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

the art of being my mother

Centered on the living room wall when I was growing up was a drawing that tore at me. It was of a woman, clearly weary, her head in one hand looking off to her left, a sleeping child draped over the other arm.

Not sure what was going  on here, but it was clearly important.
Not sure what was going on here, but it was clearly important.

While I now see the beauty in this art, as a child I believed my mother identified with it because of her own weariness with her lot in life, namely, me, and I felt a great deal of guilt over what I’d done to her.

We didn’t get along, my mother and me, until after my stepfather died when I was 28. By her own admission, her focus then changed from wife to mother.  It took us years to work through all the barriers. Issues remain today, but they aren’t the structure of our relationship.

I see her getting older and I’m constantly mindful of the fact she’s only a few years away from the age her parents were when they died. She’s on a fixed income and can barely afford her own needs month to month, yet she still jumps at the chance to give to me.

That’s what moms do, I guess, at least it’s what my mom does. I resisted it inside myself until I realized how important it was to her. I turn around and send her money when I can to help her in any small way.

A few years ago I went through terrible times, and it left its mark on me long after that. I was so deep in the pain of it myself I didn’t fully realize what my mom went through each day, wondering what I was undergoing and imagining the worst.

I need to keep to myself what is mine to know.

I hold back on telling her everything because it is too difficult to express. I don’t know that she should know all the details. I need to keep to myself what is mine to know.

Perhaps she did identify with the woman in that drawing, for reasons I’ll never really know. As one of the few pieces of art she’s kept through the years, it seemingly has meant something to her. Just as I don’t fully involve her in my experience, certainly she hasn’t fully involved me in hers.

I told her once, in a moment of reflection, what it had made me feel, and she simply said, “Really? I never knew.” Then smiled a little. “I always loved that picture.”

Dream a Little, Then Dream Bigger

Life is getting better.

Path through a mysterious dark old forest in fog

A few years ago the future seemed bleak, unpromising and frightening. I tried to believe things would get better, but I couldn’t imagine how that could happen. I just had to believe, though, had to keep my faith in God. He knew the way out.

There was a point, perhaps the lowest, when I was so broke I couldn’t afford toilet paper, and I’d used the last roll. Even if I’d had the money, I didn’t have enough gas in my car to get to the store to buy it. It was December, and it was snowing. I walked two miles to the food bank, where they gave me a roll of toilet paper, and a few other things.

One roll, that was all they could give me. Normally they would have had more, but it was a bad month for many people.

These days you can bet I’m always well-stocked in toilet paper. It’s a thing with me. I get below a back-up supply of four rolls and I panic. I even have a spare “hidden” for emergencies. Thankfully, I have the income to buy as much toilet paper as I need. Which may not sound like much to you, but as God is my witness... (GWTW fans will get that last line).
Beacon in the Storm-1
A year ago, I wrote this post about finding a new home I could afford and getting a part-time job to supplement my current income. Well, yesterday that first part happened. I’ll be moving in two months to a townhome that offers so much more than where I’m living now, for an affordable amount each month. It’s — dare I say it — perfect. I’m holding my breath, it doesn’t seem real.

What’s more, I got another housesitting gig that will cover the cost of moving. Did I mention my current least is up at the end of August? The timing, for me and my new landlord, is perfect. I have to believe God has something to do with all of this. And yes, credit to my friend Deb, who negotiated the townhome deal for me, on her own initiative. After seeing where I was living, she wanted me to find someplace safe.

Life is a journey, and some stops are better than others. I know if I’m blessed to live long enough I’ll face hard times again, but I also know I’ll have gained wisdom to get through them. Wisdom, faith and God. Thank you, God, for all three, and for friends & family who care.

Image Credits: (forest path) ©denbelitsky — Bigstock.com; (lighthouse) © Sharon B — Bigstock.com

Now Let Us All Limbo!

AdobeStock_111646585 [Converted]You  have your goals, you have your dreams, you are even taking steps to achieve them. Yet due to circumstances beyond your control, whatever they may be, you are currently in limbo. Someone or something else has power in your life right now, and you cannot move forward in the way you wish because of it.

What do you do when your dreams have to wait?

  • Keep the dreams alive in a concrete way. Maybe you save all your pennies, literally, toward a class you can take someday. (I get it, that’s all you can afford, and even that’s stretching it. I mean, you need new underwear, and you’re saving for a dream? Yes.)
  • Read a book, take an online class or webinar (there is so much out there!), find a website that specializes in what you’re seeking and keep up on the latest. A lot of what’s free has a bias or may be trying to sell you something, so keep your wits about you. But build your expertise by keeping up-to-date on the world you dream of, maintaining and growing skills, and learning about related subjects.
  • Find those who support your dreams and keep in regular touch with them. Whether it’s a college friend, a clergyman, or your grocery store clerk, maintain contact. That doesn’t mean you gripe about your present circumstances with them, rather, you dare to voice the dream is alive while you’re waiting for circumstances to change.
  • AdobeStock_110260540 [Converted]Look for other fulfilling options. Unless your dream is incredibly specific, there may be multiple ways to make it come true. If you have a particular talent, look at all the ways you could use it. You don’t have to seriously consider all opportunities, but don’t cut yourself short due to a limited focus.
  • Consider what your dream really is. I want to write, but what do I want to write? Not poetry, I determined that a long time ago. Probably not the Great American Novel. Do I want to use this skill to further a message? If so, what’s the message?
  • Build supplemental skills. Any person who wants to live on his or her creative talent had better have a bit of business sense, or be closely related to someone else who does. Generally creative people need someone more pragmatic by their side, but learn enough to know who can fill that role adequately.
  • Cry a little. Some days, it’s okay to wallow. Just set the timer.

If you’re in limbo, rest easy. I trust it will end someday in my life, and yours as well. In the meantime, one step forward is better than standing still.

 

Image Credits: © geosap — Fotolia

Keep Going

“If you are going through hell, keep going.”
― Winston S. Churchill

 
It hurts. It gets old. It’s a dull pain one day and a sharp pain the next. Getting through the bad times wears you down and shapes you at the same time. You can’t see your way out and you’re convinced it will never end.

I’ve been there, and it’s hard. There are those saying, get it together. And you think you should have more together than you do.

Several years ago I was the victim of a horrible injustice, the target of powerful people convinced of a truth that did not exist. It ruined my life, no doubt about it. I was in a shambles. There seemingly was no way out of my situation, no way around the binding realities.

Whatever my part had been in the events that led to my despair, it was disproportionate to the result. I didn’t know who my friends were, who I could trust and who trusted me. Who cared for me?

Little by little I came to realize that the people most important to me cared. Yes, I’d lost some friends who bought into the half-truths and manipulated stories, and there was nothing I could do about it. Some of those people were important to me, and I mourn the loss of their friendship to this day. But I had to move forward, and rely on those who proved themselves true and kind of character.

My family saved my life. If nothing else, these events brought me closer to all of them, and for that I am grateful.

As time went on, things changed. I got a job, one I’m good at with people who care about me like family. While I still live in a less than desirable apartment complex, I have a new car (well, it’s a year old now) that has given me the opportunity to visit my mom on several occasions, both for pleasure and to care for her when she needs it.

And the future doesn’t look quite as grim. There appear to be options that will end all of this when the time comes.

Are these good times? Actually, I’ll be disappointed if that turns out to be the truth. These are better times, and hopefully good times, joyous times lie ahead. But I don’t know. I’m content with what I have now.

I fear the return of bad times, likely not the same bad times but something else, before experiencing truly good times again. If that’s the case, so be it. I can only take what I’m given and seek what can be found.

For my friends who are suffering, it can last an eternity, I know. Some of what gets you out of the pain is your own spirit, some is good fortune and some is dumb luck. I have no magic formula. But believe in the future.

Keep going.


Photo Credit: © EcoView — 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