Posts tagged ‘journey’

Dealing with Fear: Walk; Don’t Run! – illustrated reflection

The painting illustrating this article is an original painting created by using a computer simulated oil brush and pen which were manipulated on the screen by moving my finger on a 1 1/2 inch by 3 1/2 inch touchpad.

Throughout our lives, we face times where our primitive urge to fly, fight or freeze kicks in. We are terrified. Sometimes we don’t know of what. Sometimes the fear is buried so deep, we don’t even realize we are afraid. Many, gasping for breath and reaching blindly into the dark, don’t even realize they’re running. Most often, when I’ve been afraid, I’ve tended toward flight. We think we are in danger and when we truly are in the bodily sense, these responses serve a purpose to protect us. And even when our bodies can’t escape danger, we have inborn ways of escaping mentally. However, whatever the reason, when we take flight in fear, we run full force toward nowhere and often in circles. Mentally, we escape to the desert of our soul where we slowly wither under the glaring sun of Truth. Some never find their way back.

I spent many years running away. I tried to self-medicate with alcohol and sniffing. I hid in a flurry of white lies, ashamed of minor mistakes. I ran to the arms of flattery, not believing in my own self-worth. I mumbled feeble complaints, assuming any request for help would be answered only with judgement. I got caught in a cycle of binging and starving to gain a false sense of control. I absorbed knowledge to avoid opinion. I had break-downs, collapsing into hospital care to avoid taking responsibility for helping myself. I tried over and over to drug myself into oblivion, an ultimate escape. Some roads I have barred myself from, but some are paths that I race down out of habit.

I have overextended myself to the point of serious illness, hoping beyond hope to prove that the walls of my personal limitations would somehow crumble under the force of sheer will. I have tried to save others because I felt powerless to save myself. I have sought perfection in rituals, unconvinced within my depths of my inherent adequacy. I have intellectualized to avoid feeling my emotions, certain they had the power to destroy me. Yet I’ve claimed ignorance when faced with the possibility of being wrong, or of making a “wrong” decision. While ready to collapse, having nearly exhausted my ability to cope, I’ve teased smiles and laughter from stoic professionals. These are my demons. Over-committing, rescuing, perfectionism, intellectualizing, fence-sitting and misplaced humor are still tendencies difficult to resist when panic sets my feet in motion.

Repeatedly, I’ve managed to find my way back, but I must be aware of those patterns of flight if I wish to chart my course toward more fertile ground. I must not only resist these tendencies, but counter them. I must proactively apply strategies which reduce the likelihood of the need to run. When anxiety inches into my heart, I soothe it with a side road jaunt. Instead of getting ready to run, I slow my pace. I talk to family, friends, my treatment team, and my Higher Power. I lose myself in the magic of music. I feel the beat, rewrite the words, sing at the top of my lungs. I read what uplifts me, inspires me. I write, sometimes for release or distraction, sometimes to increase my mindfulness of the present moment. And sometimes, sometimes I write to remind myself of what I’ve learned – where I’ve been and where I want to go. Today, I’d rather walk, walk the path that will get me somewhere. I know that, even if I’m not sure exactly where I want to go, if I want to arrive in a better place, I must heed the command “Walk; don’t run!”

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Downshifting from Overdrive: Accepting Myself

On most days, my appearance would give you no clue that I struggle with my physical and mental health.

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Occasionally, though, I can't hide my biology's battle against me.

Does anyone remember how in the “way back days” (a boy who I once had guardianship of used this to refer to my younger days), even in an automatic car, you drove in Drive sometimes and in Overdrive sometimes? The two weren’t synonymous. Well, no matter, I’m sure you can fathom what I mean. I keep trying to live my life in Overdrive with the Parking Break on. I don’t mean to. I don’t want to. I want to drive, but my health keeps applying the parking break, because I’ve been unwilling to downshift. I’ve been afraid. I’ve been thinking that if I downshifted, I’d be in Neutral and that wasn’t acceptable. You get pushed in Neutral. You get towed away in Neutral. Sometimes in Overdrive with the pedal to the metal and going nowhere because the Parking Break is on, I’ve thought shifting into Reverse was going to help me somehow, like when you rock a car to get yourself unstuck from an icy, three-foot high snowdrift (I grew up on the Chicago latitude). But it hasn’t ever worked because (unlike when I’m driving a car) I’m still in the habit of putting that pedal to the metal so I lurch backwards and slam myself into a tree trunk. Then I’m really going nowhere! All this to say, I don’t want to be lead-footed anymore in Overdrive or Reverse. It’s incredible how long it took me to realize why I wasn’t going anywhere or going so slowly.

Have you driven with your Parking Brake on? The first few times you try, your car holds you locked in place and you realize it. But, imagine the Driver’s Ed teacher keeps secretly setting it because he wants you to quit speeding. He knows you aren’t really in control when you are going so fast. We’ll suppose he’s tried to tell you in other ways, but you just weren’t getting it. It’s not necessarily your fault. It turns out he speaks with a heavy accent; you have to listen really, really hard to catch half of what he’s saying. Well, if he keeps setting it but you don’t know when, you keep pushing that pedal to the metal when you feel that drag. He means well, but sometimes you speed even worse because you anticipate the drag of the brake being on. You are in even less control than before. It’s a strain on you and the car. The brake starts to give. Eventually, when you do it, your car moves but my gosh, it’s like trying to push it uphill all alone! You get so frustrated. Everyone’s passing you by. You can’t get where you want to go. You want to give up, but you won’t. I mean, after all, at least you’re still moving. But inside your engine is burning hard, wearing down. Let’s just say, I’ve really been killing my engine!

I’ve got a lot of updating to do to my “About” page, but to put it briefly, I’ve got 20 chronic health conditions. I use to be an “overachiever”, but I’ve been disabled for many years now. I struggle with activities of daily living, but looking at me and even being around me for a day or two, you probably wouldn’t have a clue. I’ve been in various degrees of denial, not intellectually but emotionally for the most part. I still have found reasons to rejoice here and there, but I’m not happy and I know I’m the only one who can change that. I have the power to choose joy, but it is an “attitude in action” and my attitude, though positive, has been pretty stagnant. I’ve decided I’ve got to try downshifting from Overdrive to Drive. I had to trade in for an older model, one that has that option. So, I may not fit in at first. I don’t like that, but if it means I might start making some progress, it’ll be worth it. This past year – it’s been so hard! I realized I wasn’t going forward, no matter how cool my sports car life looked. I realized how burnt up my engine was. I realized shifting into Reverse didn’t help. I wanted people to pitch in and push. That didn’t work either. I’m so angry. As much as I hate being angry (I mean who really likes it), I’ve got to admit it. I’m angry I didn’t understand what my health problems were trying to tell me. But I’m not going to waste anymore time being angry at myself. Well, that’s probably not true; it’s a hard habit to break, but I, at least, am going to do something different too.

My downshifting is starting right here, with this blog. I’m sure sometimes I’ll still blog my philosophical musings or spiritual meditations or inspirational reflections or political rantings or artistic expressions, but here out this blog is foremost going to be a chronicle of my choice to live my life. That sounds so ordinary, but the key words in there are choice, live, and my. I reminded myself recently when I emotionally vomited an email to someone that my mind doesn’t process things well inside. If I’m going to write, it makes sense that I should use it to help myself, not just others. Often, I’ve shared the lessons I’ve learned but not the process of how I’ve learned them. I look over my blog and sometimes it just seems so stiff and formal, so unapproachable while inside I’m crying out for someone to not only approach but to hold me. Well, how can I ever face writer’s block again if my mind is always going. I’m not going to worry about getting things just right or being right. I’ve known for a long time I’m not “Super Molly,” but I wanted everyone else to think I was. Funny thing is it wasn’t because I needed people to see me as “Super” but because I needed them to see me and since I haven’t figured out who I am yet, I thought I had to show them me as “something”. I didn’t trust they could figure out who I was right along with me. Actually, I think I was a bit afraid they’d figure it out before me and I’d feel like I was being passed by. Hmm, the irony.

I truly believe God speaks through other people and I think it’s important to let people know when they are a vessel of Spirit’s voice in what they say or do. So, many people have contributed to this moment, this particular instant of awakening, but aside from my therapist Tina Marie Dale, LCSW, I want to thank a few special people who probably have no idea how they have touched me. Honestly i don’t know if I can explain except to say that their “being there” and/or genuineness is emboldening me to expose my Self, to love myself enough to slow down. I may have to add to this list as I remember people but here are the people off the top of my head right now…
Barb Efflandt, Rev. Kathleen Thomas, Frankey Landon, @aeTyree, @Read2Write10, @JillMarieinFL, @tetka, my friends at Poetry here And Now, Deborah Helm, Jill & Jo O’Brien, Lady Dawn, Alice Puckett, Jesleen92 (blog: 91 Odd Socks), “Bananas” Charity (blog: charityjh.com), and Wendy Holcolme (blog: Picnic with Ants: Living with Chronic Illnesses). Those names beginning with “@” are the Twitter usernames by which I know them. Many people on Twitter have blogs and I encourage you to check out these Tweeters and their blogs.

You CAN be Perfect!

Figure 20 from Charles Darwin's The Expression...

Image via Wikipedia

To affirm, simply put, is to add firmness to. To affirm yourself, therefore, is to add firmness to you and to your self, to strengthen both your definition of yourself and your very being. Start by affirming what is known truth – you are human. What does it mean to be human? A human is not all powerful. A human is not all knowing. A human is imperfect. A human feels. Emotions convey a message. Fear tells us we do not know something. Fear is  useful. Fear is normal. Fear is to be expected. We have no reason to fear fear. Likewise, we have no reason to act is if we are fearless or to avoid anything that might evoke fear. Doing so reflects a form of perfectionism. Do not be afraid to fail or to succeed. You can be perfect – perfectly human, perfectly you.
We are meant to strive toward perfection, but neither to reach it nor to expect to reach it. To have a different mindset is to challenge God, to believe we can be equal. To judge ourselves unworthy of God’s love and mercy reflects an expectation that we can be perfect. Thus we manifest our true sin, pride. In refusing God’s love and likewise refusing to love ourselves, God’s creation, we withdraw our trust in God alone. We again forget we are of God. We no longer clearly and consistently recognize God. We begin to fail to see the God in others, but rather see only the façade which their separation from God requires them to create. We, in turn, seek affection from them instead of the God within they are meant to manifest. Hence, God is no longer our first and only love. We lose our way. We separate ourselves even further from the source of our very being, the only Perfect, in whom when we are ultimately united we are perfected in love.
So quit trying to be perfect. When anxieties arise, recognize the feeling as a reminder that you are human, just as you are meant to be. Rejoice that you do not know everything because it is not your responsibility or your burden. Affirm that you not only have a right to be afraid, but that it is normal to fear. Yes, I say rejoice that you have been wonderfully made, that you are extraordinarily ordinary. Rejoice that you know God and that God’s strength is yours for the asking. Just for today, choose to be, strive to be perfectly human. Tell yourself, ” I am perfectly human, naturally flawed, extraordinarily ordinary, wonderfully unique. I am meant to feel and to fail, to find favor and forgiveness in the fullness of God, forever and the only the Perfector of Souls.”  AFFIRMATION: Just for today, I accept and rejoice that I am a human being, created and loveable just as I am.

Hearing God’s Voice

up the garden path

Image by seriykotik1970 via Flickr

People often ask me how I discern God’s voice from some evil spirit’s or my own ego’s. I share this guidance because it is what I do and it seems to lead me on a righteous and serene path when I am faithful to its practice. I can’t honestly say though that what i think is God’s voice always is; that is for each person to discern for him/herself.

Ask “What’s the next right thing to do?” When two completely different sources – in voice or print, direct or indirect – give you the same answer, go with it. The echo is your assurance that the answer harmonizes with your soul, that it is the voice of Spirit.

God speaks to us constantly, but far too rarely are we listening. If you do not ask and actively listen with just one thought in mind, you can neither be sure you didn’t miss the echo and are only stretching to conform an unrelated message to Your Ego’s desire nor be certain of the context of the guidance you have been given thus sending you in the right direction but down the wrong path.

However, do not fret, even when we head in the wrong direction or down the wrong path, God is constantly calling us back and so with due diligence we shall arrive. Some of us just enjoy a more “scenic” route to Enlightenment, Nirvana, Heaven. When I can though, I prefer the shorter path, however difficult or narrow, because I am convinced the Eternal Valley is of greater splendor than any route which might lead me there.

In a future post, I will share some of my experiences applying this practice.

Words on the Words: Way, Truth, Life

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to Creator God except through me.” -The Holy Bible

The Way is the means to succeed.
Without the means, nothing is completed, attained, achieved.
The means are method, materials, and motivation.
The Way is the path, the journey, the direction, and the how.

The Truth, unchanging yet shaped by perspective, shall set you free.
To be free is to be without constraint or limit or price.
Truth, never easily perceived, reveals itself through faith.
Truth, never easily believed, reveals its worth through fidelity.

The Life is the example of righteousness and It’s reward.
Life is color, vibration, purpose, meaning, energy, reality.
Life is the source and summation of sustenance.
Breath, water, light, nourishment, and love sustain.

Christ told us the greatest commandment is love. Love is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. What is without love is without God.

Meditation to Evoke Empathy

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I learned from Eastern meditation a method of reflection whose Americanized name is “Pillow Pause”. You place the problem as you define it on top of the pillow. At each side, you place your response. You act when your response leads you peacefully to do so, when thought and emotion harmonize and come in tune with the greatest good that you are capable of at that point in your spiritual journey. If none of the four responses leads you peacefully, you flip the pillow and challenge yourself to reinterpret “the problem”. You may continue to flip the pillow as many times as necessary. I’ve never in 20 years quit in frustration before being lead. My choices today are not the same as a year ago because I am in a different place on the journey, but I can expect no more of myself than my development allows. The practice of this meditation has gradually caused me without purposeful exercise of the meditation to find less and less reason to judge and more and more ways to act with empathy.

The Way, One Truth, God’s Love

Doorway, Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Damasc...

Image by jemasmith via Flickr

[Note: This is a first draft, but I wanted to go ahead and publish it. Throughout this post, you will see “(link)” which is a note to myself to add a link or citation. I will eventually return to replace these, but if you have a question about a particular one, please leave a comment and I will try to respond more promptly.]

My mind is a whirlwind of thought and emotion. Like so many, I really do desire to do God’s will, but struggle to know what it actually is. I was listening to a book on CD by Sheila Walsh (link) during a recent road trip. She was explaining how the apostle Paul, then Saul, really thought he was devout and doing the right thing, persecuting the Christians, by keeping the Jewish faith pure. The Risen Christ blinded him, a physical manifestation of his spiritual nature, then showed him The Light. As I have been reflecting on the readings this Advent Season and thinking about the Second Coming, I’ve felt the responsibility to share the Word weigh heavily upon me, but I’m confused and filled with trepidation.

I want to boldly share the Good News. At the same time, I’ve been moved with empathy by stories of homeless persons who feel unwelcome at shelters that require them to participate in faith practices that differ from their beliefs. I am likewise disturbed by the declaration of some Baptists that Catholicism is a cult. The anti-Muslim sentiment of so many self-proclaimed Christians is troubling as well. I don’t want to be unloving in declaring God’s love for all.

I remember Pope Jonh Paul II, the Roman Catholic Pope, coming under verbal fire for declaring that the grace of Jesus the Christ is available to those who have not heard the Good News. Recently I read a blog (link) that insists that when Jesus Christ says “No one comes to the Father except through me, (link)” He meant NO ONE who doesn’t know and believe in the Passion of Christ will be admitted into heaven, so we must take the Good News to as many people as possible and accept that most of humanity will perish. Who is right? Both seemed convincing. I wonder, are we each just a story or are we the essence of our actions?

The song line, “They will know we are Christians by our love” (link) is sometimes spoofed by changing “love” to “T-shirts.” While the emphasis is to point out that a changed heart must be reflected in our actions, I’ve wondered if the original song line doesn’t reflect the Truth in its entirety. Does living The Way insist knowledge of its source or name or professor or rather adherence to its principles? Jesus the Christ said, “I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life. (link)” The Son of God calls us into communion with God by showing us the perfect example in human form of obedience to God. I notice that The Lord never says “Be me.” Surely, you realize that would be in conflict with The Creator’s admonition of Adam and Eve for eating from the Tree of Knowledge (link). This leaves me with more questions.

Am I mistaken to now believe that being a Christian means living the example of Christ? The deepest question then is whether someone can know how to without knowing and understanding the totality of His life and Passion. I’ve come to a place of finding it easy to have empathy for and forgive others because I recognize the immenseness of my ignorance. How well can I know the heart of any person and how well can I know the depth of their understanding or even their potential to understand and apply the teachings of Jesus the Christ? How well do I know myself in these matters? This leads me to wonder, how well equipped am I to teach others, what is my responsibility to teach, what should I be teaching, and how should I teach it?

In all faiths of the world, there are some common truths. Surely this is no accident. Coincidence is often evidence of God’s presence in my mind. How can we acknowledge a God of unfathomable wisdom and yet seek to limit that same God’s power to present The Way to people in the cultural context that would make sense to their/our tiny minds? I propose it would serve us all best in preserving the good of humanity to respect those common truths. Further who am I or you but a peer to all others of which God is the Creator? Who am I to judge the work of the Master? The Bible instructs us only to judge those of our believing community and even there to do so through a construct of law and justice (link). Further we should bear in mind that no matter how inspired the Word, God did not write it by His own hand and it has been translated in multiple ways. Therefore we should look to the traditions of the Church for guidance as well.

In all matters of serious moral judgment, the original Church taught (to summarize from the Catechism of The Roman Catholic Church, link) that we should seek wise counsel (from one or more persons well-versed in Biblical languages and culture, literary interpretation, Scriptural study, etc) and examine an issue from all sides and in every intellectual field (historical, philosophical, social, psychological, theological, scientific,etc). God gave us brains and the collective gifts of humanity to USE. Then we should pray long and thoroughly (most especially that God’s will be done and with an open ear to the echoed answer of the Spirit from at least 2 entirely different sources lest we be deceived in our haste). Finally, we are obligated to act in accord with OUR conscience even if our actions would be in conflict with “official teachings” because ultimately we are responsible for our own salvation (link). On the topic of evangelizing, this has been an ongoing process for me.

I’d like to share some seemingly disconnected but relevant truths revealed to me in prayer, study, and conversation with counsel on the topic at hand. Love and hate cannot coexist. Temptation does not foreshadow sin; it merely warns of it’s potential presence. A Jewish philosopher (link) taught the Golden Rule this way, “Do NOT do onto others what you do NOT want done onto you.” In matters of morality, majority does not rule. I cannot consciously hate in word or deed because it conflicts with the Truth of Love.

So, because Christianity makes sense to me and It’s teachings are what my conscience most often leads me to profess and follow, I am bound by my conscience to spread the Good News for my own salvation. But I am committed to letting my “speech” begin with acts of love and then continue, as opportunity allows, by relating the example of Jesus the Christ. I believe that the Truth will make itself known to whomever answers the door. Somebody’s knocking. Will you let Him in?