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Compassion in Endurance

Rabbi Pam introduced me to a number of things at our recent meeting. I was unaware of Counting of the Omer: the counting of the days from Passover to Shavu’ot. According to Judaism 101:

“The counting is intended to remind us of the link between Passover, which commemorates the Exodus, and Shavu’ot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah. It reminds us that the redemption from slavery was not complete until we received the Torah.”

Life_EnduranceAs I’m coming in the middle of all this, I will start with today, the 24th day out of 49; this is Week 4-Endurance. Today is Day 24 – Tiferet of Netzach: Compassion in Endurance

The Rabbi also steered me towards a website called Meaningful Life, and I’m just beginning to explore it. In an excerpt from “Counting the Omer – A Spiritual Guide” by Rabbi Simon Jacobson:

Healthy endurance, directed to develop good qualities and modifying bad ones, will always be compassionate. The compassion of endurance reflects a most beautiful quality of endurance: an enduring commitment to help another grow. Endurance without compassion is misguided and selfish. Endurance needs to be not just loving to those who deserve love, but also compassionate to the less fortunate. Does my determination compromise my compassion for others? Am I able to rise above my ego and empathize with my competitors? Am I gracious in victory?

Each day also comes with an exercise of the day. Today’s is:

Be patient and listen to someone who usually makes you impatient.

Right now, it’s a lot for me to take in. I’ll be reading more over the weekend and seeing how this all fits on my current journey. I included today’s information as a jumping off point. It fits what I’m going through, enduring all that I have, trying to change what I can for the better. I also dealt with a few who made me impatient today, and there are other things out there that do add to my impatience. Doing this exercise will be good for me.

What also resonated with me is what went on in Boston this week. The runners who went beyond and gave of themselves, exhausted as they must have been at the end of a marathon. There are so many stories of those who helped others in the aftermath of the blast, those who continued running to hospitals and triage stations to give blood and aid. If there is any symbol of compassion in endurance, those people showed it to the hilt. This was courage, and strength of spirit.

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Needing That Job Recognition

“I really want this job, God; I need this job. Help me, God. Teach me to believe in myself, to see that I am qualified for this position. Calm my fears, God; soothe my nerves. Let me enter this interview with assurance and confidence. Let me speak my mind; let my thoughts flow freely.

Remind me not only to talk but to listen. Show me how to impress without seeming pompous, how to be agreeable without seeming ingratiating, how to be enthusiastic without seeming desperate.

Be with me, God; fill me with strength and faith and light. Let me shine today, God. Amen.”   ~from Talking to God, by Naomi Levy (c)

musicians-looking-for-work

I’ve written out the prayer above for a number of people:

My son came into NYC for an interview: they flew him in after already having an online first interview. He was told that he did well by the people he saw on this trip. If he got the offer it would be great on many levels: for his overall job satisfaction; taking care of a number of financial  hassles; and their moving into the area, being closer (right now they are a 7+ hour drive away). 

I am sending out prayers and wishes for Rich, Jay, Kim, and Sam as they continue/begin their search for new work, ones that are fulfilling and offer them the peace of mind that they deserve. It is hard to look for something new during these times, but when you have to, you have to. *I feel like I am forgetting someone in this, and if so…let this extend to you as well.

As to me, I’ve had another interview, and two calls of interest. The two calls are in my discipline (theater), with the other at least meeting a love I have (of books) in a job I had done part-time before. Making it full time would not be the worst thing in the world.

I just want to not have to worry about paying bills. I’d like something steady, which I never thought I’d say. I thrived, for years, on working piece meal, cobbling an artistic life through performances, workshops, residencies, and the odd part time job. It kept me busy, solvent, and was always challenging. What I’m doing now just isn’t. So…that prayer above:

I do know I’m qualified for the jobs: it is just all the rest. Making sure I do my best on an interview, presenting what I can do in a way that says “you need me on your team!” I’ve been in the top two or three for a number of jobs over the last 8 months: I’m tired of being the also-ran.

It’s time I was the “chosen one.”

If you are looking for a job, I hope this helps you. If you know someone who is desperately seeking, please share it with them if you feel they will benefit from it.

 

Roller Coaster Days in a Roller Coaster Life

rollercoaster“Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fun is?” ~Fortune Cookie message

“Necessity is the mother of taking chances.” ~Mark Twain

“Of all that is good, sublimity is supreme. Succeeding is the coming together of all that is beautiful. Furtherance is the agreement of all that is just. Perseverance is the foundation of all actions.”~ Lao Tzu

Like so many, my life has been at times like I was on a roller coaster: moving along, slow at the beginning, then speeding up, heading down at fearful intervals, looping in and around, twisting upside down, sometimes screaming with fear, sometimes with extreme joy. Then it comes back and starts all over again. It’s an emotional journey, and the flat line days are sometimes just as bad. Getting stuck in a rut, unable to find the power to start moving back uphill until something comes along, to push, to surge.

While I am contemplating the thought of forgiveness (for myself, and towards my feelings about my parents, and letting go of past hurts that I carry around way too much), working through the bereavement process, and figuring out who I am at this point in my life, my job situation has never been far from the top of worries.

Yesterday, I was initially turned down for another job I had interviewed for. I wrote, asking for feedback as to why (I had been in for one teaching artist job, winding up being interviewed for three different positions because of my experiences); not hearing back, I called. Four hours later, I get a call for one more reference. Less than a half hour later, I get an email that I am, now, hired to be on their roster. Orientation next Wednesday.

While the end product is great news, it was just an up and down day emotionally (don’t ask about the class I saw that day: the less said, the better).  If I had not written, then called, I am pretty sure the job would have died where it was. If I accepted no feedback from the rejection email, I’d still just be facing the next months as just a substitute teacher as opposed to working within my discipline. As it is, I still don’t know why I was first turned down and then later hired. Crazy making at it’s best.

So, beyond that, which is good news, my days are still going through the mental process of dealing with my life as it is now. I’ve had some very high points, some very low points (really, really low), and too much just coasting along. I am tired of the really, really low points, and the coasting along…it’s not how I want my life to be. I understand the need for complacency and safety for many; just never been part of my make up.

I did pray to God on my way to my morning job. I also prayed after getting the initial rejection, and then again after the phone call I made, and then again later. Did this make a difference? My friend Sam thinks so, as he and my SO put out prayers as well, after hearing about the initial rejection. No matter what, this was answered.

How many times do you just let the “No” stop you from proceeding?

Maybe to open certain doors, we have to knock a lot harder when there is no answer at first.

 

How Are You Doing?

 

“How are you doing?”

It haunts, dragging me to the ground

It stings, re-tightening the chest,

It churns, causing my stomach to roil

And my head hangs low

And my eyes are downcast

And whatever else shuts down

For whatever liveliness that still resides drains out

Puddling, dripping, pouring down an abyss

For you feel helpless

For you feel hopeless

For you feel numb

And the platitudes keep coming

For few really want to hear

How you really, really, really feel

For they can’t cope with rawness

And hope they never feel the same

Never have to confront that pain

That emptiness

That fear

So…

So,

How are you doing?

*********************

Another piece from Tale Spinning.

While not feeling in the same mode as I was when this was written, it is still a question, or variations of it, that I’m not wild about hearing. I get tired of shrugging my shoulders, mentally &/or physically, about answering how I’m feeling. Still a lot to process.

Something Found

Love2The going through things continues. My friend, Sam, was down yesterday to help me do sorting, cleaning and more tossing away. This time, some boxes of my own things that I haven’t looked through in years. We tossed out three boxes, rearranged a few more things (switching out more of Mom’s stuff for my own), and then…Sam found something I thought was long lost.

A letter from a friend in High School, Jill,  one that I carried in my wallet for years. The ink had bled a bit, there are tears in the paper where it was folded for so long, but except for one word, I was able to read it again after so many years. While I don’t remember why I was so upset then to prompt what she wrote, I do know I said it:

I had a thought of killing myself then. 17, prime teenage years for thoughts of suicide. This is very difficult to write, now.

I’ve done my best not to censor myself here. Rest assured, while at times I have wondered why I am here, why we hurt so much at periods in our lives (and why I’ve felt as horrible as I have the past months), but… I do not want to hurt myself, nor die. I feel I still have a lot to live for, for myself and for those who care about me and love me, and to give of myself to others.

Her letter reached me to my core, and any thoughts I might have had at the time (serious or passing: honestly, I don’t know how deep it was then) were blown out of my system. I re-read the letter this morning, and the message comes through loud and clear. Thank you, Jill, then and now.

Dear Stuie,

I really don’t know just what to say. I feel so shocked by what you told me at the concert.From my point of view, I don’t see why you have any reason to feel insecure. You’re such a beautiful person! I really mean that. you have so much to offer others. You’ve really made me feel good many times, when I was in a lousy mood. You have a talent for making people feel different emotions & especially for making them laugh…and I mean with you, not at you!

Whether or not you accept Christ, your body is still a temple of God. You have no right to destroy it. There is a purpose in your life, just as in everyone’s life. That purpose may not be clear to you now, but nevertheless, it is there. You must live to fulfill that purpose or you may not only hurt yourself, but someone else as well. Especially your friends. And you have many, including me.

If you ever want to talk, or [piece missing}, please come to me. I sincerely consider you my friend and to me that means that I am willing even to die for you. It says in the Bible “No greater love hath any man, than to give his life for his friend (brother).” So, please, if I can ever help, please let me know! Sometimes I’m dense, but do this for me! You are my friend, my brother, and I love you!

Forever, Jill

 

(ps: the picture attached to this: another friend made that wall hanging for me, another item found. Good things to turn up.)

I Don’t Have To Believe Everything I Think

7312619_f496It’s lunchtime, quiet, and I’m left with my thoughts,  trying to distract myself from the things that have been bringing me down this week. When you feel a certain way, it is easy for things to take on a life on their own. It becomes too much to handle, when, in reality, it may just be that very small thing unto itself.

I’m able to use the computer during my downtime to either write or apply for jobs (as long as I’m caught up with whatever has been left for me). On Facebook, a friend there wrote a long message: it felt exactly how I’ve been feeling this week. She gave me her permission to copy it here for you to read, and to remind myself, when I come back and re-read my posts:

“A lot of you, especially those close to me, know that I’ve been suffering from a lot of anxiety lately.  I’ve written about it extensively and anyone who’s felt this way knows how exhausting this is.  To make matters worse, I’m even more anxious today for reasons I can’t discuss here. 

You also know that I’ve had faith issues and constantly doubt God.  Well, this morning one thing is clear.  If there’s anything I should be sure of by now, it is that Life/The Universe/God always speaks to me (to us) and to borrow Rilke’s words, “that life has not forgotten (me), that it holds (me) in its hand; it will not let (me) fall.”  Just as I was beginning to feel unbearably anxious, I turned on the television just to watch the morning news and saw a clip of Dianne Sawyer’s interview with Robin Roberts, to be aired tonight. 

After Robin’s bone marrow transplant and being ill for so long, Dianne asked her how she does it, how she overcomes fear and anxious thoughts.  She said she breathes, left foot forward, right foot forward, breathe….Most of all, she said (and this is a reminder we can’t have too much of), she only thinks of NOW.  Nothing else truly counts but the NOW. Yes, Now is good.  Everyone is alive and well and happy.  This is all that matters.

I hope someone else out there finds calm and peace from this long message.  And I pray I carry this lesson with me every moment.  I will do my best.  Blessings to you!  ♥

In comments to what she wrote above, someone gave her the following mantra that they use:

“I don’t have to believe everything I think.”

I hope you are living in a good and healthy NOW, as are your loved ones, and people that you can think of, and send them good thoughts for NOW as well.

I hope your NOW is full of peace, joy, and love.

Goodness Within

helping-handsMay you receive an answer that will bring you joy and peace. May God be with you, may health and strength sustain you, may nothing harm you, may wisdom and kindness enrich you, may you be a blessing to this world, and may blessings surround you now and always. Amen.”   ~from Talking to God by Naomi Levy (c)

What good is goodness within if you are not sharing it with others?

The prayer above is from the conclusion of Ms. Levy’s book, which I have been carrying around with me everywhere I go since Rabbi Pam gave it to me. It was a gift of goodness, and her extending herself has been a blessing for me, a saving grace. I only just read the conclusion this morning, as I’ve experienced parts of the book in pieces, not reading the book from cover to cover but in allowing discoveries to happen.

The line “…may you be a blessing to this world…” is what has stayed with me this morning. I’ve talked about what constitutes a good person before. My question above, though, is where my thoughts go to. If we are just a good person for ourselves, is that enough?

I don’t think so. There is so much pain, suffering and hatred in the world, so many ill feelings towards others, and they seem to rise to the top a lot easier than taking the time to do something for someone else. The people who reached out to me during my time of crisis are those who saw/felt a need, and they took some form of action. Again, I thank them all.

Yesterday, with my SO, we were browsing through a Barnes & Nobles Bookstore. There was a display table not full of self help books but ones about helping others. There was one on creativity, and how to enrich. Another about “good deeds.” Another about how, instead of complaining, finding your way to actually do something about the issues you find fault with (which I totally agree on, and while I have been a complainer, I’ve also known I’ve tried to rectify, or at least voice solutions). It’s just instead of just voicing them…it was about doing.

Being a blessing on the world, as I see it:

  • Extend yourself to someone in need
  • Do something to combat hatred towards others
  • Be a better listener and lose the judgement
  • Care about the world, not just your immediate area/life
  • Stop being complacent, but do so in a peaceful, respectful manner

There are more, of course: we can all add onto this. It’s what came to mind first. I find when I go with my first instincts, my gut, I’m usually more in tune with what is right for me. I know I’m still struggling to find my own grounding, to find my way in this next part of my life. I’m not sure where this will all take me. I still have fears of the future, trying not to let that overwhelm me. It’s all part of the process of living.

What do you do to make this a better world? It does not have to be big…I think the smallest thing can be the biggest, for whom it helps.

Snow, Alone

“There are often times, O God, when I feel alone, and yet I know in my heart that I am never alone. You are always there waiting for me to speak to You of my desires, hopes and dreams.

Yet how seldom do I reach out to You to voice my gratitude for all that is beautiful in my life…all the gifts of my life. Love, family, friendship have come from You.

But the greatest gift of all is Your presence, which time and again has given me strength, faith and courage.

Now, in the midst of doubt and confusion, I need to know that You are beside me in the depth of my being. With You there, I know I am not alone-ever.

My Friend, my strength, my God.”  ~ from Gates of Healing

I have struggled with this prayer, as I have with some others, since Rabbi Pam gave me the book Gates of Healing after my mother’s death. In meeting with her this week, we talked about interpretations, finding my own meanings in the prayers I have chosen, or were chosen for me, to say. She talked of how the great Rabbi’s of the past have “riffed” on passages, giving them context to the situations of their lives at that time.

One thing she said, when I confessed  my confusion of still not finding the belief so deeply in God as others around me: look as God within the faces/presence of those who surround me, who offer me love and caring and goodness of their hearts. Not as an abstract, but placed before me in the people who are here. It took me off to the side, examining her words, and this prayer came to mind, and has been very strong the last few mornings.

What has given me strength, faith and courage in the midst of all that I’ve gone through are those loved ones, friends and family, known or internet only known, who have been there for me. If, as she says, God shows his presence, then yes, God has, time and again, given me that greatest gift.

This, by the way, was not the interpretation we discussed. I’ll save that for another post, as I’m still mulling it over, and want to pull my thoughts and feelings together.

Today is a snow day, as we are awaiting a blizzard of EPIC proportions (epic is for the newscasters who are predicting doom and gloom). I’ll be home, alone (hence the title of this piece), writing, sending out resumes, reading, and contemplating things, and at times, just watching the snow come down.

blizzard_trees102606There is a beauty in snow falling

When you can sit back and just watch it fall

It drifts, blows, gathers

And the silence it brings,

The clean coat covering,

The softness spreads out before you.

Coping Skills

479749_544345748932209_1576710412_nIn seeing one of the people I am using as part of my support, I was told that I have “amazing coping skills.” This has sat with me since yesterday, rolling around in my mind, trying to get into the compliment. This has been part of my nature lately: not truly taking in the compliments others have bestowed upon me in my effort to feeling better. I’m not deliberately blocking them consciously. I do understand that the emotional turmoil I’ve faced and am still tackling can easily get in the way.

Yesterday I wrote about feeling, at times in my life, like an utter failure. I’ve failed AT things or WITH people, and that is part of life, I get that. I’ve also had a number of positive things, successes that have sustained me. What is the measure of success? I never really needed, nor wanted, my name in lights or be “the next big thing.” There are many, many small successes that are infinitely satisfying.  I’ve experienced them.

I want to experience more of the same, and be able to cope with the things that don’t happen, or don’t end up the way I wish they would.
The biggest coping skill I can share, and I have done so on numerous times here, is to really appreciate and hold onto the friends and loved ones who support me in so many ways. The majority of these are not blood relatives, but the ones I hold dear. As I’ve mentioned in the past, there are those who I know face-to-face, and there are those who have reached out across the internet with their support and caring. Many who I do know on a more personal basis I rarely, if ever, hear from them. Same with family members. I do not wish them ill or harbor any anger, but it is sad, in a way, but…it is what it is. I do know that if they were in need, I’d do the best I could, if I could, to help them. It shouldn’t be about what you get in return. It’s how I am, what makes me, me.

One internet supporter, Bonnie Copeland, writes on her blog My Rivendell: Your Fabulous Living Coach. Her post today, “Strength? Perhaps it’s not what you think” is worth reading. I agree with it, and trying to live to those principles is part of what I know has been inside me, and I hope to keep striving to make myself find more of my inner strength, part of my coping skills.

What are your coping skills?

“All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion, and desire.

It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way. 

In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. The young they keep out of mischief; to the old they are an aid and a comfort in their weakness, and those in the prime of life they incite to noble deeds.

You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.

We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act but a habit.”  ~Aristotle

Voices of the Heart

loveVirtue, Shame, Realization

Forgiveness, Joy, Sorrow

Respect, Rudeness, Contentment

Despair, Laziness, Ability

Grace, Forgetfulness, Resentment

Constancy, Aspiration, Panic

Mercy, Worry, Patience

Wrath, Stifled, Evil

Doubt

Loyalty

Voices of the Heart, by Ed Young
An absolutely beautiful book that I discovered this morning. The words above are in the order of the book, as the artist displayed them in a collage of Chinese characters “each describing a feeling or emotion from the heart, and each containing the symbol for the letter.” (from the dust jacket).

Layed out like I did above, it becomes further art, poetry of its own sort. Mr. Young not only gives the symbols, but he researched meanings, breaking down the characters as they are pulled together to form the words. You’ll find the individual symbols for heart, man, woman and more; from there, he turns a poet’s eye to each complete pictogram.

While this book is amazing (but not cheap: be aware of that if you click on the link above, which will take you to the Amazon page), I feel, for me, the list he has is missing a few of the emotions of the heart. In his afterward, Mr. Young states that the symbol of the heart appears in all the words above, all of them deep voices of the heart.

Without that restriction, there were words that I’d add if I created my own version:

Love is the first thing that came to mine. Peace, Joy and Happiness the next words. Compassion, Caring, Goodness, Support..and some less positive words as well: Fear, Loneliness, Anxious, Depressed.

For myself, I’d want to include all that are voiced, for clarity of self. Some words fluctuate, rising to the top, suppressing others or finding they are lighter and should be at the surface.

What would you include, if you were to create your own Voices of the Heart?