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Posts Tagged ‘spiritual growth’

A true child of the ’80’s am I, raised on the wisdom of sitcoms and television dramas. I admit especially to being a M*A*S*H-aholic. Back in its heyday, my big brother watched it (he being the older, wiser, and more worldly of the two of us) and I admit now to an obsessive need to view the marathons on TVLand and Hallmark Channel every chance I get. Many an important life lesson was learned from that show (along with The Golden Girls) and even now I find that the TV shows of my childhood are still shaping my values.

The episode I was watching earlier tonight was the pen pal letters episode – Hawkeye’s friend back home gets her elementary school students in Crabapple Cove, Maine to write letters to the personnel of the 4077th. In the midst of writing back to the children and amongst the amusing and mundane anecdotes that the staff chooses to tell the kids about, there are several poignant moments in which the staff is forced to reexamine their role in the war – and in life. One of the students writes a letter that Hawkeye must answer in which the student says he hates the doctors because they fixed up his brother and sent him back into combat in which he was subsequently killed. As Hawkeye is pondering how to answer this child, a child is brought in from a local orphanage who has a severe brain injury – and the priest who runs the orphanage prays “Dear God, I thank you for providing….to have them here in this place at this time is truly a sign of Your providence.”  All of a sudden, Hawkeye knows what to write to the poor young student back home, full of so much anger: “I understand your feelings. Sometimes I hate myself for being here. But once in a while, in the midst of this insanity, a very small event can make my being here seem almost bearable.”

I had seen this episode at least 5 times before and yet this was the first time that this whole exchange made me stop and go hmmmm….

I am a woman of strong faith. I have stated over and over and over again that I am sure God has a plan for me, that the struggles and pain that I have suffered for the last 10 years have not been in vain. I constantly recite the AA mantra “Let go and let God.” Despite my faith, I admit that I have often questioned why God has put me in this situation, given me this kind of pain.

Now, thanks to a television show (geez, welcome to religion in America), I have a whole new way of looking at things. Because of God’s plan, I was put here at this moment in time in this particular geographical location for a purpose. Divine providence has brought me to this moment in my life with my own special brand of emotional baggage for a purpose. And, much like Hawkeye, I don’t quite know yet what that purpose is – but I have a strong faith that my small event is coming, that event which will make it all clear.  I have only to wait and to trust in the Lord and to believe that my time is coming. I will let you know when that time comes. In the meantime, I can only hope that I will become Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan when I grow up. But that’s a topic for another day.

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When I was a kid, my older brother went off to college in Washington, DC, a far cry from the small town where we had grown up in upstate New York. My parents, being the educational types that they were, insisted that while we were down visiting him on Parents’ Weekend, Easter, etc. that we tour the city and discover the history of our nation’s capital. But this was a big, scary, urban environment for my sheltered 12-year old self! Once, when trying to cross busy Connecticut Avenue, my brother (now the experienced urban dweller) gave me this sage piece of wisdom about crossing the street: “Don’t make eye contact, they won’t hurt you.” I’m not sure WHY this psychology works like it does – but he was most assuredly right. Not once did my sorry teenage self get splattered by a cab in DC and, in the years since and with the travelling I have done at home and abroad, the eye contact avoidance has prevented me from ever getting hit in the street.

Sadly, I came to a startling realization this week – I think I took my brother’s advice a little too much to heart. I rarely make eye contact with anyone anymore – at all, in any situation, PERIOD. Somewhere along the line, apparently I twisted my brother’s words to avoid all eye contact in order to prevent getting hurt. In a painful flash of self-awareness (when questioned on what color a friend’s eyes are), I realized that I just don’t look people in the eye ever. I never intended to transfer the street-crossing wisdom into my relations with all human beings – I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

I’m not sure if I have always had this problem… I would like to think that, at some point in my past, I was bold and confident enough to look people in the eye and share myself with them. I would hate to think that I have always been this much of a milquetoast. But, in all reality, I am guessing that I have always been like this – afraid to establish a connection, subconsciously putting myself in the submissive role. In the world of dogs, eye contact is how they establish dominance in a pack – the ones that stand straight and can face down enemies are the top of the pecking order, the ones that bow down and look down are low in the pack. I have been, without realizing it, announcing my submissiveness to the world with every conversation. No wonder I was easily tagged by a self-confident, aggressive, bully of a husband – he knew, by my eyes, that I would never be able to stand up to him.

So now that I have realized that I have been keeping myself aloof from others by denying that eye contact – and meekly placing myself in the submissive position – I vow that I will change that. I don’t want to keep myself distant from other human beings any more; I am no longer the weak, fearful person I used to be! I want to create those human connections, those important relationships, by looking people in the eye, sharing who I am with them. Yes, I do understand that this will also allow them to see my vulnerabilities, opening myself up to getting hit by those proverbial cars in the street, but I think it will also help me to develop a stronger connection to others and to myself…

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I have always loved the sight of a lighted, beribboned wreath hanging on a front door, beckoning people to come in. It always gave me such pleasure to hang the wreath on my door and to welcome others into my home.

In pondering the various shapes, sizes, and styles of wreaths that you can buy at Lowes or Wal-mart the other day, I was struck by one simple fact – has anyone ever noticed the shape of most wreaths?

They are circles of evergreen. They are, like the circle of life, unbroken and strong. They are,  like the people around us every day, sometimes prickly, mostly cheerful, and usually a sign of a living home. They are often adorned with bright ribbons or ornaments, but the base foundation is a sturdy circle of welcoming warmth.

The wreath is such a simple decoration, really. Very pagan, I know, but also under-appreciated. I had always loved them just because they were so darn inviting and festive. But now….now I look at them in a whole new way.

Now I see that I would like to be a wreath, able to be decorated for any season, frequently sparkling, and possessing a strong foundation of ever-green faith.  Battered by winds or snow, still able to hang in there and continue to welcome people into my life. So my prayer today….dear God, please make me a wreath…

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‘Tis the season for candles – scented delights to buy for grandma in the stores, twinkling electric bulbs beckoning from the windows, advent tapers lit every Sunday in church. It’s a time for candles and celebrations of family, friendship, and faith.

I am reminded, every time that I look at a candle, of a song I was taught a long time ago that reminded us all that “it is better to light just one little candle than to stumble in the dark…if everyone lit just one little candle what a bright world this would be.”

This is the time of year that always has made me want to make the world a better place – lighting my proverbial candle and shining bright.

For those of you who don’t know, my world fell apart a while back and I am having real trouble shining bright during the holidays.  I’ve watched my illusions shatter, my dreams get shredded, and my life derail. How then can a person find any hope or peace in this wonderful time of year? It would be so easy to get bogged down in the depression andthe fear and the bitterness – but I choose instead to light a new candle and shine bright and NOT curse the darkness!

The day that my separation papers were signed, I made an appointment for a new tattoo. And for the art, I chose a celtic cross (for my heritage) with a maltese cross inset (for my firefighting family) and the following words: “What is to give light must endure the burning.” This quote is from Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning.

Almost everyone who has seen the tattoo gives me a blank stare or a puzzled look when they read the quote. I’m sure it seems strange for a firefighter to advocate the burning of anything. However, the reason I chose this quote is to remind myself that, in order to shine bright, I must get through bad moments and ended relationships. I have to survive the shattering in order to rebuild on my foundation.

I firmly believe that God has a plan for me and that He has not abandoned me. I have to believe that, to have faith in that simple fact or else I will no longer have any hope for the future. I will try to rest in God’s arms for a while to allow myself to heal, to hope, and to trust.

So this Christmas season, I am going to relight my candle and move on with my life. I don’t know what lies ahead for me – it’s so hard to be alone at this time of year. But I will not let the darkness defeat me; I will survive the burning and shine forth!

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 So I was driving home from work a few weeks ago and saw this simple statement written on a sign board for one of the more….uh…fundamentalist churches here in Easton. And, while I generally don’t agree with the statements this particular church posts (don’t start sending me hate mail, I just don’t agree with some of their beliefs), this particular statement really got me thinking.

I admit that, for the past several weeks, I have been a tidbit grouchy. Perhaps its the keen sense of loss and grief I feel for the act of eating and enjoying a meal, perhaps it was the surgical experience of having my guts scrambled. Perhaps its the culmination of the past several years of stress, or maybe it was just because I have bottled up too much anxiety lately and it’s starting to manifest. Regardless of the reason, I have been grouchy and grumpy.

But this sign gives me a sharp dose of reality. I should be grateful for the wonderful things and people I have in my life. I have my health (came through the surgery with flying colors, according to the surgeon this week), I have a roof over my head (at least for the time being), I have family and friends near and far, I have a strong fire department family. I have a job that I love and which challenges me daily and I have fantastic, caring coworkers. I have a strong brain and a stronger character (hence why I have lived the last 2 years without one single spiteful action – yay me!). I have hobbies and activities that give me an outlet for stress. I have food in my pantry (which someday I’ll get to eat again) and I have heat in the winter and A/C in the summer. I have a wide and diverse group of people that I truly care about.  I have four-legged furry children who love me unconditionally. What amazing things do you have in your life to be grateful for? What people can cheer you up, make you laugh, help you out, cry with you, and love you always? What blessings have YOU been given?

November means Thanksgiving and I think too often we forget the origins of the holiday – thanks giving! So instead of grumbling and being grouchy this month, I think I’ll choose the “humbly grateful” option. Thank you Lord for giving me life, friends, family and love. Thank you Father for giving me a life that is filled with laughs and lessons. Thank you God for the challenges and obstacles you have given me – it has made me stronger, wiser, and more tolerant. I am truly grateful and humbled by the blessings you have given to me.

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I have been doing a lot of thinking lately as to why I started (and have continued) this blog. Many people have weighed in, both positively and negatively, on my writings – but I’m not sure that I’m writing it for anyone else but myself. I have learned a lot about myself by putting my thoughts down for the world to see. I’m not writing to hurt anyone or to cause hard feelings, I’m not hosting my own pity party, I’m not using an easy outlet for my anger and bitterness. I’m not publicly exposing the secrets and foibles of my family and friends (with the exception of my lying, cheating bastard of an ex-husband) and I’m not ridiculing the people I love. I am simply exploring who I am and what I want in this world.

I am reading an absolutely fantastic book right now called Eat, Pray, Love about one woman’s attempt to find herself. She was lucky enough to have the money to travel all over the world to discover herself – a luck which I don’t share – but she wrote about her experiences. I wonder if she took a lot of crap for having written about her friends, family, and strangers that she met along the way? I wonder if people took offense when she dared to include them in her stories or to express her opinions about their actions.

I can’t apologize for my observations on the world and for finding my voice. I am only just relearning how to express myself and my feelings. Granted, I probably shouldn’t be using the Internet as a way to redefine myself – my ex-husband is right that it is an awfully public forum – but I wonder if I need the sense of commiseration and companionship? It comforts me somehow when I know someone somewhere has read what I have to say and has listened to me. I know that sounds pathetic but it’s true. I like knowing that someone out there may be feeling the way that I do or may be going through the same life-changing events that I am.

But, lastly, I write because it makes me happy.

“In addition to her secret pleasure in reading, Laura enjoyed writing. Nothing serious or big or personal, no journal stuffed between the mattresses, no shoe box filled with smudged pages, no amazing blog that had made her famous in cyberspace. She was satisfied with a small stage…this method of relationship was far more gratifying to her than speaking by phone or in person. For one thing, she was an entirely different Laura on the screen; she liked herself far better in print. It was curious, that she was so much more interesting and witty and sure when no other human being was present…”   ~”Laura Rider’s Masterpiece” by Jane Hamilton

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I’ve mentioned before that I struggle daily with the tendency to view the world, and myself, rather negatively. I’m not sure where that particular trait comes from, as I’d like to think that I’m generally an optimistic person. I tend to trust people easily and like to see the good traits that people possess rather than dwell on their shortcomings. Negativity on television, in the movies, in political campaigns all makes me cringe – how can putting someone else down make you feel better about yourself? But yet when I am thinking of my own feelings and my own life, negativity just oozes out like some sort of emotionally toxic slime.

I had no idea how easily I slip into the mode of self-negativity until it was pointed out to me recently. Granted, my husband yelled at me for years to stop being so negative – and then he would proceed to follow it with some sort of verbal slap or putdown. Hmmm…I’m thinking those might have been mixed messages….? But recently, when a good friend pointed it out to me very kindly, it dawned on me how easily (and annoyingly) I start looking for the worst.

The truly sad part is that I cannot define the reason for my negative view of myself and the world directly around me. Is it insecurity? A defense mechanism? Some pathetic manifestation of inherent melancholy? I don’t know but I really do NOT like it about myself!

Quinn McDonald, life coach and author of the QuinnCreative blog, has written about negativity and how it affects the world around you. His advice: “you have to start with yourself, turning negative thoughts and critical talk to positive talk. Then pass it on.” I think this is how I am going to approach my battle to end the negativity – do it for others! If I stop being so down on myself, it will make me a much happier person and I will be able to pass on that happiness and positive energy to the people around me. And I encourage everyone else to try this too. Maybe the world would be a nicer place if we could all try thinking positively once in a while.

So I’m going to put down the negative anchor and pick up the positive wings and try them on – I think they’ll fit just fine!

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