Broken

We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in — Ernest Hemingway

Lately, my crazy train has been making a lot of stops and picking up a lot of passengers.  It’s easy to forget that I can get off this train.

I press my face to the glass next to my seat and look out across the rolling plains.  Close to the train, everything moves too fast.  Fixing my eyes on the distance is the only way to travel.  Or is it?  I need some air.

Getting to the door at the back of the car isn’t easy.  There are too many people in the aisle.  As the train lurches and sways, I struggle to get my balance.  There are too many distractions.  Most of the people in the aisle are talking loudly.  They make demands I have no interest or desire in fulfilling.

“Where do you think you’re going?” they say with a sneer.

“You think you’re too good for this train!  We’ve got news for you, you aren’t.  Sit down and be quiet.  No one cares that you want off.  Get used to it.  This is life.  Toughen up.  Did you expect a free and easy ride?  We all have it tough.  You think you’re special.  You’re no better than any of us.”

I choke back tears and return to my seat.

The voices in my head wonder,  “Maybe they’re right. Maybe it’s wrong to want to get off.”

As I press my face to the smudged glass next to my seat, I see my reflection.  The burden of clarity creates a tight hard spot in my chest.  I’m free not to ride this train.  Letting other’s words and opinions confine me is wrong.  Accepting the limits they impose on me is wrong.  Internalizing their disrespect has been devastating.

This train isn’t going anywhere I want to go.  It’s full of meanness, of small mindedness and opinions that do not build or inspire but hurt and tear down.  When I ride this train, it’s very hard not to become like the rest of the passengers.  And, I have.

I have neglected what is good and holy.  I’ve listened to the wrong voices and forgot that like me, they are broken and struggling against something they don’t really understand.  We have lost our way on a hair-raising and chaotic ride to the end of the tracks.  We’ve forgotten that in the end, the end will come to us where ever we are.

I want the end to find me happy.  I want the end to find me mending my broken pieces while I mend others.

I stand on the edge of the stairs at the last car and practice my jump in my mind.  In the distance, the hills call my name.  I jump.  I roll.  I live.  The train vanishes around a bend.  A new chapter begins.

Fear

The urge to put words to paper often overcomes me.  Then, I remember how uncomfortable I became, how opening oneself up and putting it out there for the world to see put me at risk and contributed to what was to follow.

Not everyone liked what I wrote.  Writing and sharing made my world less friendly, more hostile.  Yet, I opened myself up to it knowing what was likely and was still surprised when the inevitable happened.  Maybe, I was looking for a reason to stop.  I had begun to feel as if I had nothing to say, nothing of value to suggest.  If I made others responsible for not writing, I didn’t have to face what I felt about what I was producing.  Writing had become a way of making myself feel better at a time in my life when so many things were falling apart.

At this extremely challenging time in my life, I have learned a great deal about human nature.  People who I expected to be loving and supportive are not.  I had to process the hurt, the grief and find hope.

I, who can easily sit in judgment of others found myself at the end of others poor opinion.  I was blamed for my own problems, given loads of advice and experienced rejection and anger when I wouldn’t do what others thought I should.  Since, I’m not exactly new to this earth, you would think I’d have been better prepared.

I am the first to admit that yes, humans, me included, often create problems for ourselves and then invest lots of energy into maintaining them.  Problems become a mantel we don’t break through.  We allow problems to define us.  They give us reasons to stop striving, to stop reaching beyond ourselves, to stop growing.

For a long time, I’ve been stuck in trying to figure out why others outside the problem have such an emotional investment in it.  As interesting as the answer may be, it really isn’t important.  Their reactions are their responsibility.  I have enough on my plate.  I allowed my problems to become excuses.  Problems can be reasons but when they become excuses something is wrong.

My limited readership is most engrossed in what I write when I write honestly about the nuts and bolts of my life.  While I prefer distant, philosophical fluff, it isn’t nearly as interesting.  I’m afraid to write about the real and maybe that is the only reason that I should.

My writing is imperfect.  I am often embarrassed by it but I can write moderately well and I feel drawn to do so.  I know what it’s like to be me.  I spend a lot of time thinking.  I spend a lot of time finding ways to cope.   This is something I know a lot about.  This is what I will try to share in the days and weeks ahead.  The world is often a cold and hostile place.  Some times that hostility and indifference comes from those close to you.  As painful as this can be, it provides an opportunity for growth, a chance to rise above.  It can open a pathway to being a more loving presence in a world desperately in need of redemption and love.

Violence begets violence.

Hate fuels hate.

Negative talk creates negative thoughts and feelings.

Love is the only force that can heal.

Love can be tough.  It may not look like love.  Love may create boundaries and say “no.”  People may accuse you of being unloving, of not doing the right thing.  They may tell you that you’re wrong or selfish.   They can be wrong.  Dead wrong.

It’s time to face my fear and begin again.

(Now, to tackle my fear of falling through the sub roofing and get up there with Andy to see if we can get some tarp to cover the roof where the rain is pouring in.  Welcome to my world.  There is rarely a dull moment.)

 

From the Ragamuffin Gospel

Some time this last year I read a book by David Timm entitled The Power of Blessing.  In that book, Timm references a quote from Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel.  Manning was a priest, author and wrote candidly about his struggles with alcoholism.  Manning’s humble realism and poetic soul appeals to me.  I copied the following down from Timm’s book which quotes Manning on page 19.  The piece of paper on which I wrote these words is passed around from pile to pile.  The edges are starting to wear down.  I reread it often because I can’t help myself.  I especially love the line, “unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.”

I know exactly what that means.

Lately, it’s been hard to write.  I’m afraid too.  Opposition, criticism can really eat away at one’s self esteem, one’s courage.

Life is also crazy busy.  I am drug behind the freight train of life struggling to climb aboard.  This isn’t the way I imagined it would be.  There are lots of moments of joy in between moments of grave disappointment.  The cheese on my cracker is Swiss.  Joy is the cheese.  Disappointment are the holes.  Manning reminds me that this is as it should be.  He gives me hope that even though I’m a scalawag with slipping cheese, I am loved beyond imagining.

This is the essence of the Christmas message.  The Nativity Story is the story of simple people, a simple God, and the most humble of beginnings. Love was born into this world in a barn. Imagine the smell of the animals, the flies, the little rodents who love to share spaces like these.  Imagine no snow in the Middle East.  Imagine hot manure.  Imagine a helpless new born baby beside it.

This Good News is the Ragamuffin Gospel.

“The Ragamuffin Gospel was written for the bedraggled, beat-up, burnt-out.

It is for the sorely burdened who are still shifting the heavy suitcase from one hand to the other.

It is for the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together and are too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace.

It is for the inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.

It is for the poor, weak, sinful men and women with hereditary faults and limited talents.

It is for the earthen vessels who shuffle along on feet of clay.

It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment.

It is for the smart people who know they are stupid and honest disciples who admit they are scalawags.”

 

I can recycle that scrap of paper.  I write the Ragamuffin Gospel on my soul.

Thanks, Fr. Manning.  I’m beginning to understand the true joy of Christmas.

Entry 200: Silence

picnicview

Several days ago, I read an article on silence.   It has clung to me like a second skin.  I feel compelled to write about something I can never capture.   How do I write about silence when its very state lies beyond words in an emptiness so full there is no describing it?

It’s the lack of silence in my head that troubles me.  I long to have the stream of thoughts and their companion words broken by the grace of silence.  Only in the silence can I begin to understand my relationship to all things.  It is in this space that God speaks to me in the economy of stillness, a loving quiet, a healing silence.

Lately, the words have been such a jumble that I can’t find myself.  I tumble in the land of words like a feather in the wind.  Driven to figure out things I can not understand, all the words in the world still leave me feeling empty.  They have not been tools but a burden that I can’t sort out.  Trips to the library find me leaving with an armful of books, I can never read.  I pour over them in the evening, searching for some thing I can not describe.  My busy head is driven to find the answers.  I fool myself into thinking that some day, one of these books will open the door into a place I’ve never been and I will understand what I’ve been looking for all these years.  But I know that this isn’t true.  These books can never contain the answer to everything that challenges me.  Such an answer isn’t found in a book.  It is only found within, in the vast empty space of silence.

Words can carry me only so far.  The rest of the way must be travelled alone in the gentle caress of silence.

And so, I celebrate my 200th entry, advocating the opposite of words, symbols or pictures.   I have always been convinced that at the very heart of all being is a space beyond words where God/Love dwells within us like a gentle fire.  So much of my life has been consumed with putting out this fire.  Tending this fire seems to lead me down an unfamiliar road but it is a road I know better than myself.  Lost in the mystery of silence, I discover that it has always been where I began and where I will finish: in Silence.

 

Focus

Focusing isn’t one of my strong points.  I have a noisy mind.  Wild and unruly, it gallops here and there and drags me along with it.  This noisy mind is the reason I am very rarely bored.  It’s also the reason that achieving goals are very difficult things for me.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to rework this blog and maximize its potential.  I can’t decide what that means or how to do it.

There is a crafty, practical side that I’d love to express and share with others.

I’m a Mary Kay consultant.  My connection to the people in this company is transforming my life in ways I never expected.  This is something that should not be kept secret.

I love cooking and eating.  Food excites me, soothes me, fascinates and charms me!~

I’m a mom with an amazing daughter.  I learns something new from her every day.  She is a remarkable young woman.

I’m a bipolar mom with a child who is diagnosed as bipolar.  This is no walk in the park.  He makes me laugh and can break my heart all within a matter of minutes.  There is never a dull moment.  He is a remarkable young man.

I’m an older mom which adds a dimension to parenting that is distinctively different than parenting while young.

I’ve managed to stay married for over 17 years to a husband I dearly love.  That hasn’t stopped me from having moments or whole days when I wanted to run away to Canada and assume a new identity and leave him behind.  Staying married isn’t always easy.  I’ve learned a few things (but nothing about emigrating to Canada and taking on a new name.)

How can I take all these odd pieces and make them into something coherent?  Thinking about it all makes my head spin.

This task is precisely what has had me utterly stumped wordless for some time!  And then, I realized that I am the connection between all these weird pieces and that readers want to read about the real things in someone’s life: the successes, the failures, the hopes , the dreams and disappointments.  Keep it short, keep it real.  Don’t set out to inspire to instruct.  Just write.

So that’s my plan.

I recently read a blog post by a woman who had a falling out with her family.  It went on and on about scorpions and frogs and how some people are scorpions and can’t be trusted and will always sting the frog.  I didn’t feel very good inside after I read it.  Scorpions always give me the creeps.  I don’t want to go there.

The only thing I really know anything about is being me.  While I don’t always enjoy being trapped inside this particular body with this particular mind, it is what I know and it is what my focus will be.  Let the writing begin again.

The Road Block Called Heartache

The title might be a bad name for a country western song.  It’s one I’m a itchin to write!

I’ve been really stuck.  The words have backed up inside me against a wall of grief.  It’s time to find away around it.

There is wisdom in the trite, “What is, is! 

If I repeat this as a mantra, will I be able to free my spirit?

Words don’t always fix things.  They can create problems especially if you go looking for them.  I’ve got enough problems.  I’m ready for solutions.  What is, is and it’s up to me.

Some times the simplest ideas and the least amount of words does the trick.

What is, is.

It’s up to me.

The Trail

The trail feels good under my feet.  It’s been too long since we’ve spent some time together.  The feet of a runner behind me makes a familiar rhythmic sound as she passes.

I say,  “Good morning.”

She can’t hear me.  An ipod is firmly strapped to her arm.  She is wired for sound.  I think of a future in which ipods are chips imbedded under our skin.  We can turn them off and on at will.  I shudder slightly to shake off the sting of this thought.  My mind turns back to the runner and the trail.  Deaf to my good morning, to the call of the killdeer, the hum of tires skimming over pavement, she runs past me as if I were part of the landscape just like the dead branches of scotch broom that lie along the sidewalk.

A smile flashes across my face when I think of what she is missing.  Gratitude fills me as I walk and listen to the sounds all around me.  This is engagement and it is sweet and warm. Taking a deep breath, I enjoy the air that is delicately laced with a lazy morning dampness.  My senses have come alive without an ipod to revive them.

The trail unfolds under my feet.  I come alongside a chain link fence.  A small wren lured by a young woman with her hair in a neat little bun flutters within the perfect frame made by the links of the fence.  The spaces between the wires are more important than the wires themselves.  This is how it should be.  We should always know what we are fencing out and what we are fencing in by the spaces in between.

The little wren calls to the young woman from its perch.  As the woman walks on, the wren flutters to a closer link and calls again.  It happens once, then twice, then again and again.

“That little bird seems hopelessly in love with you,” I say.

Talking of love to strangers early on a Sunday morning seems a bit bold and possibly rash. What am I thinking?

“I’ve never seen a bird do that before,” she replies with a smile.

“Nor have I,” I say.

The bird and the moment pass.  We all go our separate ways.  In that moment, nature and talk of love met in a pair of smiles.  I’ve missed this trail, the sound of birdsong, the chance to carve a space for myself upon the trail that divides the earth from the sky.  This trail feels good under my feet.  I will walk again.

 

Graceful

Dictionary.com defines

grace·ful

  [greys-fuhl]

adjective
characterized by elegance or beauty of form, manner, movement, or speech; elegant: a graceful dancer; agraceful reply.
Tuesday.  I want to be full of grace.  I want an elegance of the soul.  I want something to protect me from all that is not elegant or graceful.
Instead of falling from grace, I want to fall into grace.  Headlong, helplessly, tumbling into the elegance of soul that I desperately seek.  Life has brought me to the edge.  Grace opens up below me.
The recent reading of A Complaint-Free World has turned my world upside down.  I see my complaining for what it is and have discovered that I’m a bit lost without it.   Not that I haven’t fallen and indulged in complaint but it’s not the same.  I know there is something better.
As I do my best to fall into grace, I see it as gift: pure and simple.  I don’t want to live without it.

No Complaining

It’s Wednesday.  Woe day and Carol finds time to write.  Some how I don’t think it’s a coincidence.  Wednesday and woe are such a natural pairing in my brain.  How I want to change that channel.  It isn’t easy.

To this end, I picked up yet another book at the library.  This one is called,  A Complaint Free World: Take the 21-Day Challenge by Will Bowen.  The book came home with me on Saturday.  I’ve read up to page 12.  Despite how little I’ve read, I’ve been captivated by the main action idea that the book proposes.  It is this:  Wear a bracelet, watch, or rubber band on your wrist or put a coin or doodad in a pocket.  Every time you catch yourself complaining, gossiping or criticizing out loud, you switch the item to the other wrist or pocket.

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Polar Wednesday

Woe can sometimes come from unexpected sources.  Waking my son up on this last Wednesday morning wasn’t fun. The woe alarm was clanging in my head.  I’d rather wake up an angry polar bear.

My son was an angry polar bear this last Wednesday.  How easily this polar bear undermined my pleasant morning.

I do not wake up with the heart of the polar bear.  I’m more of a happy hermit crab.  I carry the comfort of a warm, soft bed around with me to start the day.  My muscles are relaxed.  The day is still pleasantly fuzzy around the edges.  I can retreat into my shell with a good cup of morning coffee and this hermit crab is as happy as a clam.

I’m sure polar bears would eat crabs, clams and anything else that got in its way.  My polar bear wouldn’t bat a paw at eating anything, least of all me, his happy hermit crab mother who often tries to sing him into a pleasant state before he roars out of his cave.  Maybe it’s my singing.  It is really terrible.  The lyrics I create to go with my off-key singing might also be a factor but you can’t fault me for trying.  I’ve looked into this bear’s eyes and I know fear.

A mom does what she’s got to do.  As much as I dread jeopardizing my happy morning mood by tossing it to an angry bear, it’s got to be done.  The alternative is to let the bear stay home all day, eat junk and play non-stop video games.  Polar bears who do that all day lose all social skills as well as the opportunity to get an education and participate in the normal life of a American boys who drag themselves off to school reluctantly and spend most of their day talking about video games and thinking about how to trade lunch for some junk food.  A mom does what she’s got to do.

I’d prefer not to be called to truancy court which actually goes through a lot of hoops, loops and whistles before juvenile hall but the polar bear doesn’t have to know that.  I haven’t pulled that out of my arsenal of weaponry yet.  I’m saving it for the last ditch effort before one swipe of a polar paw leaves me a pile of bloody ribbons.

Wednesday morning’s struggle was intense.  The clock was ticking.  The bear was still in pajamas.  The sound, pounding in my ears, was my heart.  My voice was not singing.  It rose about an octave and I spoke in short, curt shrieks that even hurt my ears.  It doesn’t help the bear.  It made him more angry.   Handing him off to the next “zoo keeper” on this sojourn to school was a relief that I was too upset to enjoy, at first.  I drove to work sputtering with complaints I didn’t want to hear.

And, then I began to hatch a plot.  Psychology is at my disposal.  Am I not the wily human one, the happy hermit crab who just might have a powerful weapon on my side, my intuition and ability to alter my response and thus redirecting the polar bear’s behavior with clever mommy manipulation?

Watch out polar bear.  I’m getting ready for you.  No more woeful Wednesday mornings.

I am the person behind the words printed here. I write because my heart will not allow me the option of NOT writing. It has taken me half a life time to discover this basic truth, but now that I have, writing is as natural as breathing. This is where my breath takes the form of words.

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The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM)
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