The Gatherer

For years, I have operated under the delusion that my husband is the pack rat of this pairing.  Apparently, my capacity for denial is extremely well developed.  This past week, we have made 6 trips to donate “stuff”.  We’ve only begun to de-clutter.  I am the source of the acquisition of most of this “stuff.”  I am an amazing gatherer.

All this stuff has been making me a bit crazy.  The clutter tugs at my mind with confusion.  What to focus on?  What is important?   What to keep?  What to give away?  These are important questions that have often been lost in the”stuff” that floats around me like a Sargasso Sea.  I am the center of this stagnant spot.  With admission, comes a wee bit of shame, but mostly relief.  When I begin to see clearly, I will make better choices.  Delusion:  it’s time for you to go.

While I am an amazing gatherer and I’ve learned how to gather on a dime and make a profit on this flotsam, it’s not helping me any more.  It became an insulation against the world.  Building a fortress of others’ cast offs has been a simple way of protecting myself.  This stuff insulated me from feelings of loss, disparity, injustice, rejection, poverty.  It’s time to look this stuff in the eye and see it for what it is.  It’s looking back at me and helping me see that feelings of loss, disparity, injustice. . . are not ends in themselves, they are steps along the path.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  By giving things away, I’m clearing what has blocked the light.

“Light!  I’m so happy to see you.”

“I thought I’d find you by holding on.  I was wrong.  It’s all about letting go.”

Sanity is Over Rated

I am forgetful.  I am not as patient as I once was.  The other day, I screamed at a driver to get off her cell phone.  Fortunately, she didn’t see me.  I was shocked and ashamed of myself.  I wanted to pull over and cry.  I’ve had a few people call me nuts.  Ouch.  What happened to tact?  Wait, I don’t have a lot of that either.  Maybe I am a bit nuts.

Recently, I read about the prefrontal cortex (part of the brain).  It’s got an amazing job.  It regulates decision making.  It’s the seat of abstract thought.  It allows people to plan ahead and make strategies.  It controls emotions. It makes good judgments. . . all when working well, of course.  The prefrontal cortex is slow to develop and given as one of the chief reasons why smart teens may make such poor decisions.  It has limits.  In my case, it’s been overloaded trying to cope with the day-to-day that is my life.  My prefrontal cortex is having a bit of a crisis.

On top of circumstances beyond my control, I’ve got a decrease in estrogen.  Researchers used to believe that it affected the menopausal woman’s hippocampus.  Now they find:

“The prefrontal cortex is critical for intact working memory and estrogen enhances performance on working memory tasks. In conclusion, this study provides preliminary evidence for executive dysfunction in untreated menopausal women as women with HRT outperformed women without HRT on tests requiring directed attention, inhibition of inappropriate responses, and cognitive set switching.”  [Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11403979]

Which in lay person’s terms means, I am so screwed.

I didn’t plan on this.  “Lord, what are you thinking?”

“Lord, this is about faith, surrender, acceptance, isn’t it?”  The answer is a peaceful silence.

My God’s not much of a talker but then again, getting a word in edgewise with me, is no easy feat.   So, I try listening.  The clocks ticks off the seconds. I hear the soft rise and fall of my family’s voices as they enjoy a cooking show.  I can’t hear their words but the tone is sweet.  Soon their talk turns to the worm in Mescal.  Funny how quickly their voices rise.  I hear “Uuuuuuh,” then laughter.

Again, the ticking of the clock forces its way to the center of my awareness.  “Lord, are you telling me to heed the passage of time?” In between ticks, I realize that even in these challenging times, my life can be full and sweet.  Blessings are as abundant as sorrows.  One highlights and illuminates the other and I see with fresh eyes, not confined by logic or reason.   Mine is an exquisite kind of crazy.  I’m one lucky woman.  Sanity, is highly overrated.  I’m sure of it.

Powerfully Weak

I’ve missed writing.  Words empower me but  for a long time I have felt weak, defeated, a victim.

I allowed myself to become all those things.  I even sent out a few invitations to my pity party.

Fortunately, nothing lasts forever.  I started to get angry, first at others and then myself.  I was not very nice.

On a recent day, when my internal judge and jury reared its head and pronounced silently in the courtroom of my mind, that the people I was with at the moment were a mess, the wiser part of me stepped forward quickly and said,  “You’re a mess too.”

OUCH.

Wise me was right.  I didn’t want to admit it.  I started listing all the challenges in my life in hopes of building a case for myself.  What was I trying to justify?  Victimhood?  Dysfunction?  I deleted that list quickly.  There goes that blog entry.

Time passes.  I still wanted my fingers to flutter across the keys while words appear like magical rows of expression but I won’t let it happen.  I don’t feel worthy.  I don’t feel powerful.

Finally, a breakthrough. . . (which is a lot better than a breakdown.)

When this morning’s alarm went off introducing a chorus of guttural groans into my slumber, I stumble to the shower only to catch an unwelcome glance at myself in the mirror.

Internal judge and jury quickly announce “you look like a sack of potatoes!”

Wiser me tries to temper my unflattering announcement but gives up quickly.  I do look a bit like a sack of potatoes in which a few of the potatoes are not yet done shifting.

Finally, in the shower, the image of a burlap sack with a few loose potatoes falling into odd places made me smile.  There, in that little cathedral of soap scum and creeping mildew, I knew that in my weakness and imperfections lie my greatest strength.   Life and potatoes had distracted me.

As I shuffle into evening, I find this quote in the book I’m reading.

I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is make perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

Need I say more?

Only Human

The opinions stated in my blog are only opinions.  I am not always right, kind or fair, no matter how much I desire to be.  At times, the frustration I feel may impede my better judgment and my better self.  I may be small and petty.  I may be hurting and in that hurt lash out at some one or something unfairly.  Typically, I work hard not to do those things.  Occasionally, I fail.

While I write about lots of theories, ideas and opinions based on my subjective experience, the real purpose of this blog remains.  I am sharing my reflections on my human experience.  I will not always be “right.”

Lately, I’ve had several people obviously upset with me.  I suspect it may have started here.

As much as I dislike upsetting people and passive aggressive responses,  it is going to happen.  I have a right to my opinion.  I have a right to be occasionally wrong.  My life, my experience are mine alone.  We will not always agree.

In a normal day, I take in the opinions and subjective feelings of others.  I often disagree but due to my position, my natural inclinations, I rarely challenge those ideas.  Often, I can not.  I do not hold a position of authority in my day job.  In fact, I am often treated with mild suspicion and thinly veiled contempt.  I have a specific job to do but lack the power and the tools to do a good job of accomplishing my main objective.  I witness the destruction of inflexible thinking.  I see how investment in a viewpoint often hides the forest from the trees.  I hear. . .”They should________.”  And often I agree but should doesn’t address the problem.  What is done is done.  What can we all do now in this moment that is in the best interest of as many people as possible.  How can we put aside our individual ideas and biases and get this job done?

I may be more judgmental than average.  I know I can be petty and selfish.  I was given a mind, albeit limited, as a gift.  I’m expected to use it by all that is Holy and Just.  I am drawn to write and at present have only this blog as an outlet for the ideas and the words that churn within me.  I may be the worst thing to happen to the written world, yet have the right of expression.  Upsetting people is the last thing I want to do but sometimes it is going to happen.

I stumble through life, as a limited human,  I will fall.  If I look up and away from myself, I will see others falling, standing, marching and flat on the ground.  I am not alone.  We all stumble toward a promised land or the great abyss.  Our perception frames our experience.  Opposing viewpoints can open doors to a greater understanding.   We all stumble.  We all fall.  I am sorry if something I have said or done has hurt you.  Hurting people is not my intention.  Reflection on my personal experience,  trying to frame my life in more positive terms, trying to be a little bit better person than I was the day before, these are my objectives.  I share these only because I can, because words are often my only currency.

In my struggle to get by (and it is a very real struggle) there are days when the words seem to be the only thing that anchor me to something greater. Sharing them is often profoundly stupid.    So many of the choices I made have brought me to middle age with no safety net:  never enough money, no career, no retirement.  So many things outside my control have contributed to my situation as well.  Embarrassment, blame, shame are all impediments to persevering.  At times, I indulge in them.  Often, I dip my toes into self-pity and feel like a victim.  Old habits die hard.  I just want to crawl into a corner and lick my wounds.

Something inside me, won’t let me.  Something inside me takes risks and often loses only to try again.  Something inside me drives me to document this struggle and the small victories here, despite my embarrassment and my reluctance to be vulnerable.  Something inside me knows that my experiences, while uniquely mine, are profoundly human.  Profoundly human is something that taps into others’ awareness of their own limited humanity.   At times, my words and anothers’ feelings intersect.  That moment of connection is why I write, no matter how rare, no matter how uncomfortable I may be.

We are saved and forever in need of salvation.   I am not alone.  You are not alone.

 

Thrive

 

“You cannot get sick enough to help sick people get better. You cannot get poor enough to help poor people thrive. It is only in your thriving that you have anything to offer anyone. If you’re wanting to be of an advantage to others, be as tapped in, turned in, turned on as you can possibly be.”

 

– Esther Abraham-Hicks

 

 

Ask me about not thriving and I can offer you a blue print.   Thriving is something that demands some attention and exploration.  Now that I’m certain what not thriving means, I’m ready to thrive.  I shall not thrive alone.  I have not suffered alone.  There are many like me and many who are not.  Yet, we are still bound together.

Living in a world full of happenstance, crisis and chaotic luck isn’t easy.  I look for causes and reasons and sometimes they don’t exist.  It’s easy to blame others.  It’s easy to blame myself.

Surprisingly,  I’ve discovered that some people also blame the down-on-their-luck types for their own troubles.  This is a slippery slope.  Blame doesn’t solve anything.  Compassion does.

Yesterday, I listened to someone blame the uninsured for their own problems.  For those of us living outside the boundaries of  “normal”,  options that others take for granted don’t exist for a huge variety of reasons   Most of those reasons have nothing to do with problems of our own making.

When I start worrying about what others are entitled to, I remind myself of the women coughing up blood in the “poor clinic.”   She was consistently refused treatment at the hospital and at the clinic and had spent 3 months going back and forth looking for help.  In between blood-filled coughs, she cried quietly.  I wanted to be repulsed but I could not.  It didn’t matter if she was a two-bit prostitute who was a heavy drug user.  In that moment she was a human being who needed care.  In my heart, it felt criminal to deny her this.

I don’t remember what I said to her.  I just knew that I had to make a human connection.  I had to remind her that some one cared and while I couldn’t fix her problems, I could acknowledge them and give her a few seconds of dignity and human respect.  That was several years ago.  I doubt she is still alive.

For me, the only path to thriving is found in a path that acknowledges and accepts the needs of others and that honors my need to be of service.  No one thrives in a vacuum.  We share our lives, our time on earth, with billions of other people, none of which will walk this way again.  The needs of others affects me.  They pull against the intricate web of life and whether I want to or not, I feel those tugs.

It isn’t my place to judge another’s worth and whether they are deserving of food or healthcare or. . .  Am I so good so pious that I deserve something that others do not?  Isn’t their need reason enough to reach out?  When Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, did he feed some and not others?  No, he simply fed the hungry.

Some times I fear that people  get so bogged down in  their political opinions that they leave their humanity at the door.  We want to be right and we fail to be moral.   We justify our refusal to help by citing the abuses of the few.  We define the effectiveness of a system or a bureaucracy by what it fails to do.  We forget that nothing and no one is perfect and demand perfection in a world where it simply doesn’t exist.

I’ve wasted too many years trying to hide behind my imperfections, terrified that some one would see me for what I really am:  flawed, imperfect, some times selfish, judgmental, harshly critical.  When I turn that fear inside out and aim it at others, we all lose.  No one thrives, least of all, me.

To thrive, I need to keep my eyes wide open and my heart more open still.  I will never forget the rich soil of failure that cracked my life wide open and showed me a better way.    It’s time to thrive.  I won’t thrive alone.

Lost and Found

“There is something to be found in what we have lost.” — Mastin Kipp

Admission:  Lately, I’ve felt really lost.  I haven’t wanted to write about the realities of my life because I felt like it was a reflection on me: a mirror of failure.  More importantly, I didn’t want to be candid and receive advice or worse yet, judgment.

I don’t want to be fixed.  I want to be loved.

Lost and wrapped in fear, I haven’t written.    If I can’t write about the realities of my life how can I write about anything?

I began to realize that maybe writing about what I lack, what’s wrong and the specific challenges I face, might be the most meaningful writing I’ll ever do.  There might be other people like me who don’t want to feel isolated and alone.  My being honest might be a gift to some one, a gift so valuable that it’s worth risking criticism.

So, here goes.

Once again, we are in foreclosure.  At some point, we will lose our home.  At this time, we do not have an alternative.  I don’t take home enough to qualify for an apartment.  Our credit is abysmal and it’s been over 3 years since I put our name on the local low-income housing authorities list.  We have yet to be notified of any openings.  We have and do follow up.

Given the current condition of our home, living in the van might be a healthier alternative.  A leak under the kitchen sink is ruining the floor in two rooms.  We’ve witnessed some pretty weird fungus growing out of our carpet.  It looks positively other worldly but smells like old rotten potatoes.  I haven’t opened the cabinet doors hiding the “zone of destruction” under said sink because I don’t want to get a visual on what we are breathing in on a daily basis.  I can’t close a door on the stuff growing in the carpet.  (Insert full body shudder here.)

Having dry weather this winter has been a blessing.  It keeps some of the mold down.  When it does rain, their are two leaks in the living room that require buckets to collect the rain water.  We use old tee-shirts in the bottom of the bucket to soften the staccato of the rain.

Meanwhile, we pretend to be middle-class, which is pretty hard to do when you are really living way below the Federal Poverty level.  Almost daily, I hear some one make a flippant remark about poor people and if they’d only get a job, or stop expecting hand outs or. . . .It gets really old.  My opinion is a poor one.  My perspective  is even poorer.  I rarely object although I have perfected a look that should at least burn someone with my invisible psychic mind laser.  Not one of my victims has ever reported this, however, and I’m too ashamed to ask if  they felt the burn.   But, I can hope.

I know I’m not really a loser but I some times feel like one.  I have a job.  I harvest what I can from our years of accumulation and  from forays into thrift stores and sell it on eBay or Etsy for a small profit.  I’m a Mary Kay Consultant.  I have three jobs right now.  Yet, I have to keep looking for a job that pays more because three jobs aren’t enough.   I’m a veritable wizard with the stretching of a dollar but you do have to have enough dollars to stretch or things starts snapping like the elastic in my aged underwear.

The fact that there is no safety net in my life, nothing to catch us when we finally fall, actually terrifies me.  Almost every night I dream about losing our home and having no where to go.  When this all started, there were times when I couldn’t hold back the tears at the thought of losing our home, a home I’d grown to love.  I’ve had several years to get used to the idea.  I know there will be tears ahead but I have had a long time to process this, to live with panic, to live with impending loss, to struggle, to lose.

Last weekend, I finally hatched a plan.  It came to me suddenly upon awakening after another night of being a nomad in my dreams:  I need to find an old motor home, one that is drivable and livable and find a RV campground nearby so that we’ll have a place to sleep, a hot plate to cook Top Ramen on,  and a roof over our heads when the time comes.    Just how I’m going to do all this, has yet to be determined.  Lately, the Universe/God/Higher Power/the Force hasn’t seemed to be cooperating but this is the best plan I have at the moment and common sense is telling me I’ve got to aim for something.

Between that alien mold life form stuff, judgments from and by the clueless, and  the exhaustion of working hard and gaining so little,  life is hard.  After the pain of disappointment sloughed off, I have been more than a little angry.  Poor and angry is not an attractive combination.  Poor, angry and depressed is down right ugly.

Imagine how vexing it is to begin to accept that maybe all this resistance is futile and that instead of feeling like a victim in a ridiculous melodrama maybe all this is an opportunity.  At first glance, seeing all “this as an opportunity” feels as crazy or crazier than that psychic mind laser.

Up until now, I’ve felt like I’ve been tied to the bumper on the car of called “Life”.  (This is one old and ugly car.  Some one has glued a bunch of scary gargoyles to this hideous ride and spray painted it to look like Predator just vomited jungle all over it.)  We’re not on the smooth highway.  I’ve got the gravel in my thighs to prove it.  This has got to stop.  .  I have to get in the driver’s seat, metaphorically and literally.  Gravel thighs aren’t good for any one especially an elderly, overweight woman who has been careering after the Predator mobile.  Please forgive my digression.  A vivid imagination is one of the few rich things about me.  That and character!

Between now and 3 minutes from now, I’ll probably cycle through a lot of emotions ranging from despair, panic, to zen-like serenity.  Most of these emotions will arise from the fertile ground of my thoughts and not an actual reality in that moment.  I guarantee you that in the next 3 minutes, we won’t be evicted and all the worry, panic and despair will only rob me of more serenity.  I’ve known a lot of worriers in my life and I spend a fair amount of time being one but the only thing it has ever gained me is high blood pressure and a stomach ache that’s lasted 45 years.

It’s time to take a stand.  To be perfectly clear, I’m going to repeat what I want from life and from the people I choose to share my life with:

I don’t want to be fixed.  I want to be loved.

“There is something to be found in what is lost.”   It’s time to rise to the occasion.  This is my life:  poor, raw, messy, moldy, and yet,  interesting, challenging, full of blessings which are some times so well hidden, they are almost impossible to find.  If any one can find them, I can.  Once lost, I am beginning to find my way.

 

Create

Following the Daily Love blog by Mastin, today I read a guest post by Chris Assad.  Read the entire article at the link posted posted below.  I’m also sharing a quote on creativity for all those creators out there.

http://thedailylove.com/show-up-for-your-creativity-and-it-will-show-up-for-you/?inf_contact_key=0391e96d470e0bba8339c4bbf5be7fd888f18986e2d4be4e26848f5f8cd3d9f8 

“The truth is that creativity flows when we show up at our instrument, at the blank page, at our mac (or PC), at our desk, at the easel, and when we make ourselves available for creation to happen. The truth is that creativity is one of the greatest gifts we humans possess and it’s available to all of us all the time if we’re open and ready to receive it. The truth is that creativity is magical but only in the sense that it’s one of the ways that the Divine expresses itself through us, not because we need to wait to be chosen or struck by lightning to experience it.”

Surrender

I’m a better lover than a fighter.  Lately, I’ve been doing too much resisting.  Focusing on the lack and not the abundance.

So, this morning, I stumble toward the shower, shuffling like a stiff old man on Thorazine.  There, with sleep threatening to pull me under, I pray with words of desperation,

“God help me.  God help us.”

A groan may have provided punctuation.  I’m not sure.  I couldn’t remember washing my hair so I washed it twice and let the water wash over me as I struggled to figure out what do I do next.  The answer, clear and strong was simply this, “Give up.”

Wooooh.

“Are you kidding me?  This runs counter to everything I’ve been reading and what I’ve been told.  I can’t just give up.”   Inside my head the words came quickly.

“I must be losing my mind.”  I think to myself.

“That would be a cop-out,” I hear in response.  “Oh, and giving up doesn’t mean you stop trying,” the voice adds.

I’m starting to feel annoyed.  “Alright, I’m a little confused.  You’re going to have to clarify this for me. I don’t have a clue where this is headed.”

Silence.

Maybe clues are reserved for those who are more awake.  I go back to trying to figure out where I’m at in my shower routine .  Oh, time to shave my legs.  The razor hits the shower floor not once, not twice but three times.  I sigh.

“Stop focusing on the outcome.  It’s all about the process.  Not everything depends on you.  You certainly can’t figure everything out.  You’ve got to let go of all the mental energy you pour into things.  The end result doesn’t define your worth.  Most things in life have too many variables.  You’re not enjoying the process and you’re making yourself miserable.  You’ve got to give up!”

As I put the end back on the razor, I understand.  I respond in absolute silence.  The warm shower feels good.  I stop worrying about the routine and what needs to be done and tell myself that no matter the outcome, I’m going to do everything I can to enjoy the day ahead.

So far:

I’ve prayed in the shower while I shaved my legs (Yeah! multi-tasking!)

I’ve had a wonderful visit with an old friend.  (R.  I love you!)

Got some valuable information from a dear newer friend.  (Love you too, L.)

Had a nice conversation with a neighbor.  (Miss you when you move, N. )

Made cupcakes and lunch.

Wrote a blog entry.

I’ve spent too much of my last few weeks making myself miserable because of all the things I wasn’t doing and how things just aren’t working out.  I focused on what was wrong.  I whined.  I complained.  Playing worse case scenario made me miserable.  Being angry at other people just eats me up inside.  These are the things I need to give up.  I surrender.

Ridiculous

Ridiculous.  It’s how I’ve been feeling.   Merriam Webster online dictionary’s primary definition of the word is:

arousing or deserving ridicule :  extremely silly or unreasonable :  absurdpreposterous

Feeling like I might deserve ridicule is not a pleasant place to be and it certainly contributes to a huge writer’s block.

Not long ago some criticism took the wind out of my sails.  Writing has been painfully difficult.  Well, actually clicking the publish button is what has been hard. Writing and then publishing it in a blog with even the most limited readership is not an easy thing for me.

“Why do I still l try?” you ask.

First:  Over the years, there have been many things that were not discussed either in my family, my community, or in my church. I believe that there is a lot of inner pain and suffering that remained locked up in places no one dared open.  I’m not just talking about my personal pain. Every day I am keenly aware of how many people are hurting, insecure, lacking love and attention, feeling that they aren’t good enough.

Being able to admit and own how I feel is an on-going process but an extremely valuable one.  It’s part of healing. Getting things out in the light often kills the things it should. . . like vampires, mildew,  maybe?   Battling the supernatural or mildew is best left to some one else with the name Buffy or Van Helsing or Mr. Bleach.  We just have to get some things in the light and the light will take care of the rest.

My job is hard enough: being me.  It’s so easy to get off course and forget how.  Finding out how I feel or what I really think helps me get back to the job of being me.  It’s time I started to buckle down and master this. And for some reason beyond my understanding, I do a certain amount of that in print, on a little known blog.

Second, in my human stumbling through my quirky little psyche, I believe I have something to offer.  That something may be useful to only one person, once in a blue moon but now that I know blue moons exist, it has made all the difference.  Believe it or not, I don’t always like hitting that publish button and if you mention something I wrote, there are times, when I’ll blush in embarrassment.  Some times,  I still feel ridiculous and I probably am.

It isn’t easy being emotionally genuine and I don’t always make the mark.  I believe in its value even when I can’t see it. Disillusion-al?  In denial?   Definite possibilities. I, however, consider this an assignment. If I didn’t there would be no point in my doing this crazy thing that makes me uncomfortable.  I actually think of it as a long term project for a grad class in which God/the Universe is the teacher.  There is no way I want to disappoint Dr. God. Some times I do. I often disappoint myself but it doesn’t change the assignment.  I’ve got to show up and give it a try. It’s that simple.

These last few months, I’ve been stuck in a shame tornado.  I’ve also been more than a little peeved at the world in general. This made writers block into writers stone cold mountain.  Tunneling through wasn’t working.  Darn cave ins.  Can’t find good psychic mine workers these days that will work 24/7 for free.  Time to go around.  Practical, efficient and not ridiculous in the least.

What’s Your Purpose?

Yesterday was hard.  I poured out my heart writing but couldn’t hit the publish button.  Some struggles are best kept private.  Overwhelmed, lost, I struggled to get my bearings.  I prayed that God would show me the way but I didn’t expect an answer.  One was provided for me any way.  In my faithlessness, I was shown faith.  My closed heart shown an opportunity to love.  Lost, I was given the way.  No one else was given the job to be me.  It’s time to step into the life I’ve been given as a gift.  It’s time to be me, the better me, the best me.

 

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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