Cloud Talk

Today I was early for work, so I leaned back in my car and watched the clouds float by. It was a windy day and they were moving quickly.

Like Charlie Brown and friends, I sought images in the sky. First face I saw was a cameo-like profile of s woman. It morphed into the Grinch of Dr. Seuss fame, and then became nothing more than abstract poofs.

I moved on to the image of a mountain lion, and began to wonder if some legends of old found their start in cloud formations. I know the stars inspired some stories, but what about clouds?

What inspires stories, the tall tales or myths of today? We hear sometimes of odd prompts that influenced an author, songwriter or other artist. We don’t see the connection, but it’s there in the mind of the creator.

As for me, I watch the clouds float by and listen to hear what they might be saying.

Photo Credit: © Pakhnyushchyy – Fotolia

The Final Forgiveness

There are those who hurt us and infuriate us, people who forever remain oblivious to the harm they are doing. They are locked into their own understanding of what is good and right.

You want to honor all they’ve done for you, but seeing them comes with a price. It is a constant battle of wanting to rise above knowing you will only be dragged below by your good intentions.

At what point do you let go?

It is best, purest, if it can be done now and the issues are put behind you. But they are difficult to let go of. We are human; we are — on both sides — in many ways locked into who we are and what we believe. It protects us, guides us and provides us with clarity. So perhaps you forgive, only to be set up once again for a battle of wills and false understanding. It is a vicious cycle.

Then you hear: he is dying. He is hanging on, but soon will be gone.

It is time for a final forgiveness, an acknowledgement of our own failings and the knowledge that the temporal, in the end, is a wisp of smoke, dissipating into thin air.

It is time, but it is still hard. You haven’t been heard. There have been assumptions and presumptions that wound. Rumors and lies that become fact in the minds of others.

What does it matter? His death isn’t the final word because you go on living. What matters most?

Refine me, O Lord, open my blind eyes and lead me down the path of forgiveness.


Image courtesy of Pixabay

 

If You Are Burdened…

I loved my Kate Spade handbag.

It was practical and stylish, two words common to describing her designs. I was lucky — I got it half-off, something the snide sales person had no problem disdainfully pointing out when I paid for it (a story for another day). Never mind him. I had my Kate Spade handbag.

I carried it for years, until the wear and tear made it too embarassing to use any more. That’s my sole connection to Kate Spade. But when I heard about her death today, I was moved to tears. The story is coming out that she committed suicide, and that breaks my heart.

A friend who was at one time suicidal described to me what she felt in this way:

“It was like there was weight on my body, an outside pressure that made it hard to breathe. All the sorrow and pain I’d felt in my life was trapped inside of me. The only thing I wanted to do was break away from it, and death seemed like the only option.”

She made a phone call and followed the advice of a professional. Later she had to work her way through the physical, emotional and spiritual pain. Today she tells me she no longer struggles with those feelings and their burden, but it took her some time to deal with the issues that caused them, including physiological factors.

I am not a professional, nor in any way am I trained to advise someone who is feeling suicidal. If you are suffering with those feelings, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.


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A Time to Plant

Can’t see the forest for the trees.

I think that’s human nature, getting so caught up in the details of an issue that we don’t see the bigger picture. And sometimes that bigger picture is beyond the scope of our understanding. It might take years before we fully comprehend all that there is to know about a particular situation.

When multiple parties are involved, each with their own stake in what’s going on, it can be hard to understand the bigger picture. You know there’s a forest out there — heck, you’re smack dab in the middle of it — but all you can see are the trees, the facts that don’t necessarily seem to tie together.

But somehow they do.  Not necessarily in an orderly fashion, and at times the meaning remains obscure long after we leave those trees behind. That doesn’t mean there isn’t good in that forest.

It also doesn’t mean there isn’t bad. Sometimes the hard cold truth is people did things they simply shouldn’t have done, and their actions have an unfortunate impact in your life, or the life of someone you love. Sorting through that remains a challenge.

Those are the times you have to bring the good to the forest. Plant your own trees, and watch them grow. Take charge of the world around you. It doesn’t mean everything will suddenly be good and the pain will disappear, but it’s good to take control.

I know some of you are facing situations where you have little control — illness or injury, for example, that may or may not be treatable — and these words may sound trite. For that I apologize.

But few of us are 100 percent victims of our circumstances. There is a time for mourning, and a time for giving thanks. And a time for planting trees.


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Forest

Astonish Me

I’m looking to be astonished.

Praying for it, actually. I want God to break open the heavens and say, “here it is!!” My faith tells me it can happen, but my faith is weak right now. So I’m praying for more faith.

How often are we blessed with astonishing news? Do we remember those blessings as well as we should? I know not all my followers share my faith, so I’m putting this in the context of life, not necessarily a belief in God. Do we tend to remember the bad news and accept the good news as our right?

Or perhaps that is an American way of thinking, even a white American way of thinking. I was born into more privilege than many people on this earth. Despite my struggles at this moment (I need a job!), I still enjoy a better life than others in war-torn, destitute countries and regions of this world.

I also have had my share of troubles and setbacks, and I’m struggling with some of those now.  It is impossible to define a balance of good and bad in our lives, and compare it to others.

Last week I was part of a discussion about happiness. The core of this conversation was the concept that money buys happiness. We all agreed, it takes a certain income, an element of security to be content with your lot in your life. That amount differs from person to person, of course, and much of it depends on where you live and what your needs are at any given time.

One man asked, “if money doesn’t buy you happiness, then why don’t the people with money give it away?”

Wow, what a question, and so many answers. I remember some thirty years seeing Donald Trump in an interview on Oprah. He was still married to Ivana — that’s how long ago it was (he’s had two wives since then and, as we know, a few other relationships). Anyway, he stated that after awhile, it isn’t about what you can buy, it’s a scorecard.

The man with the biggest bank account wins.

That’s a mentality I can’t buy into, and not to worry, it’s not likely to become an issue in this lifetime. But my point with this is, it isn’t simply the money that matters. Paying your bills and buying what you need isn’t the issue for those with great wealth. To whom much is given, much is required — but many seem to lose track of that requirement.

So I’m not asking to be astonished with great wealth. Rather, surprise me with the means to live a relatively simple life, that abililty to replace my worn shoes and keep my electricity from being shut off.

I’m praying, astonish me with that. I’m scared.


Image Credit: © GraphicStock.com

Astonish

 

Hey Ship!! Here’s Your Harbor!!

Recently I ready brief biography of music composer Dorothy Fields on a fellow bloggers site. One quote from her stood out to me:

When your ship doesn’t come in, go out and find it.

How often does our ship actually come in? Certainly there are times we are lucky enough to have good fortune fall our way. But more often than not, we need to create our own possibilities.

I’ve written before about being prepared for opportunity, and I think that’s part of it. Training and experience obviously help in the job hunt, and having an updated resume at the ready is wise. But there’s another part of it. Sometimes we need to take action and actually get out there and look for our own good luck.

We need to be brave.

Going back to the ship analogy, it isn’t always easy to set out in choppy seas to find a wayward vessel. But what are your options? Sit at the harbor and get rained on while your ship is sailing further away?

We need to make sacrifices.

Sometimes it’s small things we need to give up, and those can be the hardest to let go of. Consider your monthly expenses and pare those down. You may end up with greater discretionary income to cover the costs of seeking your ship.

We need to be patient.

It’s easy to give up and say “I tried, but it didn’t work.” Maybe you need to give up on reigning in one wayward ship and believe another is on the horizon. Don’t stop looking because your last opportunity is now out of reach.

Believe in yourself.

If you struggle with this, I have no quips or easy answers. However, I do know taking risks builds confidence, especially if you keep those risks in perspective.

I’ve had ships come and go, and some remain a steady part of my fleet. Now I’ve exhausted the metaphor.

But if your ship hasn’t come in, go out and find it.


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Thank You

For the last seven years I’ve suffered at the hands of those with greater power and lesser insight.

It’s not that my life has been all hell and horror, but it’s safe to say the worst moments of my existence happened during this time. So I’m thrilled to announce it’s officially over.

That doesn’t mean I won’t continue to live with the consequences, nor does it vindicate those who caused this pain. And for my part in it, I’ve paid the price. A proportionately higher price than our society accepts. Life isn’t fair sometime.

But we are not a product of what happens to us. We are a product of how we respond to those events, the accusations, the unjust decisions. I’m not saying the events themselves don’t change us. They do. But what shapes us, in the end, lies within our hearts.

So I thank not only those who stood by me, but those who inspired me over my lifetime. All of you who shared your wisdom and built a tower of strength within me.

And I thank God for holding me close.

Thank you.


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How or Why and Peace of Mind

Last night I dashed out to the local CVS to get some candy. I admit it. A quick trip, three miles or less.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a car, different make but similar style and color to mine, parked in the same corner I was headed. Then I noticed something else. The license plate number was almost identical, save for one number. Instead of an eight, hers was a zero.

A second later the driver of this car appeared. An attractive yet otherwise unremarkable young woman carrying a prescription and another small bag (maybe candy, who knows?). Yet it got me to thinking.

What if she’d just robbed the place? In the rush and panic that would ensue, what if someone mistook my car for hers?

Now that’s my active imagination,  no doubt. Here’s the problem: these things do happen. Given that she had long blonde hair and was clearly a good twenty years younger than me, chances are I wouldn’t suffer the worst. Still, in the world we live in today, I could.

The odds are worse for minorities, and we’ve all seen the stories. I remember one particularly troubling report on a news magazine, perhaps Dateline, of a man who was imprisoned for nearly 30 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Some might say, well, maybe he didn’t commit that crime, but surely he was guilty of something just as bad. Only in this case, there was no evidence of that.

He could have gotten out on parole years earlier if he’d confessed and shown remorse, but he refused, saying the only thing he had left was his name. I hope he was able to find peace once he was released, but odds were still against him after all those years of incarceration.

I hope others helped him find dignity, because he’d lived a long time without it.

We learn when we’re young that life isn’t fair. Yet we can’t live life with a constant awareness of our alibi for that moment or our excuse for doing something others might find odd. That, in and of itself, is going to raise red flags for some.

Why are our lives at times devoid of justice and peace? I don’t know. I don’t understand the imbalance in the world. But I do believe in a God who is just, even if we can’t comprehend how or why.

And that’s my peace of mind.


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Help in an Abyss

A woman I worked with is being abused by her boyfriend. I can’t help her.

She came into work with an injured wrist and a bruised face. She laughed off the injuries with semi-plausible instructions, but when I saw her today, she had no excuse for her two black eyes.

“I’m worried about you,” I told her.

“I’m okay,” she said.

But she’s not okay. She has an infant son along with two pre-schoolers and struggles financially even with her boyfriend’s help. I’m guessing she feels trapped.

I don’t know if she’s someone who needs a man in her life, or if she simply longs for a happy family. Along with her three little ones, he brings two older children, and she loves all of them.

She is a good person who is allowing someone to beat her for reasons I can only guess. I want her to go to school, even if it’s just to get a certificate in some marketable skill. I want her to break away from this abusive man and find someone who will treasure her.

It hurts. I can’t help her, but I can be her friend, and stand by her when she decides she’s not going to take it any more. I hope soon she finds the strength to believe there is a way out of this abyss in which she’s trapped. I pray soon she seeks the help she needs.


Image Credit:  © Bigstock

 

The Proof is in the Pudding

And I’m the pudding. It’s all well and good to write endless tomes on how much I’ve learned in recent years, but try putting that to the test. One of life’s pop quizzes on how I’ll respond when things get bad.

I aced it.

Last week the temporary job I was working on — one I’d hoped would become permanent — abruptly ended. The explanation was vague. Colleagues who messaged me said management terminated the contracts of several temporary employees. In all fairness, it is what happens when you’re a contract worker. Still, it’s nice to have a reason.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

I discovered I’d accepted the truth of that statement, something I’ve written about on this blog in the past. Rather than agonize and speculate over what happened, I’ve decided not to dwell on it. Time to move on.

This puts me in a bad place financially. In addition to facing a difficult time paying my bills, my credit is at risk. That could have long term consequences.

But I’ve been through bad times before, and I’ve learned you live through them. Things eventually turn around.

I hope my next job lasts for years. I’d like something that could become a part of me, rather than another passing experience. I believe when you set your mind to something it’s more likely to happen, and my hope has become a part of my search criteria.

It’s like they say, wish I knew then what I know now. But that’s such a universal conclusion in people’s lives it tells me there’s some order to our experiences, some reason we internalize beliefs like these when we do.

Tomorrow I may panic. Today I am at peace.


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Momentum

Ah, one of my favorite quotes, most often abbreviated to “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”:

“Heaven hath no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.” — William Congreve, The Mourning Bride

That shortened form keeps part of the original thought intact, but it overlooks another important idea: there is no one we despise more than the one we once loved the most.

Something every divorce attorney knows, and the best make a fine living on that understanding. The rest of us can learn from it, too. Why do I hate him so much? He shouldn’t have this hold on me anymore.

Mobile mit Herzen - der Ansto zur Liebe, PartnerschaftBecause the pendulum has swung. Once upon a time, you would have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge for him. Now, you want to push him off it.

There’s good news about pendulums. They swing to one extreme, and then to another. Then the arc of the swing is smaller, until finally, there’s no more momentum. Unless, of course, something happens to start the swing all over again.

We’ve all seen that happen, and if you pay attention, it usually happens while the pendulum still has a pretty good arc. Once it’s stopped, it’s hard to start things up again.

A thought that has application both for you who dream of the day the passion will end and you who dream of the day it will begin again with the one who’s got the power over your pendulum.


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Keep the Beasts Away

As a senior in college, my journalism classes were peppered with visits from real-life reporters.

One of them was a top crime reporter from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, whose name I’ve long forgotten. He showed up for our 9:00 class with rumpled hair, wrinkled shirt and unshaven face, holding a cup of coffee and looking too sleepy to be nervous. We weren’t shy about asking him questions, but it was when we allowed him to talk freely about his career that the most interesting information poured forth.

An earlier reporting job had been for the major daily paper in Chicago, where he worked the overnight shift. Most of the time he covered accidents and drunken brawls; if he was lucky, someone with some degree of fame was involved. One night, while playing cards with a colleague, he heard a call come over the police scanner. A woman had reported a foul odor emanating from her next-door neighbor’s home.

This kind of report was common and rarely went anywhere, but the two men figured since nothing else was going on, they might as well see what was up. Not expecting anything serious, they were intrigued by the growing number of emergency vehicles surrounding the house in question. Police weren’t talking and had roped off any access to the premises, so the reporters checked in on the neighbor who’d made the call.

A kind woman who’d lived in the same home for decades, she poured them some coffee and began talking about the man next door. Pleasant and polite, she said, but there was one strange thing. Young men, boys, really, would show up at his place on a regular basis. She’d seen plenty of them going in, but none ever came out.

That caught the attention of these reporters. They called their editor, and continued to investigate this increasingly harrowing story.

They broke the news to the world about John Wayne Gacy.

For those of you who don’t know, Gacy was one of the most notorious American serial killers of the 20th century.  Convicted in 1980 of the rape and murder of 33 young men he’d lured to his home and buried in the crawl space, he eventually was put to death by lethal injection.

The point of sharing his experience with a wide-eyed audience of journalism students was to remind us you never knew when or in what form opportunity would present itself. This horrifying story catapulted the career of these two reporters. Always seeking  information the hordes of other reporters missed, they helped fill out the tale of a gruesome tragedy.

They weren’t voyeurs, nor were the opportunists playing on the despair of others. This crime changed them in ways they were reluctant to discuss. As reporters, however, they called upon their training, formal and informal, to relay the full story. Much of what they reported is long forgotten, but a significant portion of it informed the world of the danger that could lurk in their neighborhood. If one boy heeded the lesson from their reports and saved himself from degradation and death, their work yielded the desired results.

Doctors prepare for the disaster they pray never happens; schools practice for the terror they never want to see. In our own way, preparing ourselves personally and professionally for the darkest parts of our society helps make our lives and the lives of those we care about safer.

No, we can’t live with a fatalistic attitude, nor can we worry ceaselessly about unseen events. We prepare, and go on with the joys and expectations of our lives. No better preparation can be made than that of cultivating a compassionate and caring heart, one that is grieved by tragedy but never hardened.

May you never face the worst of man or nature, and for those who do or will, may God carry you through it. And may all of us do what we can to keep the beasts away.


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Know the Truth

On my way home from work, I heard the news. Another shooting, unknown numbers dead.

My first thought was a prayer for those whose hearts are breaking tonight, and I think most of you probably responded in a similar way.

Hot on the heels of this rapidly evolving news story was the comment by one politician: “we’ve got to get serious about mental health.” A statement made before anything is known about the shooter’s state of mind, his motive, facts we can seek our teeth into. The assumption was this eighteen-year-old was mentally ill. Maybe. I don’t have the story, and neither did that nitwit congressman.

I’ll agree, we’ve got to get serious about mental health. And here’s where you start: know the facts.

  • Mental illness does NOT make you violent.
  • The majority of violent crimes are committed by people with NO mental illness. NONE.
  • People with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crime.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse is far more likely to lead to violent crime than the most severe mental illness.
  • One of the strongest indicators of potential violent behavior is being a young male with a troubled childhood.

So let’s get serious about child abuse, domestic violence, and drug & alcohol abuse. I’m not saying don’t pour money into caring for the mentally ill. I’m saying, when you do, know what your money can accomplish. A better life for a highly stigmatized population, but probably not a serious reduction in the kinds of horrible events that flood the news.

In the next few days, countless reporters and politicians are going to contribute to the ignorance of the American people by going in front of the camera with trite words and misleading information. Take it upon yourself to dig deep for the truth. Write to those who spread the lies. Post, tweet, and cry out for fairness.

At work, at school, at church, you may be sitting next to someone with mental illness and never know it. They aren’t crazy, and there are a lot of options for those who seek treatment.

So let’s get serious. Let’s tell the truth.

And peace to those who suffer tonight — and all the nights to follow.


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Learning the Way — and the Other Way

Today a co-worker said, “there is always a solution to a problem. You just have to find it.”

We went on to joke that the solution might be passive-aggressive behavior or staging a strike, but I took his point to heart. In all honesty, there likely are times we reach a dead end. But in those cases, the solution may be to start over.

I’m no Pollyanna, but I believe in maintaining hope rather than despair. I remember my mom cruelly saying optimism doesn’t get things done, and sending me into a figurative corner for believing in the future. I’m past that now; I look at my life and clearly such thinking has worked in my favor.

With the mindset that there is a solution, we’re more likely to find one. When we’re ahead in life, we are apt to let things go that we would fight for in tougher times. Creative solutions step forward when our options have run out yet we still need to get the job done.

Fear might keep some from stepping out of the shadows to make themselves known. It isn’t easy to bark a little louder and risk being snubbed, but the alternative is to timidly wait for opportunities to shine light in your dark corners. Opportunity may find its home long before that happens.

Change is a constant, and remaining on the same path you trod five or ten years ago could keep you from moving forward. You can fight the new ideas or learn how to work with alternate factors. Not always easy when the old way seemed to be working for you (and that may only be an illusion), but necessary. What’s more, it’s likely to open doors for you.

I’m learning the way myself, and it winds and turns every time I think I have it down. But the alternative is boredom — something I’m no good with.


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Words in the Wind

Today, while in the ladies room, I heard two co-workers talking. One was crying.

“I told her I got back together with him because I married him,” she sobbed. “I thought maybe he’d changed.”

Well, you can guess the rest of the story. He hasn’t changed.

“I know I’m a good person. I’m doing things I don’t want to do because of him.”

As I stepped up to the sink to wash my hands, I said to her, “you remember who you are and don’t let anyone change that.” She nodded, and opened up about what was happening. I listened.

Then I went on to say, “Sometimes we try so hard to make something work, and it just isn’t working. We try to change things, but there’s often something else going on with the other person, something we don’t know about. If someone else makes you feel bad, you need to walk away. Don’t try to figure it out and fix it. Walk away.”

I could see that had an impact. She heard me. Maybe, just maybe, something it took me a long time to learn can change things for her and make her life better now, while she’s still so young.

I’m not saying give up on marriage at the first struggle, but if there’s abuse, if someone is scared, it’s time to jump ship and swim for your life to safer shores.

We never know when what we’ve said changes someone’s life, or a part of it. Years ago I had lunch with a former colleague. He was struggling with a job he hated, and the weight of his despair was leaving him seriously depressed. I asked him the same thing someone else had asked me, and my answer had changed the course of my life.

“What you be doing if you were doing what you wanted to do?”

He didn’t answer me then, but I saw him a couple of years later. He bubbled over with enthusiasm.

“I thought about what you said, and I knew the answer. It changed the entire direction of my career. I have a job I love!” he told me. “Thank you!”

Really? Wow. Frankly, I didn’t even remember asking him that question, but I’m not surprised I did, knowing how it had affected me. What else have I said or done that has had a positive impact on someone else? (I ask forgiveness for things I’ve said or done that have hurt others.)

I hope my young co-worker makes the right decisions and moves on to greater things. I hope she holds out for a man who treats her right.

I hope my words make a difference.


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