Tag Archive | fear

Fear and Faith Cannot Exist in the Same Place

Far be it from me to suggest that I may have been out of touch with my own self in the past several months, but let me suggest just that.  I have been sorely out of touch with myself in the past few months.  Although I prayed every day, I also felt as if I was out of touch with God.  No matter what spiritual books I read, saying a hearty “Amen” to what I read, or what practices I tried to employ to get me over the hump, I remained absolutely stuck.  Stuck rhymes with another work…and it was  that, too.  Yes, it stunk!  (I trust you to get what rhymes with stuck.)

LeSeur In end1

Gosh darn it all to heck, a once ongoing issue had me scared and traumatized to the point where I could no longer write.  I was completely afraid to write for fear of some unforeseen backlash.  Being totally afraid to write left me in a place where my soul got sucked dry.  Each day I prayed to God to help me deal with the fear and the trauma, and to bless whatever might be the source of my fear.

Some things are like the interest on credit cards, or a saving account.  I needed do nothing, but they were compounded daily, or annually, and now I even sort of know what that means, because I am no financial genius.  You can trust me on that.  It means that even things I ignored added up, and even as I kept ignoring them, they continued to add up, then one day God came down and froze my assets and then what did I do?  Well, I prayed harder.   I also may have gotten depressed quite a lot.

There I sat.  My assets frozen, and I could not move because of, or from, fear.  Suddenly, the deficits started to pile up.  First, my own perceived deficits, and I found that they piled up quickly, with no interest whatsoever.  Some deficits I acquired rightfully…I judged, I spoke ill of someone, I felt compassion at times, and anger at others.  Other deficits were old issues, long gone, but back again for a visit, and I let them in, gave them tea, and a place to stay.  Fear lived in my home, and faith and fear do not cohabit well together.

What was I afraid of, you ask?  It makes no matter at this point in time.  What mattered then was that my fear was based in pride, and the resurrection of old trauma.  It took me a long time to figure that out, and even when I *knew* it as plain as the nose on my face, it would not disappear.  Still, I continued to pray every day.  I did not pray only for me, but for the source of my fear.  For some softening—for an end to hate and an opening to love.  I have been praying for that for a year and a half and nothing, but I am no quitter!

There are times when God tests us, and He does so not just by trials, but by a feeling of dryness in our faith.  Lord knows, (Oh, yes, He does!) just how stale I felt.  As a Montana gal, I do not give easily, so while I faltered many times, I did not give up, and then the grace of God descended upon me in the form of something so gracious, loving, and humble, that my weak faith never thought it would appear.  Ah, but it did, because God is good, and I am one persistent woman, for the good, or the bad.  God has given me the biggest prayer of my heart, and the fear is gone.  Today, I can write.  Hallelujah, today, I can write.

As is often the case, I write with tears streaming down my cheeks, and so much joy in my heart.  I pray that this is the start of a reconciliation of sorts—of a new beginning.  Today is the first day of spring and I welcome the thought of an end to the cold, and renewal, and new beginnings, and while there are still many unknowns in my life at this moments, I can feel the coming of sunshine, and warmth, and love. All of this come thanks to a season of trial, and the glorious grace of God.  Hope, like this new season, springs eternal, and my gratitude is too large to fill this page.  May that grace find all of you, too.

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To Every Season, Turn, Turn, Turn…

This blog post is going to be a mash-up,  as I believe the youngsters call it, so hang with me until the end, if you will, please.  You will be rewarded with an excerpt from my book if you just hold tight.   The title to this blog post—the song—has been turning in my head for a day.  Today I opened my daily devotional to find this exact Bible verse.  Co-inky-dink?  I think not.

Last week I  reported that I had started my book.  Yay team!  I will respond to all of your comments soon.  I am still absorbing it all.  How it is going, you ask?  It is has not gone one darned place since.  Why, you ask?  I have a million excuses, just ask me.  December is busy.  I have gifts to make.  I spit coffee all over my gorgeous Apple keyboard and ruined it and I HATE  my new, cheap, keyboard.  I have to JUMP on the space key to get it to work.

Thank you to Running From Hell With El for this!

Thank you to Running From Hell With El for this!

I have a kid to tend to daily.  I have to work. On and on the excuses go.  Excuses are just that.  It all boils down to one single thing.  I am afraid that I am not good enough.  No matter what anyone says, I simply cannot wrap my head around the concept of being good enough.  Pardon my language, but what if I have to give up my self-appointed title as a fuck up?  My head knows that I am not that, but as always, my heart lags behind.

See that red poster up above?  My friend El made that and I loved it. One part of me thought, “She made that for me,” but the other part of me thought, “Good advice, but she wouldn’t make a poster just for me.”  I talked to El on the phone yesterday.  She said, “I made that poster for you, you know.”  Ah, now I had verbal confirmation.  Darn that all to heck.  Now I have to get real.

I began this blog on March 10th of this year. That is not all that long ago, and yet, some how, I have amassed a boatload of followers in that time.  Every time I get notified that I have a new follower, I shake my head and think. “Hmmm…how did they find me and decide to follow me just like that”?  It strikes me as  strange every time.

A couple of months ago, I got one of these babies and it was a lovely gift.

You Like Me!!

You Like Me!!

Guess what?  Since that time, I have been gifted with yet another one of these from Reflections on Life Thus Far, and again I was humbled and very grateful.  I did nothing with it, because I hate to seem showy.  I am a fly under  the radar kind of gal.  Next thing I know, I have gotten of these, also from Ms. Reflections:

Wow, I said to myself.  Wow.

Wow, I said to myself. Wow.

I was touched beyond words, but quite frankly, I stink at accepting awards because a part of me thinks, “Me”??  The other part of me thinks, “Wow.” but I do not want to turn heads or anything, you know?  What would happen if I actually had to admit to myself that I am a good writer?  Then, last week, I got another one of these, this one coming from Rohan7things.  Is it redundant to post it twice?  Why, yes, it is, but tough!

Wow, I said to myself.  Wow.

Wow, I said to myself. Wow.

Not too long ago, my youngest son from my adult six said to one of his older brothers, “You may not know this, but Mom is kind of a big deal.”  I laughed—Anchorman quote and all,but his older brother, the PhD candidate said, “Mom is an excellent writer. Mom needs to write her book.”  Good heavens! I have no children thinking that I am nutty for wanting to write a book.  How do I wrap my head around my kids knowing I have talent, these genius kids of mine?  It is a lot to take in for me, folks.  It has been my job to allow them to shine. What if I just happen to shine, too?

Good heavens, if this all has not been bad enough—hard enough on my inaccurate view of myself—the other night, this showed up, coming from Ivon at  Teacher as Transformer:

Blog of the Year 2012?? Me??

Blog of the Year 2012?? Me??

Oh, baby, I wanted this almost as much as I want, want, want, to be Freshly Pressed!  I was beside myself having seen my name on the list and ever so grateful, and taken aback, too.  This one is different.  It’s a “collect the whole set” award.  I had one star and that was enough for me, but by the next morning, thanks to Carolyn at ABC of Spirit Talk it looked like this:

Two stars overnight??  Again, I say Wow!

Two stars overnight?? Again, I say Wow!

Two stars is enough for me, but if I get more, I will survive it, I suspect.

Then there is the gang on my Facebook page.  My gang is the best gang on any Facebook page.  They cannot wait for my book.  They tell me that I inspire them every day, and I crack them up, too.  My own personal, real, friends who have known me forever tell me that same thing.  Can you all see now why this might be a bit much to take in all in less than a year?

I am being forced to believe in myself because I KNOW that God and a whole great, big, slew of people believe in me.  I have to reorder my view of myself and that is the hardest thing of all, but it is about darned time that I do it, because I CAN feel it…  I can literally feel success and my book and all good things right at the end of my fingertips.  It is right there and it is just waiting for me to catch up.  I reach out every time I think of my book and I can almost wrap my fingers around it all….almost.  Give me a few more moments to wrap my brain around it all, will you, please?  I am a slow learner and quite stubborn.  I am getting there with your love and support!  This is my season to accept myself and my gifts.

Oh, goodie, now comes the book excerpt, raw as it is.  After the book excerpt I am going to paste in a bunch of blogs that I love, and as far as I am concerned, you all win every single award I have won.  Once again, do with them as you will.  I love you all!

Chapter One:

The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., waking me up quickly and not happily. I looked over at my 6-year-old son sleeping next to me. This was not our own bed. We were not in our own home, but in half an hour I would have to awaken him to get him fed and ready for school. I went upstairs and started the coffee and made sure that my hosts were awake. I got dressed while simultaneously packing away all of my own clothing. For whatever reason, I chose to wear my best shirt, jeans and shoes. I went and washed my face and applied full makeup and did my hair. Where did I think I was going that day?

 

At 6 a.m., I climbed into bed with my little boy and snuggled closely with him, kissing him to wake him up. He opened his eyes and said, “Is today the day that you have to go”? “Yes, it is, sweetie,” I replied. He did not want to go to school. I understood that, but I told him that he had to go—that everything would be okay and that his big sister would pick up after school. I hugged him hard and then told him we needed to get ready. He was going to school. I was going to turn myself in to go to prison and while I had know about this for over two years, he has only found out two weeks prior.

 

The counselors told me not to tell him. We were all praying that a pardon might come though. No one could see me going to prison. It just wasn’t going to happen. I remembered back to the day that I had finally told him why we had to move back to Maine from Montana—that I had to go to prison. He had melted before my eyes. We held each other and we cried and cried. He asked questions, and I did my best to answer them. “Mommy, what will you eat”? I told him I would eat whatever they gave me, which would probably mean beans and weenies every Saturday night. He found that amusing.

 

“Mom? I don’t want you to get fat, so will you please eat the skinny cereal”? I promised him that I would eat the skinny cereal and that I would write him every day. “Mom? What will you do about privacy”? I told him that I didn’t expect that I would have much. The depth and uncanny understanding he had of the situation floored me. A week later, we loaded up my car and spent a week driving across the northern part of the United States in the treacherous weather of late February.

 

I don’t remember a whole lot more of that morning, that going-to-prison-today-morning, except that somehow I got all of my all of belongings loaded into my car, and all of his belongings loaded into Howard and Georgia’s Chevy Tahoe. I know I dropped him off in his classroom and I think we both had tears in our eyes. His new teacher may have, too. I remember going over to my first husband’s house to drop off his belongings. Aidan would be living with my first husband and his wife, under the care of my younger daughter from my first marriage.

Blogs that I love:

http://abcofspiritalk.wordpress.com/

http://runningfromhellwithel

http://deborah-bryan.com/

http://chrysalisjourney.wordpress.com/

http://waitingforthekarmatruck.com

http://ivonprefontaine.com/

http://roots2blossom.wordpress.com

http://myrivendell.wordpress.com

http://momentumofjoy.com

http://morningstoryanddilbert.wordpress.com

http://scott-williams.ca

http://infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com

http://knowmyworth.com

http://yogawithmaheshwari.wordpress.com

http://paularenee.wordpress.com

http://tracielouisephotography.net

http://mymeanderingtrail.com

http://abbyhasissues.com

http://toddlohenry.com

http://shesamaineiac.com

http://thetwistingkaleidoscope.wordpress.com

http://reflectionsonlifethusfar.wordpress.com

http://spreadinformation.wordpress.com

http://rohan7things.wordpress.com/

I am forgetting a lot and I know that.  Please forgive me.  If you are behind me, add yourself the list!  On we go!  Rock on, we will.  I sound like Yoda now. Time to say bye-bye!

Having My Baby—I Started My Book!

As a writer, I am not the most disciplined person in the entire world.  I need to ruminate a lot before I write.  I need to think and think and think and then, when I have finally thought enough, I sit down and the words just flow out of my fingers like water.   I have been waiting to start writing my book and have been being nudged gently, and not so gently, by a lot of people.  This book is my baby.  It has been in my head for over a year now, but there have been a lot of distractions, and a lot of thinking, and a lot of fear.  Yes, sissy girl here has had just enough self-doubt overriding my inner knowing of the greatness of this book to hold me hostage for a long time.  I am no sissy, but I am as vulnerable to fear and self-doubt as anyone.  Over the weekend, I got enough encouragement and a big enough kick in the butt to finally do it.  Yesterday morning, I started my book.

Yes, I grew each one of these people in my body and gave birth to them all, one way or another.

For me, writing is like giving birth.  Because I have given birth to seven children, and am a retired midwife, the analogy of having to be pregnant and then labor in order to finally give birth is what best describes exactly what writing is like for me.  I will walk around for quite some time knowing that something big is coming and that it is going to change my life and that it is going to be something good.  This is a very thoughtful period, pregnant with possibilities as yet unknown.  It is a time of dormancy, but not inactive dormancy, for there is a lot of internal planning and preparing going on with in me.  During these periods, I tire more easily, and I might get a little irritable at times, as well.  Being pregnant is hard work and whatever is needing to be birthed just keeps getting bigger and bigger to carry within me.

Now, I am not going to tell you that I had terrible, days long, labors with my real, human children, because I just did not.  I think my longest labor was about six hours long, because I do not consider it labor until I am really feeling it, and really having to concentrate and breathe.  The labor period may be short, but I also go nearly completely within myself during this time.  I do not want to be touched or spoken to.  I am in my own little world for that short period, and that is exactly where I need to be, too.  Do not fret.  I am not there too awfully long.

Then transition hits and things get serious.  I am beginning to feel like I need to push, and even if it is not an actual child that needs to be pushed out, but an idea, I will still often feel a physical sensation to push.  During transition, I can get a little lost, and more than a little scared.  I might be tempted to run.  I had a planned home birth with my sixth child.  He was born in July and I was so hot that I had the air conditioning set so low that all of those present for the birth had to raid my closet for my winter sweaters.  At one point during transition, I got up off of my bed and began to walk towards the bedroom door.  My labor and birth support team asked me where I was going.  I told them that I was getting the hell out of there.  I would come back tomorrow and finished it up then.

Not one drug involved and yet I thought if I just walked out of the room that the pain would end and I could come back when I was ready.   I guess that I thought if I went outside and hoisted myself into my Chevy Suburban and went and got a chocolate malt at the Dairy Queen and maybe had a little nap that I would be ready to finish up the job in a few hours.  Much to my chagrin, they guided me back into the bedroom and I popped the kid out on the bathroom floor about 30 minutes later.

Over the past weekend, I was in transition and I was scared.  I felt stuck and lost.  I knew that I could not go on as I had been, not having the courage to begin to push my baby of a book out into the world, but at the same time, I just really wanted a rest and a chocolate malt from the Dairy Queen.  I would come back and do it when I was ready, and yet I knew it was time to push!  Thank goodness, I had a good labor coach along side of me over the weekend.  She said all of the right things.  She held my hand and listened to my internal wailing, and she understood my fear, and she encouraged me a lot.  She gave me the courage to begin to push and even promised to edit the book and lined up a totally awesome beta reader to join her as part of my team.

Yesterday morning, I woke up and felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off of me.  I had such a burst of happiness and energy.  I was ready to push. I sat down at the computer and opened my word processor and typed the words: Chapter One.  And then, just as I described above, the words just flowed out of my fingers like water.  Apparently, the quality of the water is high, as well, or so I have been told.  I can taste the water myself and know that it is pure and it is the kind of water that is so good that people will want more.  People will pay money to drink this water–well, that is my hope, anyway.

It was not easy, those first few  paragraphs, because it is not easy stuff to give birth to, but it feels so good.  Once you stop fighting the irresistible urge, and you actually start to push in earnest, it feels so good.  I have a lot more pushing to do, and I suspect there will be more pregnant pauses, and more labors, and more periods of transition, but this baby is going to be gorgeous.   This baby is going to light up a lot of lives.  This baby is going to release so much from within me, and so much into the world that I can hardly wait to see what she looks like.  She does not have a name yet, but she will.  This beautiful, hard-fought for baby will have a name well suited to her before she enters the world.

So, if I am a little more quiet than usual in the months to come, or more irritable, or suddenly absent for a bit, please know that I am giving birth to my book and that it is hard work.  You are all my labor coaches and my cheerleaders and I hope that you will all be around to celebrate this baby when she enters the world.  She is my gift to all of you.

Taking Out the Trash–Thoughts on Asking for Help

About ten days ago I was on my way to clean a house when my friend, El, from Running for Hell with El called me.  As we chatted, I told her that I felt blocked in some way, but I just could not put my finger on what it was, or how to clear it.  She agreed with me, saying that she had sensed the same thing in me and she told me when she had been there herself she wrote her way through it.  We ended the conversation and I went in to do my cleaning.  I know the family that I was cleaning for very well and was happy to see their grandson there.  He has been very good to us over the past year.

Stop holding onto what no longer serves you.

I was downstairs dusting when something hit me out of the blue and caused me to pause in my tracks.  You see, in my lovely screened porch at home I had a huge pile of trash that had overtaken the porch.  Back when I could not drive, it was impossible to get to the dump, and when someone dropped over it seemed less than hospitable to say, “Thank you for dropping by.  Would you mind taking a bag or two of trash with you when you go?”  Many people had offered to help me, but those offers kept falling flat with no results, so I became afraid to ask for help and went into paralysis mode.   My molehill of literal garbage had grown into a mountain and I had no idea what to do with it all.  I hid it.  I walked past it as quickly as possible.  I stopped cleaning out my refrigerator because I did not want to add to the pile.

It was avoidance of the highest degree.  I was afraid to ask for help because I had needed to ask for help so many times the previous year that I did not want to feel like a burden again.  Yet, no one had ever told me I was a burden…  They had been telling me that they missed that time we had together with them shuttling me around.  Suddenly, as if I had been overtaken by some other force, I bolted up the stairs, sat down at the table with the grandson and blurted out, “Matt, I need help!”  I explained my situation, and his grandmother waved us off in his truck after we had grabbed some black garbage bags and work gloves.

Getting the garbage bagged up and into the truck was messy, smelly, business.  It was all in kitchen trash bags, but things had started to get into the bags.  Some bags leaked all over us and clear through our work gloves.  I picked up one leaky bag that had a stench that could only be one thing.  I tried to assure Matt that we do not throw out our own bodily waste, but the smell was unmistakable.  As Matt kept telling me he had seen, and cleaned up much bigger messes, I thought back and realized that while our cat had not used the litter box in over six months, at some point I did have to clean her litter box regularly.  Bingo on the smell, and damn to the dawning of just how long I had been hiding from my garbage all because I did not want to ask for help yet again.  As we prepared to leave for the dump, I ran inside and gutted the contents of my refrigerator, and grabbed clean clothes and shoes.  We took my trash to the dump, and back at grandma’s house, I changed my clothes and washed my other clothes and shoes while I finished cleaning her house.  I already felt so much lighter and while I knew I had a big clean up job once I got to my own home, I was excited!

Once home, I munged out the porch area, which was no easy task, but it was fully cleaned, floor washed and all, by the time my son got home from school.  He was happy to see the change.  I then embarked on the refrigerator clean up, which was relatively quick and easy, then I washed that floor.  After my son left to go with his father that evening, I took the most blissful shower, knowing that I was actually filthy for a change.  It felt so good.  I made dinner and celebrated by dancing in my porch that night and sitting out there and looking at the stars.  I went to bed truly exhausted and sore, but happy…really happy.

The next day, as I was driving along I found myself doing something I had not done in some time.  I was noticing the beauty all around me, and proclaiming it out loud to myself.  I passed a few trees starting to turn for fall–“Oh, those are so beautiful,” I exclaimed out loud.  As I passed this or that I kept hearing myself commenting out loud.  “Oh, I just love that!” popped out, and “That is so neat.”   On it went as I drove back home.  The block was gone and what was being blocked by my mountain of garbage and my fear of asking for help was my true and natural ability to appreciate all of the beauty in life.  Let’s face it, who would not be blocked in some way by a mountain of garbage they were pretending did not exist, yet we do it all of the time.  Be it literal garbage, or the metaphorical garbage that we let pile up in our lives, most of us do it.

We hold onto the past far too long.  We nurture anger, hurts, grudges, and tolerate bad behavior in others far after those emotions and people have anything to offer us.  We get so stuck and so blocked by all of the garbage we carry around inside of ourselves that we find it impossible to move forward in any meaningful way.  We feel tired all of the time, stressed, unhappy, and we stop seeing the beauty all around us because our view is so tainted by the garbage we are working so hard to ignore.  Trust me, it takes a lot of work to ignore garbage, be it literal, or metaphorical.   It can suck the life right out of us, but we avoid it, and we are afraid to ask for help to get rid of it because we do not want to be seen as weak, or less than perfect, or we do not want to burden anyone, or a combo platter of the three.

Yet, we were created to be relational beings.  We were created to help each other, and we were created to make mistakes and have emotions that we need to share with others so that we can fully get rid of them.  I know how much of a blessing it is to me when I can help someone for no reason other than to help them.  I had forgotten what a blessing others get by being asked to help.  Whenever we fail to ask for help in getting rid of our garbage we are withholding the chance for another to bless us.  That other person could be a friend, a clergyman, or a counselor.  It makes no difference what their title is, or their role in your life.  If you are avoiding a mountain of garbage that is obscuring your view of the all of the beautiful things in life, ask someone for help.  Life is simply too absolutely gorgeous to waste a minute more trying to hide from your garbage.  Take a chance.  Be bold.  Be a blessing and bless someone else.   Ask for help and take out the trash.  Whatever you have allowed to become a mountain is water under the bridge but it continues to block your view.  Get rid of it.  The view on the other side of the mountain is magnificent!

Following your own path–How to be a socially acceptable non-conformist

Part of being an inspirational page owner on Facebook, for me anyway, is trying to convince people that they can become authentic and they will still be loved.  It means sending out messages, often in poster form, encouraging people away from that life of quiet desperation and towards a life of their own making, full of love, joy, and happiness.  I work very hard to plant seeds that give people permission to be themselves even if it means not totally conforming to what most of us seem to think society wants from us.  I am hoping to let people know that you can become a socially acceptable non-conformist, but few people seem to trust that.

Follow the road only you know exists.

I often hear, “I would love to do this, but…,” or, “I wish I could do that, but…”  These statements are always followed by why they cannot do this, that, or the other thing, and in the end if comes down to their fear of bucking what society and the media feeds us, telling us all what we should be doing, and wanting, and attaining.  It would seem that we are all supposed to be working ourselves into the ground, squeezing our families in when we can, and most definitely, we should be trying to please everyone even if it means denying ourselves.  I used to buy into that, too.  In fact, I owned the company.  I cannot buy into it anymore and I so wish that more people understood that life is all about choices, and we DO have them in nearly every part of our lives.  The real question is, are we willing—are we brave enough to make choices that others might not agree with, or see as a little too different to fit into their comfort zones?  Are YOU brave enough, if you are living a life of quiet desperation, to make serious changes, and not to follow the pack?

I have a friend who is in her mid 70’s and I do not think she has ever known real happiness and contentment.  She worked herself silly as a younger woman and stayed in a marriage that made her miserable.  She lives in a large, gorgeous, home that is decorated within an inch of its life.  You cannot find a single surface, floor included, where there is not some piece of brick-a-brack every six inches.  Her deck has lovely patio furniture with cushions that must be brought inside every time there is a threat of rain, and under the patio furniture are rugs that get soaked when it does rain.  She is constantly on the go, doing for others at the drop of a hat, never able to relax, or just to say “no.”

If she leaves the house without being well dressed and in full make-up, she worries that people will talk about her behind her back.  When she entertains, even a barbecue, no one can relax because she cannot relax.  She has a grandson who is an absolutely wonderful, kind, giving, and grounded young man and of him she says, “Yes, but he’ll never be rich.  Not enough ambition.”  What must I look like to her, I wonder?  I wonder, but the thing is, I do not care.

She looks tired or scared a lot of the time, and every night she drinks too much.  I know at this point in life chances of her changing are slim, but how I would love to see her relax and just find the joy in herself and in life.  I would love to see her just plain happy, and yet, I used to be just like her.  I was constantly on the go, chairing this committee, or that one, or serving on this board, or that one, or more often, all of them. At the same time, I was raising a lot of very young children, and married to a surgeon which meant frequent entertaining, and when I entertained, my goal was to out do those who had gone before me.

I had to be the best at everything and as much as I truly cared about all of the things that I was doing, the reason I was doing them was to feel better about myself.  I had been raised with the notion that perfection was the only acceptable result, and I constantly missed the mark.  It got to the point, shortly before we moved from the community in which I was the go-to person for most everything, where I was out of steam completely, but found myself yelling at my husband who had already moved, “I will not leave this town with anyone thinking I am anything less than perfect!”  He had suggested I drop a thing or two and I could not conceive of doing that.  And just like my friend, I drank every night after I got the kids to bed to ease the pain of another day of being less than perfect.

Of course, that desire to be perfect was a swell cover for many pains that were far deeper, and in the end, that drive to be perfect took me into some places darker than black, and deeper than any bottomless pit, and it very nearly killed me.  However, I had to be knocked down more than a few times before I became willing to make changes in myself, and how I lived, and to be true to myself, and my temperament, and to get to the core of the pain I was hiding from with the need to appear perfect, and the drinking, and the excessive activity.  It took a lot of work, and massive amounts of courage, and a real commitment, and a long, damn, time, but I have found a place where I fully accept myself and am happy in my own skin.  When you get to that place, anything is possible, but far fewer things seem attractive, necessary, or even close to acceptable.

It is no longer attractive to me to pursue perfection.  I would be lying if I said I was totally over the need to be perfect.  The word perfect is one of my favorite words to hear, especially when it comes to my cooking, or writing.  However, I can now easily accept the phrases, “very good,” and “nicely done.”  Before, those would have been seen as insults.  I no longer find it necessary to please everyone to the exclusion of myself, nor is it necessary to say yes to every opportunity that is offered to me.  I derive my sense of self-worth from within—from God and from how I operate in this world.  It is no longer acceptable to me to strive beyond what is healthy for me, nor is it acceptable to have things I do not need, buy things I cannot afford, live somewhere that is far too big, or act like I am anyone but me–the genuine, essential, flawed, imperfect, happy, joyful, me.

Some may view me as lazy.  I know that I am anything but lazy.  Some may think that I need to acquire more things, or have more of what people think that everyone needs, like cable TV, for instance.  I do not want or need cable TV, nor does my son need anymore exposure to vile programs or inappropriate media stories than he already gets other places.  I do not need anymore things, or shoes to match this, or a handbag to go with that.  I now know exactly what I need and that is God, to love my family and friends, to work to pay the bills, and to write to honor God and the gift He has given me.  I have goals for the future that I pray will be a blessing to many, and dreams that I know I will see fulfilled.  God did not create me to be perfect, or run myself ragged in the pursuit of an illusion, or to deny myself and what He has placed in me.  Add a bit of solitude and quiet and my life could not be better.

I live a life so simple and honest that it is hard for many not to see it lacking in some way.  Yet, I know from what they tell me, that they want the same things.  It is just too scary.  The path to get there just looks too scary to take.  I had to go very far inside myself to find my path and it is only the right path for me.  Today, I encourage you to be brave enough to find your own unique path, even if it does not conform to what society wants for you.  Have the courage to go deep enough inside yourself to know who you are and what you really want and be willing to get rid of all of the rest, even if it hurts.  I encourage you towards a life of simplicity, joy, peace, and genuine happiness.  How badly do you want it is the real question?

The illusion of safety… My very personal thoughts on 9-11, eleven years later.

Today is the eleventh anniversary of the tragedy of what we all call 9-11 with full understanding of what those numbers mean.  It was the day that we in America learned that we were not safe in a cocoon, as we had believed we were.  We learned that terrorists could attack us on our own soil.  We learned that the world was a scary place and that hate was all around us.  It had been there all along, we were all just in our happy little bubble, and that bubble got popped horribly that day.

Many responded with love and a sense unity, even in the face of utter shock, pain, and disbelief.  Other went straight into anger and hatred.  I firmly believe that being angry at something evil is a natural response that has its place.  Hatred is never good.  I think it was far more upsetting for me to see people who I called friends screaming in rage at the “rag heads,” than it was to realize that America had been attacked.  It was easier for me to know that other countries held such hatred towards America than to see and feel the hatred in those close around me, for as much as America’s bubble had been burst, my own, personal, illusion of a bubble of safety had been shattered beyond repair.

From the time I was a child, because I had experienced so much trauma, and had never felt adequately protected by those who were supposed to be protecting me, I had built for myself a world where everyone was good, and kind, and loving, and worthy of respect and trust.  While this was a totally unconscious mode of operating, it served its purpose, which was the creation of the illusion of a safe world full of safe people.  Living in a world of my own making allowed me to continue to feel safe and secure in spite of repeated traumas.  I guess that might be seen as the good side of it.

However, the bad side was that this illusion of safety all around me left me wide open for repeated abuse at the hands of unsafe people.  I would forgive, and forget so well it would come as a completely surprise to me each and every time the same person did the same damned thing to me yet again.  Others in my life would say to me, “Does this surprise you?  That he did that?”  Yes!  It absolutely did surprise me time after time!

I had become so adept at disconnecting from my own experiences, and from all traumatic events, that they would literally vanish from my memory almost instantly.  This illusion of a safe world that I had created for myself made me deaf, dumb, and blind to the bad behavior of others, while sinking so deep into the shame of my own bad behavior that my world nearly became one of, me= bad, everyone else=good.  At the core was me, and my pain, and my shame, and I was surrounded by a very thick, many layered, wall that served to protect me by distorting my perceptions of life events so severely that it was like looking out at the world through a small slit deep within a dark bunker.  What I saw through that slit in my bunker was a bubble gum and rainbow world of my own creation.  I was safe.  I was protected.  In my dreams…

On September 11, 2001, that bubble I did not even know existed blew apart.  In the aftermath, my relapse, already in motion, though I was sober at the time, took off in ways that still mystify me, though far less now, than then.  Back then, I was exposed, and angry, and there was a part of me that I was unaware of who said, “Screw it.  If I am not safe here in America, I am safe nowhere.”  My drinking took off like a wild-fire fueled by high winds, and suddenly I was doing things that were the polar opposite of safe.  I was driving drunk…something that would have appalled me before, and appalls me now beyond words.

I was not just getting drunk and finding myself driving.  I was getting in the car with the intent of getting drunk while driving.  As much as it pains me to type this, as much as it disgusts me to remember that time, I now know that, finally, a lifetime of anger was beginning to come out in a very extreme, and very sideways way.  I know I did not want to hurt anyone else.  I am not certain if I even wanted to hurt myself, but some damned part of me was hell-bent on destruction.  I thank God every day that I did not kill anyone else during that time, or myself, for that matter.  Of course, I got caught time and again, and this led to arrests, and jail time, and a halfway house, and finally sobriety that was nothing short of deliverance—pure divine intervention–in the midst of my awful marriage.

As ugly and awful all of it was, it was necessary.  The walls were slowly being broken apart, brick by brick, and my view began to widen.  The disconnect remained, but I became fully aware of it.  It was while I was in prison, with the help of two wonderful women, both specialists in the areas of trauma and addiction, that the walls came down completely.  I came to fully see the illusion I had created, that safe, happy, pretty, world that was supposed to protect me, but in reality had left me so unsafe in more ways that I can explain.  Then one day, while spending time with one of these wonderful women, these words came out of my mouth:  “I am safe.  I can protect myself.”  At 52 years old, I finally realized that I could live fully in the world, as unsafe, and ugly as it may seem at times, and that I—me–I could protect myself.  To me that was the revelation of a lifetime.

A year later, I know now that most of us have some form of an illusion of safety, and in reality, the concept of safety is always an illusion.  We can wear our seat belts, and lock our house and car doors, we can wear helmets and pads, and eat well, and exercise, and watch our children very closely, and still, safety is an illusion.  At any moment, within a second, something—anything–can happen that will shatter our illusion of safety.  I pray for protection for my children and friends and loved ones every day, and yet I know that should I forget to say those prayers until noon on a certain day instead of saying that prayer as soon as I open my eyes, that God has still been protecting my loved ones without me uttering those words.

I can protect myself, but only up to a point.  The reality of it is that it is all in God’s hands and it always has been.  There is no other way I would still be alive were this not the case.  I still wear my seat belt, and watch my child, and say my prayers, but in the end, God’s plans are bigger than mine and I am happy to have it that way.  I know that safety is an illusion, but I absolutely refuse to live a fear based life.  In so many ways, knowing that there is no real safety, expect in the arms of God, has allowed me to live a much fuller, happier, and far more carefree life than I have ever lived before.  I no longer am ruled by what others think of me.  If I want to dance in my living room, I dance.  I will never be a huge risk taker, no matter what my arrest record might lead some to believe, but I refuse to wall myself off from the world again.

Yes, I can protect myself in an intelligent way now, but what my intelligence, and my heart tells me to do most of the time is to love as much as I can, and feel as much as I can and live as freely, openly, and peacefully as I can.  I am who I am.  Love me or hate me, I know God loves me.  Like Cramer, I am going commando now.  I am out there in this not-so-safe-world, and loving every minute of it!  God has got this.  I am at peace now.

My (copycat) experiment with no artificial light and sleep and much more.

A few weeks ago I was listening to the radio and John Tesch told me about an experiment a man had done to see if he got better sleep with no artificial light after sundown.  Yes, that means no lights, no TV, no computer, and so on.  I am a huge fan of simplicity, and a crummy sleeper from way back, so this idea appealed to me on many levels.  Lest you think that I do whatever I half-hear John Tesch tell me to do to improve my life, I did not immediately pull out the candles.  No, I needed to research this idea first, and it was then that I came upon the fine blog of J.D Moyer.  Mr. Moyer and his family have twice gone without artificial light after sundown, once in the month of June, and once in the month of February.  He has a young family, and they cosleep as I did with all of my kids, so his desire was for more and better sleep for himself and his family, and it worked.  It is an excellent blog post that includes a link to a lengthy, but worthwhile, New York Times article.

It was after reading his blog detailing his family’s experiment, and the positive results, that I dragged out my candle collection.  I commenced that night, turning off all lights and the computer at sundown.  I told a few friends what I was doing, and they seemed scared for me by the mere thought of me being in nothing but candlelight for an evening.  I assured them that “real light” was just a switch away.  Yes, I was looking for better sleep, but my reasons for undertaking this ongoing experiment went a lot deeper.  You might say that the reasons went clear down into my very soul and I felt as if I was strongly being called to return, or move forward, into a higher level of simplicity, and away from the many distractions of today’s world.  I was being called closer to God.

There were also practical reasons for my decision to start this experiment.  If you search through my blog you will find that my son and I live in a little cottage in the woods.  I love the solitude and nature all around me.  However, the cottage gets very little natural light inside, so my electric bill has been obscene no matter how careful we are.  Since I heat the cottage entirely with wood in the winter, and the stove is gas, the power bill is all lights and appliances.  At the same time, I use my cell phone as my sole source of internet, and I had gone over on my data plan two months in a row, which hurt a lot.  I realized that my dedication to my Facebook owners page was the culprit, or more to the point, my ego, and my desire to see the page grow.  The Facebook page was also pulling me away from real pages, in actual books, like the Bible.  I needed an excuse to step away and this was it.

At the same time, I was suddenly dealing with chronic pain coming from what I found out to be extensive arthritis in my spine.  The pain was so obnoxious that a prescription strength anti-inflammatory medication was needed, as well as physical therapy.  My physical therapist tells me I have excellent flexibility, which comes as no surprise, but my core muscles are weak.  Blame it on having carried seven children.  That is what I do. 😉  I am a nurse, so I know that being chronically tired because of poor sleep makes any pain feel magnified, so I wanted to see if I got better sleep without artificial lights, and if I would have less pain as a result of getting more sleep.  It seemed that weakness of my core, both physical, and spiritual, were my biggest problems, and something as simple as turning out the lights at sundown might be the cure.

The first night, and every night since, has been heaven.  At sundown, the candles are lit, the computer goes off, and I read the Bible for a while.  I may sit up to do some reading, or I may dance to music by candlelight.  Some nights I do not feel like dragging the candles upstairs and downstairs repeatedly, so I just get into bed to read.  I am usually yawning and ready for “candles out” within 30 minutes to an hour.  I do sleep better and those periods of quiet wakefulness that Mr. Moyer mentions are truly lovely.  Some mornings I am up by 5 a.m., but I feel well rested, and I enjoy an hour of quiet, and a cup of coffee, before my son wakes up.  To my literal relief, with each passing day, I have less back pain.  In fact, it has been almost non-existent the last day or two, and because we vacationed last week, I was less than faithful to my core strengthening exercises. My middle of the night cravings for a couple of homemade cookies seems to have vanished, as well.

The most important aspect of the experiment has been my realization of just how thirsty I was spiritually, though.  I drink up the Bible when I read it each night and I discover more than I ever have.  I am also reading several devotional masters from throughout the centuries and so many speak of simplicity in a way that resonates with me more deeply than ever.  Mr. Moyer spoke of missing TV.  We don’t have cable TV–only DVDs and I rarely watch one just for me.  I feel like I am missing nothing and gaining everything.  I have gained freedom from something that I was allowing to enslave me–the computer.

I notice much more.  Did you know that it is getting darker earlier each night now?  “Of course it is,” you are thinking, but have you really noticed?  I listen to the other rhythms of my body more instinctively now, too.  If I am hungry and want dinner at 4:30 p.m., that is when I have dinner.  Everything simply feels better by candlelight and if I go to sleep at 9:30 p.m., so what?  Gone is the fear that if I go to bed early I will be up far too early.  It just does not matter anymore.  My son loves it, too.  He is an early to bed sort of guy, so it suits him fine as long as there is a small night-light left on in the stairway.  I sleep much better without the night-light, but him screaming “Mom, there is no light!” at 3 a.m. is far more disruptive, so…  I had no idea I was that sensitive to even a tiny amount of artificial light, but it seems that I am.  I was happy before, but I am happier and think better in the afternoon now.

I am old enough to remember when unplugging meant turning off your TV, or using an acoustic guitar instead of electric if you were a musician.  Now we live in an age where entire blogs are devoted to the art of “unplugging,” and articles are written in magazines and newspapers.  Many articles detail the procedure as if it were akin to quitting heroin or crack.  We have to prepare to unplug, we have to notify people, we can expect this or that feeling on day three, and on and on.  Life it too complicated if we need instructions on how to turn off our computers and cell phones for a few days.  Life is far too complicated if we are all deeply sleep deprived and overly stimulated and fat because we are attached to one device or another all day and night long.  Life is too complicated if the thought of reading by candlelight is scary.  Gads!  What are we all doing to ourselves in the constant attempt to be heard, and seen, and to accomplish…what is it again?  To have more?

No, I have had enough and have just enough.  I want no more than that, and less is even better.  I have no desire to possess anything more than good health, a good attitude, and good relationships full of love.  My relationship with God must come first, and I am glad to have been reminded of that.  Being well fed spiritually, and well rested physically, makes me so much better able to love all of the wonderful people in my life.   Thank you, God, for sending John Tesch and J.D. Moyer my way.

Gifts and blessings are delivered in so many forms.  My most recent gifts came via electronic devices, both of which I am about to turn off for the night.  You might consider doing the same for a time.  I have found it to be a joy filled, delightful, experience.  If you do decide to try this experiment, please report back to me with your results.  I would love to hear anything, even something as simple as someone noticing the stars for the first time in years.