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The Waiting Game

“And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted.  But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out?  Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…” Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

I bought this book for Jack on Friday. It’s one of my favorite books in general. I hadn’t read it in years, and I was thinking about how frustrating it is to be waiting, when I came across this part of the book. Ironically what I thought about was the fact that Dr. Seuss, who I always imagine as being fun, and not having issues in life in general, he knew how I feel sometimes. He knew how hard it is to get out of a slump. He knew how frustrating it can be when you get stuck in that place where you are just waiting for something to happen. Waiting for something to change. Waiting for someway to figure out what on Earth to do because nothing makes sense anymore and sometimes you don’t even know if you want it to.

It’s easy to get stuck in those places. Stuck in the darkness and end up waiting. I feel like I’ve been waiting a lot lately. And it’s a normal part of life. Now I know that I have to do things and be proactive. But a few years back I had no idea that it was even possible to not be waiting. I didn’t know that there was something I could do. I didn’t really think that there was something I should have to do, because I sort of decided that I was put in the place that I was at because of all the things that had happened to me. So I didn’t understand why someone couldn’t just come along, and see what I had to offer or show me that I had something to offer like these other people I saw had happen to them. So I waited. And I waited. And I waited. And nothing ever changed.

That’s the thing. Nothing changes if we don’t let it, but nothing changes if we don’t make it either. We all have things that we are waiting on, but sometimes we are waiting on everything. And we can’t do that. We have to be able to take control of our minds and our bodies and our souls. We have to get the help we need when we need it. And we have to put in the effort. Because, “You’re on your own.  And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend reading it. You can google it, and find the text. It has good advice. (The urge to rhyme here is really bad, but I’m going to refrain, he’s better at it than me!)

Stop playing the waiting game. Nothing worthwhile can come of it. We have to live each moment. No one can live them for us. We are the makers of our own decisions. And that gives us power beyond measure over our lives!

Day 27 – When we don’t have any more to give

Today may be a little short. I have had a few family members diagnosed with cancer, and lots of turbulance happening all over the place this weekend. The month in general has been just a major rush of highs and lows from all different angles that I’m still trying to sort out. I’m not sure what else I have to give. I’m somewhat thankful for the writing on here, because it’s nice to have a place to focus my thoughts, but I’m seriously overwhelmed today so, here’s what I have to say.

Throughout the day we’ve been sitting around a lot thinking and talking about old memories. That’s the thing that sickness can do. Particularly when the prognosis is just up in the air. It’s brings to light the fragility of life. And there’s been a lot of that around here lately. With my family and friends and in the news in general. I find myself staring a lot, with no particular focus. Which can happen anyway. I’ve always been a drifter in my mind. I was never great at paying attention in class. But in this case it’s frustrating, because I want to focus. I want to figure things out. There are things I need to get done in my life. Things I need to get in order and determining what needs to happen matters. Determining what I need to do is important. And as each day passes the importance grows.

We all have those things that we feel pressing us. Those things that we know we want to do. And we know that there is a time frame on them. We know that the moments we have to do the things we want will pass us by if we don’t act upon them. But we also have to take the time to figure out what needs to be done when. And take the time to not let things consume us to a point where we are ignoring the other things that are important. And that includes appreciating the time we have to spend with the people who are important to us. The time to just let it go for a few moments and know that it’s okay to just be. We have to allow ourselves to be human. To have more than one pressing need. To have a multitude of things that matter. And a complex web that we have to weave. It has to be strong. It has to hold our weight. It has to have a number of stops and crossroads. It has to have alternative paths to get to where we need for safety, which may be a different place at different times itself. We have to be people. Fallible people. And we have to let others be the same. A lot of the time that’s where the good memories arise from. That’s what we learn from. We are just people. And there is greatness in that. Even when we are overwhelmed and our minds drift. When we can’t get it all right. We are still doing something good. We are still trying, even if it ends up wrong. Great things can come about, even if we don’t think we have any more to give.

Day(s) (19 and) 20 – When our best laid plans fail

Apparently Friday was a precursor. I didn’t actually forget yesterday, but I left my house at 5:30 am and didn’t get home until after midnight. It’s strange, because I felt both a bit of relief not writing yesterday and a bit of stress as well. My plan was to write every day this month. But I didn’t get to do that. Last night I was kind of sad, because I really wanted to be able to do it. And I felt like things happened in a way that I couldn’t foresee. I was supposed to be home early and have time, but that’s not what happened.

This morning I thought about how difficult it can be to adjust when all the things we’ve put in place and gotten ready don’t lead to the result we were hoping for. And in many cases it’s not because of anything we’ve done. We put all of the pieces in order, but the puzzle never comes together. It’s extremely upsetting. It starts to feel like there are very real forces working against you and it’s hard to figure out how to overcome it. It’s hard to cope with those things. When we don’t get the job we want or our relationship fails or whatever the case may be. But many times those moments are the most pivotal. It’s at those times when we either give up or keep on working.

One of the hardest things that many of us face is the fact that life doesn’t normally go the way we had planned when we were young. The idea of who we were and how things would happen that we dreamed up long ago is quite difficult to get past. We need things to happen the way that we want them to. It’s normal. It gives us a certain amount of control and confidence, because it means we know what we are doing when things work out.But when they don’t, we have a tendency to start questioning everything.

It’s interesting how quickly we want to make things our fault and decide that we must have done something wrong, when in reality that’s not the case. I wrote about self-worth a few days ago, and I’m bringing it up now because I think it’s important to realize that these situations can easily dampen our self-worth. When we had that job lined up that was absolutely perfect for us, but we don’t get it – or it ends unexpectedly, it makes us think maybe there is something wrong with us. Sometimes we start to think that even if we tried something else it wouldn’t work out, because there’s nothing out there more perfect than this and this didn’t work. And this is the case with everything in life, work, family, relationships, any of the things we love and want most. When our plans fail, we can find it hard to figure out how to move on.

One of the things I also noticed this morning was that I felt a sense of renewal. I hadn’t written in a long time before I started writing in the blog this month, but I never wrote the way that I write here on a daily basis. I wrote a lot, but when I’m writing for me I write differently. It’s about specific people or things that I want, and it tended to be repetitive. Whereas this is a different thing. And it’s been really nice to learn about myself in this way, and to work on creating something of substance on a daily basis. The process is a little taxing, because in essence this is like my third job each night. But it’s been rewarding.

Previously if something I had planned to do hadn’t gone the way I had hoped, I would start to slack off and probably end up just leaving it all together. When I was younger it was very hard for me to cope with things not going exactly as I wanted. I would simply let it go and and not try if it wasn’t going to work perfectly or I wasn’t going to be the best. One of the nicest things about the process of change I’ve gone through over the past decade is the ability to let myself fail, not be perfect and to realize that I still survive. And that very few people even notice the fact that I wasn’t perfect. And more importantly, they don’t care. It’s nice now knowing that if things don’t work out just as I wanted there are ALWAYS other options. ALWAYS. It may not be just as I planned. It may not be just as I wanted. But in many cases it ends up better than what I had originally planned anyway. And that was one of the best surprises of all.

I didn’t get the relationship I wanted, but I now stand in something exceedingly better. I didn’t get the job I wanted, but I embarking on one that will truly be much better. I thought everything was against me, because that’s what we think when things don’t seem to go our way. But in reality, everything was working for me to bring me somewhere I never would have gotten otherwise. Where have you gone that you didn’t think you would go? Have you ever ended up better off because of it?

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 12 – Being thankful (it really does matter)

One day when I was driving home with my son in the back of my car, he started to cry. I tried music. I tried talking to him. I tried getting out and giving him juice and snacks. I checked to make sure he didn’t need anything else. I tried everything I knew to convince him that it was going to be okay. I gave him everything he could need. As he continued crying we began again with just a few more blocks to our house. I remember sitting at the stop sign and saying to him, “If you could only see, my love, we’re just a few minutes from being there. Just a few more minutes. It’s almost over. You don’t have to worry. Everything will be just as you want it to be soon. ”

In that moment I began to realize just how similar that sweet little baby and I were. I thought to myself:

How many times do I sit there wondering, crying, ‘God why isn’t this happening yet? Why can’t I see what’s going on? Why isn’t it the way I want it to be? What can I do to make things different? I can’t use what I have, I don’t even want this stuff I’ve got. I want something different, something better. Why can’t you just give me what I really want? Why is it like this? Why can’t I see the way out?’ and all the while God is sitting there saying, ‘It’s okay. I’ve given you everything you can possibly need. It’s all right there. Everything is waiting for you to arrive. You’re so close. You don’t have to cry. You don’t have to worry. I promise it’s all right there. If you could only just believe me, it would all be okay. ’” 

 

I spent so much time worrying about why things weren’t right, that I failed to understand everything that was right with where I was. I didn’t appreciate it. I wasn’t thankful for it. I just threw it aside thinking I didn’t really need it. What’s the use in all of this stuff? I let myself get to a point where I couldn’t see past the hurt, the worry, the fear. It consumed me. And so it consumed everything I did for the most part, as well.

When we got home that day, I turned on Oprah, and there was a woman who had survived the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11. As I watched, she talked about all of the things she goes through each day just to get up and going. She had been burned over a large portion of her body. She could no longer hold her children. Up until recently, she couldn’t even open the peanut butter jar to make a sandwich for her children’s lunch. While watching, I realized all of the things that I had to be thankful for.

I can hold my son. I can touch his face. I can hug him. I can pick him up. I can see him smile. I can hear his laughter. I can play with him. I can drive him anywhere he needs to go. I can feel him breathe. I can run and jump with him. I can teach him to play sports. I have so many things to be thankful for, especially when it comes to him. He and my nephews make me smile every day. They fill my heart with joy every day. They let me love them every day, and I feel so honored to be able to do so. And I am so thankful to have the chance, all day every day to try again.

Even when I get things wrong, I have learned to be thankful that I have the chance to try again. And one of the ways I try to show my gratitude is by trying to make the right choice after I’ve made the wrong one. If it is something that can be undone, then I try to undo it. If the chance has passed, then I make sure to try not to make the same mistake again. With gratitude comes the possibility for change. If we recognize that it is possible for us at any moment to show that we are thankful, somehow, some way, we can seize the opportunity instead of allowing it to pass us by.

Day 11 – Cherish the moments, ever-fleeting as they are

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“They didn’t have you where I come from. Never knew the best was yet to come. Life began when I saw your face. And I hear your laugh like a serenade.

How long do you wanna be loved? Is forever enough? Is forever enough? How long do you wanna be loved? Is forever enough? Cause I’m never never giving you up.” Lullaby, The Dixie Chicks

 

There are certain songs I can’t listen to, because they make me cry every time. This song happens to be one of them. What I was lucky enough to learn from taking care of my nephews is just how quickly time passes. I remember the days both of my older nephews were born. My mother and I were at the hospital waiting. And from day 1, my heart had a new home. I remember with each passing year when I was in high school and entering into college thinking, “gosh I can’t believe it’s already been a year, two years, etc. “ They will be 13 and 14 this summer. Which is insanity. In just 4 short years I will have a nephew in college and one who is a senior in high school. There is nothing like having a child to teach you just how quickly time flies. And I tell all of my mother-to-be friends that. I feel a little lucky that Jack was born in December, because I get to sneak at least an extra 6 months with him, and I’m smart enough to know that I should take what time I can get.

When the world starts getting to me, including the stress of dealing with a preschooler, I have started to stop and remove myself for however many minutes I can, and I remind myself that all of this is fleeting. All of it is ever-changing. We are constantly moving, and I have to remember what’s important. It’s hard, because being able to pay bills, have food, have a car, childcare for Jack, those are all things that are essential to our survival as well. And sometimes the outlook gets a little bit bleak. It gets difficult to stay strong. It gets difficult not to give up or give in (I’m talking about jobs here, not life). So finding a path for us is extremely important.

But when I get those moments, and I get that chance to just be, and to look at Jack and know how much I love him. How much I care. And how quickly these times are going to pass by, I get a chance to stop and appreciate this time. I don’t appreciate the stress. But I get to stop feeling it for those moments. I’d appreciate the struggle more if I could see the outcome, but one day I will. And I’m okay with that for now. So in this post I’d just like to say, cherish the moments, ever-fleeting as they are that give us the chance to just know love. And I hope that everyone has something or someone that gives them a place of refuge. In the end it comes from within. A place where we know we are in the presence of something good. I know I’m in the presence of something good, because I am in the presence of love, and it is the love that I have to give and share. And I’m so very thankful that it is returned in the way that it is with my son.

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.

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