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Two Sides

Yesterday, Oklahoma and other parts of the Midwest US were hit by forces of nature. Many died. The numbers are still coming in: 91 when I last checked, with at least 20 of them children. In Iraq, almost 60 people were killed by multiple bombings.  My heart and prayers go out to those who are still around, feeling the devastating losses they must be experiencing.

Today, my SO is expecting her first grandchild, Adriana Grace. The mother is being induced around noon today, and while I wish I was there for the birth, I can also only send out my heart and prayers for a healthy baby to enter this world.

Death and birth: two sides of what goes on around us. Many more will pass away and many more will be born today.  I don’t even know what I’m feeling, as there are so many emotions coursing through me.

When I spoke to the Rabbi yesterday, she gave me more goals to work on: seek out a psalm a day, and find what resonates with me; write a Holy template of my life, the outstanding moments, good and bad, and see what they have brought; and to find gratitude in what happens in the here and now, and give thanks for it, for finding more of what is good in front of me, and that that is (possibly) finding and embracing God in my life.

A lot to think about.

God, please be with the survivors of those who died by violence, from the hand of another or by nature. Please ease their suffering as best as possible, for they will have a tough time ahead of them as they continue on.

God, please be with those giving birth today. May there be healthy babies born; ease their mother’s pain during the process. May love and happiness find them, envelop them, and bring joy.

 

baby feet

Trust and Opening Yourself Up

tree

Day 41 – Yesod of Yesod: Bonding in Bonding
Every person needs and has the capacity to bond with other people, with significant undertakings and with meaningful experiences. Do I have difficulty bonding? Is the difficulty in all areas or only in certain ones? Do I bond easily with my job, but have trouble bonding with people? Or vice versa? Examine the reasons for not bonding. Is it because I am too critical and find fault in everything as an excuse for not bonding? Am I too locked in my own ways?
Is my not bonding a result of discomfort with vulnerability? Have I been hurt in my past bonding experiences? Has my trust been abused? Is my fear of bonding a result of the deficient bonding I experienced as a child?
To cultivate your capacity to bond, even if you have valid reasons to distrust, you must remember that G-d gave you a Divine soul that is nurturing and loving and you must learn to recognize the voice within, which will allow you to experience other people’s souls and hearts. Then you can slowly drop your defenses when you recognize someone or something you can truly trust.
One additional point: Bonding breeds bonding. When you bond in one area of your life, it helps you bond in other areas.
Exercise for the day: Begin bonding with a new person or experience you love by committing designated time each day or week to spend together constructively.

Excerpt from The Spiritual Guide to Counting the Omer, by Simon Jacobson. ©Copyright The Meaningful Life Center, 2013. All rights reserved. www.meaningfullife.com.

There have been times when I’ve been way too trusting and open, especially in the work place, where I have had trust broken. Too many times, friendships that I thought I had cultivated only went to the perimeter of the job itself and did not extend beyond the confines of those walls. This has not always been the case, but those are rare exceptions.

I wish it were otherwise. There are many who I’ve crossed paths with that I wish were still in my life, but…they aren’t for any number of reasons. Many times I only had the shared experience of the job to “bond” us. Once I left, that bond was no longer a real bridge.

I have cultivated some very deep and meaningful relationships (bonding) over the years. I cherish these, and I know what I’m going through right now pains them as they see me in pain, struggling. They need to know, and I feel I tell them, how much their support and care means to me, even when I can’t express it, or my head is buried so deep underground that I can’t see beyond the blech in front of me.

In reading the passage from Counting the Omer, I did have a deficiency as a child: I was a bit of an outcast, not well liked and not having many friends. I would wind up with one friend at a time, if that. I spent most of my time alone in my room as I got into the older grades. It wasn’t until we moved to Westchester NY and I entered a new HS that things began to change. It was there that I gained the friends that are still a part of my life now, and the few from my early college years.

I hope you cultivate the bonds you already have, strengthening them as you can. I hope you find new ones as you go along, and open your heart to others, as they should do to you.

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.

 

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.

Aspects of Anger

“I am too quick to anger, God. I need to learn how to control my temper. In my rage, I have said hurtful things that I deeply regret. And there is no way to erase the hateful words I have spoken. I cause pain to those I love. I [constantly] sabotage myself.

Help me, God. I am ashamed of my behavior. Teach me how to master my rage. Show me how to breathe deeply, how to find calm.

Lead me, God, to patience and restraint. Remind me that I have the power to contain my fury. Help me to see that there is a way to express anger with dignity and grace. Help me to believe that I can change. Fill me with humility, God, to seek forgiveness from those I have hurt.

Soften my heart, God; fill me with Your comfort. Guide me on the path to goodness, to compassion, to love, to honor, and to peace. Amen.”

~from Talking to God by Naomi Levy (c)

Motorist-Charged-After-Posting-Reckless-Driving-Video-on-YouTubeThere are a lot of seemingly arrogant, reckless drivers on the road. Nothing new, I know, but I find myself starting to lose my temper again, cursing in the car, yelling at them (windows down), from the fear of either the careless disregard for anyone else on the road, or near brushes that set my teeth on edge. I’ve seen people go through red lights, make right turns from the left lane, cutting off the person in front, or visa versa, cruise down a residential street at highway speeds, and just a whole variety of potentially dangerous maneuvers.

This is not about a list of the bad and reckless out there-and I’ve done my own share of bone head moves in the past-but how I cope with it.

Yes, venting can be a good thing, especially if you’ve had a near collision. Your heart is pounding, and I know, for myself, verbally venting does help. But, in the long run: these are very negative words, and I’ve caught myself saying a few things that has stopped me: I’ve immediately apologized to God for saying them.

Since mid October, little was bothering me in outside of myself. I might mention something, but on the whole, it remained in. Calm in feeling numb. As it is lifting, I find the aspects of anger blooming again, and it bothers me. Part of it surfaces in other areas of how I view certain things: we all get angry, but the degree that we do, and how we voice it (as in the prayer above, venting it in a way that is more with dignity and grace and still be cathartic) is a thing I am catching in myself little by little.

Counting to ten is not something that ever worked for me.

How do you handle your anger?

When In Doubt…

Desert“When in doubt,

Toss it out!”

Mottos from the past, a refrain

Placed on the clutter, once again.

If for years, no light of day

Just throw the thing away.

Don’t harbor thoughts of why it was there

Don’t judge about how it was packed with care

Cleanse… for not everything’s value is dear

Cleanse…look, there’s something else under here!

Cleanse…hold on to the few things close to the heart

Cleanse…right here! A good place to start.

The past is there in front of you

Haunting, your mood might go blue

A little at a time, one step before the other

Ask for help; don’t let it smother.

Eventually, everything will be in place

Eventually, it will seem like a new space.

 

When in doubt,

Toss it out!”

Mottos from the past, a refrain

Placed on the clutter, once again.

Live Your Story Well

394942_111581282352013_1984888890_nWe are all made up of stories
Hopefully, the good ones outweigh the bad
By the dozens
And the mediocre ones…
Hopefully they go more than they come.
How we live these stories,
How we let them affect us
How we let the buoy us up
How we let them drag us down
These stories we live
It is up to us how we tell them
 
May your story inspire you
To inspire others
To inspire others
To inspire others
To inspire others
Who’ll turn around,
And inspire you

Being a good storyteller means also being a good listener and observer, someone who is a lifelong learner, and is able to find the connection of the story heard or read, or seen enacted…and its how it reaches them, and then transform it, inhabit it,  to be able to pass it on to others. Some stories will have resonate with you more than others; everyone has their individual reference points, places that grab and make more sense, mean more.

Live your story well, the best you can, even when you feel you are at your worst. All you can do is be your best, no matter what level you are at. Share it with others: they’ll help remind you of your potential.

Thank you to all who remind me of my potential.

Perspectives

earth-2“I believe everyone should have a broad picture of how the universe operates and our place in it. It is a basic human desire. And it also puts our worries in perspective.” ~Stephen Hawking
 
“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.” ~ Anne Frank
 
“If we are too busy, if we are carried away every day by our projects, our uncertainty, our craving, how can we have the time to stop and look deeply into the situation-our own situation, the situation of our beloved one, the situation of our family and of our community, and the situation of our nation and of the other nations?” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
 

I was settling down in the movie theater to watch “Les Miserables” and the thought struck me, then, of what I should write about today. We each carry our own burdens and how we face them/allow them to affect the way we handle them shapes our days. I know, intellectually, that there are people around the world (if not even around the corner) who are suffering in their lives worse than I am. We all know this, and we also know we can’t take the entire weight of the world on our own shoulders. It is just too much.

We can work on ourselves, be better for ourselves, and so hopefully be able to be better for others, offer more of ourselves to others-even just one other person-when we’re not bogged down,  knee deep in our own trials and tribulations.

Knowing the musical I was about to see, and the real life suffering that existed then…and now…put me in a different place while watching the film version. I still hurt, I’m still anxious…and I’m trying to put things in perspective.

When we came back home, I had an email from an internet friend. No air quotes. Friend. Supporter. All around good guy, from what I know of him. He has a medial condition that may not allow him much time left with us. Timing is unknown. His biggest fear is not for himself (although I’m sure there is that: stoicism in the aftermath of bad news, maybe) but for the one he’ll leave behind. My heart is heavy with this news, and I offered him all I could: my thoughts, and I will include him in the prayers that have now become part of my daily routine.

He mentioned leaving something eternal behind him, and, in all honesty, the best I can think of is that we should try to leave behind good memories, smiles, and a sense that our lives meant something to not only ourselves but to at least one other person, if not many. That we touched them in some good way, supported them as we would like to be supported, and loved as we’d like to be loved.

My worries are of a financial one right now, and my future; his are life and death, and his future. It’s up to us to handle what we are going through with as much grace and strength as we can.

I know I wish my friend much grace, much strength, and that he continues to look for what good he can do now and in the timeto come.

I wish that for any who are suffering, in any way, as well.

Downs and Ups

letting goOne bad night
But many better days
Not wiped out
Not gone
But, at this moment, 
Pushed below the surface;
Trying to rally, trying to let it all go
And enjoy what is here, now,
Which is so much more.
 
“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”
 
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness.”
 
“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”
 
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Had a bad night; woke up at 4am, something went wonky, set my mind at a million wonky anxiety things a second; took something for it. Then, trying to fall asleep again after being up for over an hour, had an anxiety laden dream. Nightmare. Whatever it was, this morning is the antithesis of how I’ve been feeling the last couple of days.

I am tired-so tired-of feeling like this. It has been a really pleasant couple of days (yeah, there were moments, but they were pushed aside and I dealt with them after a bit). This morning…not so easy. I’m tense, stressed out, and have a monster of a headache. It’s supposed to be nasty out, so it is a pj day (which, at this moment, sounds like the best thing).

Said my morning prayers (Thank you, again, Rabbi Pam…and thanks to Naomi Levy) with my SO, which always helps. Will def do some of the online Mindful Meditation, and try to readjust my thinking. That’s what it is: I get to that point that I start beating myself up over things I know I have no control over.

One thing I have to deal with is feeling like a failure. That comes out of my mouth too often. The psychiatrist wanted to know is that how I feel just now, or something that has deeper roots; it’s deeper, and I have to really start addressing that feeling and its history in me.

I don’t prefer suffering, but I do have a hard time letting go.

“Be with me God. I feel so lost. I can’t seem to escape the dark cloud that is hanging over me (today). Help me, God. Give me strength to combat despair and fear. Show me how to put my pain into perspective. Teach me to have faith in the new day that is coming. Thank You, God, for today’s blessings, for tomorrow’s hope, and for Your abiding love. Amen.”

~ from Talking to God by Naomi Levy (c)

 

 

Of Camels, Communication and Care Taking

“When I am lost, help me, God, to find my way. When I am hurt, shelter me with Your loving presence. When my faith falters, show me that You are near. When I cry out against You, accept my protest, God, as a prayer too. As a call for You to rid this world of all pain and tragedy. Until that day, give me the will to rebuild my life in spite of my suffering…Amen.”
~ Talking to God by Naomi Levey (c)
 

During this month, communications with others has been key to my mental health, a positive source. The internet and phones (cell or land line) have kept me in touch with others, not feeling so lonely. Yes, there are times not having someone around to take care of is utterly lonely. I find myself wandering around, not really settled. This is the first time I’ve gone someplace and not had to check in with anyone, to see if they are ok, if they are eating, etc.

Skype, Facebook, cell phones, emails: all are important to  how I’m trying to cope. It’s not always easy: I’d almost always rather be somewhere else than in the apartment. I reach out, and, thankfully, others have reached out to me as well. It’s not as one sided as I used to feel.

Someone surprised me with a very unexpected gift (a gift card) and then with words why it was given. The why is so much more important, and I can not tell you how humbled I felt, how bereft of words I was at this act of kindness. Others have left me with great gifts of their support and care, and again…that is what has been really needed. It’s good karma, a Mitzvah, a good deed…whatever you want to call it…I thank one and all for what you’ve done.

“Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway.”
— Emory Austin

“God gave burdens, he also gave shoulders.”
— Yiddish Proverbs

I’ve lived the role of care taker for many years: first, with my children; then when my father got very ill; and after his passing, with my mother. With her passing, a role I’ve had now since I was 24 years old is no longer part of my life…except it is, but in a different way: care taker for myself. The one person I pretty much put in the background, the one who I took care of only on the periphery. I can’t say I was a total drudge and had no fun for myself, for that would be a total lie.

But…in REALLY taking care of myself, treating myself well, loving myself…not really. That has been brought up to me often enough now in these last few months, and part of my healing process is dedicated to trying to do those positive things. I have an amazing woman by my side, and some amazing friends and family, and a circle of caring internet friends…they all help. It does need to start with me; not narcissistically, but for a healthier me in body and spirit. It’s communicating with myself too; the prayers help; the meditation helps; giving myself a breather helps.

CamelAs to the camel; I went to a Christmas pageant on Christmas Eve (no, I’m not converting: this was with my SO, and the pageant was cute with kids in costumes, their choral singing, etc). The (out of focus) camel captivated me, and I know for the hour or so I was in the service, I was outside of myself and observing, listening, and finding my own meditations and prayers.

It was good to sit with so many people, hearing them laugh, seeing them smile, with the simplicity and care for their children.

It’s always a good afternoon when you spend some time with a camel. 🙂

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”
— Bernice Johnson Reagon