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Pondering the ‘end of days’ talk

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This is my mom and her siblings on a trip leaving California when she was little. I just happened to run across it on my computer, and thought I’d share. 🙂

I really don’t have much to say, but I guess since the world didn’t end today, I should really get a move on Christmas shopping. Lots of people will be getting gift cards this year!

However, I would like to take this time to say that all this talk of the end of days and in light of recent events, it really has become an even bigger priority of mine to make sure that I am staying in a state of awareness when it comes to Jack and my nephews. I want to make sure that there is real attention given, that we are spending not just time, but quality time together. That we are interacting in a way that moves beyond simply just talking, but my mind being somewhere else. I want to make sure that I have focus when we interact. Don’t get me wrong, it’s impossible to constantly be focused in and to have that sort of interaction. But it is important to do so at least for a bit each day.

I tend to look at it as if something crazy was to happen, I want to make sure that those experiences exist in his recent memory and mine. There is comfort in knowing that I’m putting forth the effort. When we do things like that it really makes a difference. There has to be balance, kids need their own time, they need to play outside, and sometimes it is just being in the same room that makes a difference. But just like any other relationship, we all want to be heard. We want to be given that focus and attention, too. And I have to say, this week really has been a good week. It’s been a calmer week in terms of the way we all interact. There’s been less hostility and when you’re talking about two teenagers, a two year old and a four year old, calm is not normally a word used to describe the time! 🙂 But it really has been very nice. And that’s a good reminder that these changes do need to happen. That there are things within my control, our control, that are easy and can make a difference. And that is reassuring in such trying times.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and a very Merry Christmas (belated happy Chanukah) and are filled with love and hope over the end of this holiday season!

Day 31 – Reflecting on the challenges

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I began this month trying to figure out what I could use this blog for. I decided since it was mental health awareness month to use it to write things that are related to mental health…but in particular posts that were encouraging to people so that the posts could help boost our mental health together. I hadn’t written in a long time, and I was trying to find a way back into writing. And trying to stretch my own capacity for creativity and writing.

And today when I was thinking about the challenge that I had put forth for myself, to spend a portion of each day doing something that was focused at helping others and helping myself by growing, I realized that I had accomplished more than I thought I would this month. This month was full of trials and tribulations that I hadn’t expected at all in my personal life. And this blog really has served to help me sort out those issues and helped me find people who have similar problems in their lives.

What I also thought about today is how important it is to reflect upon our challenges in life. I’m not sure that I’ve really reflected on things in this manner before. Normally if I look back on a challenge it isn’t usually with the notion that I’ve passed the challenge. I have a tendency to dwell upon the challenge as something that I wish hadn’t happened, and don’t look at the fact that I have made it through, and I am continuing to make it through. I am usually just frustrated by the challenge itself in general. In my head I know that we all have challenges and that we can and should learn from them, but when we look at our own instead of at other people’s it’s a lot harder to tell where the challenge begins and ends, and whether or not we’ve actually overcome or accomplished anything. But in reality we have all overcome and accomplished things because of and in spite of our challenges. And I think taking the time to look at them in that manner is necessary to our well-being. We have to be able to look at ourselves and see the good things, see the accomplishments (even if at first we feel they are minimal at best), see that we are survivors, so that we can remind ourselves that we are achievers.

When we know who we are, we can know where we can go. And I firmly believe that we can go anywhere we want to go. In fact, we will go wherever we want to go, because that’s the way things work.

(just a note, I’m not stopping the blog, just reflecting on this month)

Day 18 – Silence

Today has been incredibly hectic, with lots of news (good and bad). So I almost forgot to write. And then I started thinking about “being silent” on my blog today, and I decided that was what I would post about: silence.

My friends find it funny, because I will happily sit in silence when I don’t know what to say. I’m not a space filler. I think that’s part of what worked for me whenever people came to me for help. I was able to sit and listen. And when they thought they were done, I’d sit in silence, and they’d find more to say.

When we have to fill the silence in our lives it can get a bit difficult. Silence has a way of being therapeutic I find. It is an emptiness that allows us to fill it. We can breathe in it if we step back and look. Instead of being scared or uncomfortable in it, simply because there is someone else around, we can treat it the way we treat it when we are alone. Most people find that they can’t think well, unless there is silence. I know sometimes we need the noise. Sometimes silence is way too loud. But it’s in those good moments, where there is just you, you can connect and be at peace. So I decided what I would say tonight, was to remember the importance of silence. The many ways (far beyond the ones I am posting here) that it can be used. Find time for that comfort, and see what finds you.

 

As an addendum, I also wanted to thank Patti Clark and Diane for nominating me for these awards. I am going to say that even though I tried to copy and paste them as the instructions said (I have tried for a few days now), but technology hates me, and it did not work. That being said, I do love their blogs, and you should check them out. They both have wonderful stories.

 

Patti Clark: http://patticlark.wordpress.com

Diane: http://hometogo232.wordpress.com/posts/

Thank you again, ladies for being so thoughtful! J

Day 16 – Self-worth (it is the answer)

I know I’ve probably said it before, but since this is mental health month, I’m going to say it again, self-worth is quite possibly the key to understanding who we are and getting us to where we want to go. (otherwise I wouldn’t have written a book about it!) Over the course of my life I struggled with fear and doubt, and all of those things that are normal for us to struggle with. I was always scared, and I never tried to do anything I didn’t think I could be at least good at, if not great. I played the sports that I knew I could be one of the best at. I took the classes I knew I would do well in. Part of this may have been my competitive nature, but in the end the major force behind my decision making was my self-worth.

I never realized when I was younger that my self-worth was an issue. In fact, I didn’t really think it was a problem at all, if I even knew it existed. People have a tendency to group self-worth and self-esteem together, and that’s simply not the case I have come to find out. Even though I used to say that I was never happy, which was true, and I used to say that I didn’t think I’d really get anywhere in life, which was also true, I didn’t truly dislike me. In fact, I liked myself a lot. The thing that I hated was that no one else seemed to. Or maybe it appeared that no one else truly cared about me.

People asked me for help. They readily asked me to do things for them. And it was clear that I was dependable. But it seemed like I was left out of all of the important things. No one asked me out. No one seemed to believe in me. It seemed like people felt as though it was terrible if I didn’t do as they asked, but if I asked for a favor I seemed to be an inconvenience. I had some really great friends, don’t get me wrong. But in my head, I just never felt good enough. But it wasn’t in my eyes that I wasn’t good enough, it was the way I believed everyone else thought about me.

My issue was not that I didn’t like myself. It was not that I didn’t hold myself in high esteem. I knew I could do things well. I knew I could probably be anything I wanted to be when I went to college. But I felt like it would never happen. And when it got down to it, it turned out that I felt like it wouldn’t happen because I wasn’t worthy of it happening. I didn’t go through extraordinary circumstances. My childhood was fairly normal, in my mind. Most people weren’t mean to me, though some were. Instead, most people never knew I existed. At my high school reunion, yes I’m that old, I had more people say, I don’t remember you than anyone else probably. And that’s okay, because I spent a whole lot of time not really wanting to be noticed. And the reason was because I had felt so often that when I did try to make friends or get people to like me, they might for a while, but then they’d move on. I wasn’t really worthy of being a part of a real friendship in my head. And considering how often people were happy to exclude me in middle school, I do understand where this idea came from.

It’s really hard to convince a teenager that these times will pass. That the reason people are mean to  you has very little to do with you. In reality it’s all about themselves. So instead, I decided it was absolutely about me, and since it seemed to be the new general consensus, it was probably right.My issue was not self-esteem. I liked me. I didn’t understand why no one else did. I thought I could do things. I didn’t know why people wouldn’t let me try. So when the times started to change, and they did some in high school and especially college, it was really hard for me to let go and be open to people wanting to be my friends, and believing that anyone really cared. My self-worth had dropped drastically. I didn’t think I was worth it, so I spent my time in high school mostly trying not to be noticed by the people I didn’t already trust.

I liked myself. I believed I was capable. I held myself in high esteem. I thought I could change the world given the chance. But what I found when I finally started my journey into happiness, was that I didn’t really feel worthy. I didn’t feel worthy of my dreams coming true. I didn’t feel worthy of good things happening. So I had decided they wouldn’t, and I put measure into place to make sure I was right. Because that’s what we do in life. We work really hard to prove ourselves right about whatever we decide.

But what I have learned is that I, like everyone else, am worthy. My negative self-worth dictated everything. I knew I was capable, but I acted incapable. I knew I could and should be doing things. I acted as though I couldn’t. And it worked. I wasted a lot of time not getting to where I wanted to go. Self-worth dictates our journey. It leads us on our way. Because the way we feel about our worth is what dictates the way we do things and it affects all other aspects of our being. So my question to you is, do you feel worthy?

Day 13 – Mother’s Day

Today I got the chance to just hang out with my son. Nowhere to go. Nothing to do. And for that I am extremely thankful. Times have been stressful lately, and remembering to just have fun and enjoy our time together has been more difficult. I had a wonderful time playing in the yard and watching movies and cooking together with him today, and I hope to make it happen more often for us from now on. So since today is mother’s day, I mostly just want to say thanks to my son. Thanks for making me smile every day. For making me laugh just by being you. Thanks for reminding me to be a kid sometimes, too. For showing me how to use my imagination again. Thanks for pushing me outside of my comfort zone, and for basically just being the most amazing child on the planet. You make my heart sing every day, and for that I am eternally grateful! HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all of you amazing mothers and bloggers out there today! I hope it was as special as you hoped it would be 🙂

 

Day 10 – When Fear Takes Hold

This morning my son said, “okay mom, I’m going to go by myself and be brave, because like you told me I could be brave.” This made me happy, because even though what he was doing was going in the dark room and turning the light on himself, he’s 3, and he really was scared. It made me happy that he is listening when I tell him he will be okay and he can be brave even though he’s scared. This is partly because I don’t ever remember actually being brave, just wanting to be. Because of that the post today explains how I spent the majority of my youth, and is an indicator of why I truly hope to be able to encourage strength and courage into Jack, especially in ordinary situations. The post is long, and I apologize, because it’s the majority of the chapter from the book.

I remember being a fearful child. I never, and I mean NEVER got into trouble at school, or anywhere else for that matter. I was always shy. I was scared to talk to people, even to make new friends. I was terribly scared of adults, because I thought they knew so much more about life than me. I assumed they’d be far too busy with important things to do than to actually care what I had to say or want to play with me. All of this is ironic, because the things I remember most happily in my childhood had to do with family vacations, games, and movie nights.

Nonetheless, I always felt less-than for some reason. The only times I remember ever not being afraid were those when I was singing, dancing, or writing. I did love to perform and make at least my parents watch. But singing and dancing were some of the only occasions I was willing to let others watch me, as well. And as you can imagine, I’m sure that all of the adults I performed for absolutely loved my renditions of “The Greatest Love of All” and “(Stop!) In the Name of Love.” At least I had good taste in music.

One of the biggest things that scared me as a child was the thought of eternity. I didn’t understand it. At 8, I remember something coming on TV that had this shot of the universe where the show or commercial talked about eternity, and I simply burst into tears in the middle of the den where we were all watching TV. I didn’t understand how anything could last forever or how if something did last forever there was really no beginning. It was something that truly made my brain hurt, and I had no clue how to handle it.

I remember my parents telling me it would be okay. They told me God loved me and because He did everything would be fine. I didn’t have to worry. But I don’t remember ever reconciling any of those feelings. That fear stayed with me. My desire to hang onto my family and my friends in this form was far too strong to allow any willingness to let go. I liked being alive. I knew how to understand a world with limits. It was a world without limits that baffled my mind, and created an uneasiness I couldn’t let go of.

About 3 years later, the most devastating event in my life to that point occurred. One of my family members was murdered. I remember during the period around this time, maybe the week or two before finding out, I could just feel a change in the air. I remember asking my mother if anyone in our family had ever been kidnapped or killed prior to my knowing anything was going on.

She told me no and asked what my brother had been telling me. He was 18 at the time, and I suppose had been informed that my uncle had been reported missing. I guess they decided it was time to tell me, and so they did. I remember seeing the news one evening. On it they showed that a set of remains, mostly bones, had been discovered in the woods a few towns away. At the end of the segment they showed a picture of my uncle and noted that he was still missing. I remember looking at my mother in her chair; we were the only two in the room. She started to cry.

To that point, I couldn’t ever recall seeing her do that. I knew something bad was going on. It didn’t take long for them to confirm the body was his. I remember fear immediately enveloping all of the areas it hadn’t previously.

As with any time there is a death, the fragility of life made its presence well known in my head. However, when the event that takes place is something as careless, as thoughtless, as disgusting, as completely unnecessary as these senseless acts are, the knowledge that the end of our journey may be up to someone else is the most unsettling part.

It does not matter what I do, if someone stands in front of me with a gun, he has a very easy means to stop my heart from beating. If someone is set on stopping me today, in the end, he has the capability to do so. And each person has the means to do so simply by virtue of being here. Every single one of us here has the capacity to do something amazing and something unspeakable. We all live in this paradox of extremes.

I didn’t know how to deal with that, so instead of talking to someone about it or finding some way to get help which can be difficult at 11, I chose to close off. I never went anywhere, or very rarely did. I had very few friends, although part of that can be blamed on the treacherousness that is middle school. I lost a way of understanding how a God that I was told loved me, therefore he’d protect me, wouldn’t protect my family. It seemed cruel. I was scared of life, mostly because I was scared of death. And I was scared of the power that other people had in my life.

When we stand on the edge of that platform looking through that barely veiled line that distinguishes between life and death, the presence of the ultimate extremes – love and fear – reveal themselves. They call out loudly and pull at us by what seems like a tangible force. And the tool that becomes the deciding factor on which side we’re really going to lean toward is self-worth. As I said before, even as a child, I always leaned toward the side of fear.

I don’t know what happened that I stopped believing I could be anything. I don’t know why I stopped believing I was worthy. Maybe it really did have something to do with my inability to comprehend the universe or the God I was praying to. But as I stood there to choose, I chose fear. And from that point forward, fear would lead my life.

Ironically, a good portion of what happens to us is likely due to our self-fulfilling prophecy trait. I wanted to feel bad, and in turn I did. Some of my friends were depressed, and I wanted to be too, so I chose it. I spent a lot of time feeling bad about feeling bad, which just made me feel worse. It’s a spiraling effect. Because, if I know that feeling bad is unnecessary, if I were really a good person, if I were really worthy of anything, then I’d go ahead and do something to change it, right? I was afraid, and I used it perfectly. It manifested itself through everything. I never had boyfriends. I wasn’t a good friend. I stopped trying in school, although I was competitive enough to make sure I did better than my siblings.

Most of the time, I just felt sad because my life wasn’t different. I never considered doing anything to change it. I sat happily in my misery, and never pursued anything that was a stretch. Who wants that disappointment? And I stayed just as I was the day before every single day. I didn’t get into trouble, but I didn’t do much of anything worth doing either. I simply was. And that was all.

Day 7 – The only power we actually have

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One of the most important things I’ve come to realize is that the only power we actually have is over ourselves. By this I mean it is impossible to make anyone else do something that they don’t want to do or be something they aren’t willing to be. They have to consent as well. They have to be open and willing as well. And there isn’t anything that I can do to force this. With my nephews and my son it was easy to be open to their love. It was easy to trust that I wanted to love them and wanted them in my life. When it comes to other kinds of relationships, both friendships, but more importantly with intimate relationships it is a lot more difficult for me to be willing to be open. I’m not sure that it hasn’t gotten harder since learning that I can’t make someone love me. It simply has to be something that they choose and something that I have to trust. Although I also find it a little bit easier, as well, because I’m less confused about what needs to happen and what I want in order to make anything happen. And I think that knowledge is extremely beneficial.

But the aspect that has been on my mind lately is how difficult it can be to have to let go. We can’t force others to do well if they aren’t going to choose to. We can’t make our kids do well in school if they don’t want to. We can’t make them socialize with the people we would prefer, or date or marry who we would prefer. We can’t make the people we love have the life we think they should have. And letting go of what we want can be extremely difficult. We can’t live anyone’s life for them. We have to let people make mistakes. And watching that happen with no control over it is hard under any circumstance – parent, child, friend, significant other. So in the end all we can really control is ourselves. And letting go of that need to change the paths that others are on is something that we have to do for ourselves. It doesn’t mean we have to leave them alone, but in some cases that is what’s best. It doesn’t mean we can’t encourage them, or offer assistance. But we have to be willing to allow them to make their own decisions, because no one responds well to excessive pressure. The pot will always boil over in those cases. Excessive worrying is just as traumatic, only we are hurting ourselves. Looking at ourselves, understanding our role, learning how we can best approach the situation in a way that is beneficial for both people is the only way for anything worthwhile to emerge. We have to use the power that we have over ourselves in order to help others who we want to help. We can’t force others to do anything, but we can make the right choices for us.

Pandora’s box (or maybe her jar) of hope

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There are 31 days this month to celebrate “Mental Health” May. Today is day 2.It’s fascinating how much more difficult it is for me to write when I feel like I have to do it. I have actually written very little in about a year and a half anyway. But, one of the reasons I started doing this was so that I could try to renew my ability to write, and hopefully it would have the cathartic effect it used to. I think part of my problem coming back to writing is that I always used to write in the dark. If we were writing in school, I would get under a table so that I could have my own personal, protected space so I could write. At home I would turn the light to my bedroom off and use a lamp or flashlight so that I could write without being interrupted. I developed a feeling of safety when writing in the dark. It’s as though it’s just me and my paper. Or in this case my computer. But once I turned the lights off tonight, I do feel that protection again, which I hope will allow me to write with more ease and creativity than I’ve felt over the past year or so.

I wanted to make sure with this blog that there was a purpose. I don’t want to be wasting anyone’s time. I was to put forth the effort that it deserves for both myself and anyone who may come across it. Life’s too short. It’s too short to waste on a bad book, on a bad day,on a bad relationship, on a bad job. There’s too much to do. Too many chances. Even though most we must make ourselves. If we have to put in effort and time it needs to be in the things that are worth it. The things we believe in.

So today what I believe in is hope. I know that when faith, hope, and love were left, love was picked as the greatest, but I think it’s hard to find love if you don’t have hope. In fact, it’s hard to do more than merely survive if we don’t have hope. Pandora had a box (or maybe a jar), and all of the riches were pulled from it except one. And what was left in the box was hope. Hope is something completely intangible. It’s something completely non-scientific in nature. It’s hard to measure. It’s hard to assess. Someone in a lab can never truly know whether or not a person had hope or just how much the person being studied really had. We cannot measure it, even in our box, so in the world of science it can quickly be cast aside. But on a daily basis, hope saves lives. Hope inspires one to help another. Hope motivates one to pursue a dream or follow his passion. Hope gives those without a chance a hand to fight with. Homer wrote, “There is a strength in the union even of very sorry men.” He may have been speaking of physical weakness, but we all have our own areas where we falter. When we unite together, we do so in hope. Perhaps it’s out of necessity. Perhaps it out of desire. But no matter what, as we unite in hope a strength appears and it is stronger than it was when we were on our own. Hope has the power to transform the intangible fight into the tangible victory. Hope gives us the courage to believe. And that makes its immeasurable existence invaluable. Today my goal is to find someone who needs hope in one area or another (no matter how big or small) and to hope with them. We all need someone on our side. Do you have anyone who needs hope shared their way? Are there things you didn’t realize you were hoping for? An invisible world come to life? Who knows what you’ll find. 🙂

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