to change in the future. I lie awake at night thinking about what I need to do to protect my future, and worrying some things will never change if I don’t take baby steps.

Some days I take the baby steps, then I forget to do so again for months at a time, losing any momentum I may have gained.

Moving forward is an ever-challenging, often exasperating, sometimes exhausting, yet ultimately exhilarating practice. It can happen slowly, then suddenly speed up and leave you spinning.

I never want to stop moving forward, growing and achieving personal freedom as a result. For me, it requires re-evaluation every so often, and I’m doing that now.

And looking forward to the next chapter.

 

 

 

Let Me Tell You ‘Bout My Best Friends

Friends sNot long ago, a friend of mine told me he had a tremendous amount of respect for the way I’d handled a challenging situation a few years back. This was someone who, more than just about anybody in my circle, knew what I’d dealt with, and recognized the struggle I faced overcoming the pain and resulting obstacles.

He didn’t presume to know what I’d gone through, but listened and learned, and in that way was able to lend me the support I so desperately needed. It meant a lot to me. What was even more significant was his offer to help me move past my current situation and on to a life more suited to my needs.

When we go through a painful time, friends can either help or hinder us. Not everyone has the same gift of a heart that listens; some help in other ways, perhaps not as profound but ultimately part of what makes us whole again.

cat with mauseThere are the friends who believe in you because they know who you are, and the friends who believe in you because the facts add up in your favor. The friends who just met you and say, “I’m sorry,” when there’s a setback, and mean it, but don’t let you wallow in self-pity.

The friends who call others fools for rejecting you because of rumors.

I don’t believe “all things happen for a reason,” because there is no justification for some behavior, some deliberate actions that hurt people for no sound purpose. (In particular, you can’t tell me the horrors of war “happen for a reason,” but that isn’t really what I’m talking about here.) I do, however, believe the character of a person is found not in their success, but how they handle life’s hardships, whether it’s their fault or not.

A young woman I know, about to graduate from college, had her heart set on a high-profile, prestigious career, and she was well on her way to achieving that goal when she was diagnosed with a chronic disease that will prevent her from pursuing that path. I don’t know her that well, but I imagine she felt stunned, confused, angry, perhaps a little lost. No one’s at fault here; illness is part of life. A painful part, sometimes, physically and emotionally.

3 birds pyramid. Watercolor

While I feel for her, at the same time I believe in a way she’s lucky. I wouldn’t be foolish enough to say that to her now, and it may be years before she reaches that conclusion herself. I believe, however, she’s savvy enough that she will.

To face a setback like this when you’re this young, and to overcome it, which she most certainly will, brings phenomenal strength. It won’t be the last disappointment she encounters (I wouldn’t say that to her now either), although, perhaps being the first of its kind, it may be among the hardest.

I hope those closer to her than I am, those who know her better and know what she needs, are giving her the empathy and support to help direct her onto the right path. No doubt college counselors have seen this sort of thing before, the details different, the results the same, and they have practical advice. Her sister knows her better than anybody, and can put her arm around her and hold her. And so on.

Life’s a journey. Thank goodness for friends.

 

Image Credits: (All)© Wegener17 — Fotolia

the elusive perfect gift

I’ve completed my Christmas shopping. In fact, I was done before Thanksgiving.

giftsNow, before any of you say (sarcastically or otherwise), “Well, good for you!” or mutter under your breath, “I hate you” here’s the whole truth: I only had to buy Christmas gifts for one person.

That’s one of the few advantages of being truly broke, the burden of picking the perfect gift is lifted. Nobody expects gifts from you. In fact, they don’t want them. My family knows I struggle to pay my utility bills, especially this time of year, and they couldn’t really enjoy anything I spent money on. Their concern would go so far as the money spent to mail the gifts to them.

At the same time it makes me incredibly sad. These are the people who are doing everything they can to help me get back on my feet, financially, emotionally, whatever I may need. They’ve been there for me in what was truly my darkest hour, suffered silently imagining what I was going through, and believed in me no matter what the cost.

My relationship with my mom has been strong for years, but events of recent years have established and reinforced a healthier, closer bond with both my dad and my brother. While times have been terrible, results, at least some, have been overwhelmingly good.

I long for the day I’m able to pay them back, if only in the simplest of ways, a Christmas gift or two.

Of course I have no idea what I’d get them. My brother lives on one coast, my dad on the other, my mom in the Upper Midwest, me in the South. We couldn’t be more widely dispersed, that is, in this nation, and as such, we don’t really know what gifts would be most appreciated by the other. Not even what gift certificates would be preferred.

Not to say anyone fails in their gift-giving. We figure it out and do just fine. It’s just that those special gifts you know someone would value because you’ve spent time with them elude me.

So this year I’m looking for a way to say “thank you” and “I love you” that will cost me what I can afford and be valued by the recipients.

Knowing me, I’ll think of that perfect gift in January. Fortunately, my brother’s birthday is just a month later.

giving girl