So sometimes I have these little chats with myself.
“Self?” I may say. “What in the heck do you think you’re doing?”
Fortunately, mySelf is usually quite patient with my silly questions, humors me, and encourages me to find my own answers by simply ignoring the question. Well, at least I think that’s the plan. Mostly, it leaves me to my own devices to figure out what the heck I’m talking about.
The latest round of self-talk was about the many creative avoidance techniques that I use to keep myself from having to face things that I’d rather not. Maybe you know the drill. Maybe you, too, have voices in your head that clamor to be heard, voices that you try to stifle but that just won’t go away.
Mostly for me, said voices refer to issues of spirituality and personal growth. At the top of my current spiritual to-do list is, for example, is “Put Away Toys.” That would mean any activity that distracts me from engaging with my True Self, as in TV and mindless iPad games wherein I tell myself that I’m improving my mental acuity and giving my brain free reign to roam around gathering creative energy and a head of steam for something, though I know not what.
Unfortunately, television qualifies as a toy, so this no-TV edict is a whipdoozy. It’s hard. It’s a big ask, like the “Get a Dog” voice from twelve years ago that brought Charlie Chin Yoda into my life. What will fill the ginormous void left by a blank TV screen? Well ok, maybe I’ll give it a try—but I’m not making any promises.
The morning after my first TV-less night as I was whizzing down a country road at 60 mph, a sign on the side of the road grabbed my attention. It said simply, “Celebrate your success.” Well okay then. I made it through one whole night without indulging in one of my favorite avoidance addictions. Bully for me!
That was a over month ago. Still, I struggle with the what-to-do-with-myself question that looms as TV hour rolls around every night. It is like a night without a bottomless glass of wine. My hope is that this emptiness too shall pass, as it did when I finally emptied my wine glass for the very last time and recovered from wineless nights.
So I say to myself, “Self,” I say? What am I supposed to be doing with all of this blank-screen TV-less time on my hands?”
And my Self says to me, “Write your own story. Tell your own truth. Say it like it is in your world and do not concern yourself with how it is perceived. Judgment is not your job. Your job is simply to write.
Ah good old Self, good old Voice of Reason. Always there with a ready answer when and if I’m willing to put away my toys and listen.
To the casual observer, one might call my minimalistic living environment pristine. What lurks behind closed doors, however, tells a very different story—one that I sincerely hope does not reflect a mirror image of the content of my mind.
Whenever I am struck by inspiration and courage to bravely venture into a closet or peek into the innards of my computer to clean something out, I am struck dumb by what I face. Be it old writing or old clothing, the fire of my determination fades quickly into a sad little heap of dying embers and is quickly replaced by an overwhelming sense of hopelessness at the prospect of trying to make sense out of anything.
The possibilities are endless and stretch the limits of my decision-making ability to infinity and beyond. To publish or delete? To save or not save? To sell or give away? Will I ever wear it again? Have I worn it in a year? Does it need altering or editing? Will anyone want to read it? Is it any good? Do I like it? Would anyone else like it? Is it worth anything? Does it make any sense? Does it have any holes in it? Well, you get the gist . . .
In a recent fit of “Let’s get organized” I courageously dug into some files from yesteryear, and yet again, I collapsed into a fit of overwhelm at my total and complete, utter lack of organization. Stuff is spread hither, thither, and yon with little, if any hope of ever being brought together in one miniscule space of coherence and/or organization. If ever I have a hope of getting my act together, I’ll need at least another dozen lifetimes or so.
But I do want to start somewhere (wherever that is) so I tiptoed into my computer closet and gingerly emerged with a piece of writing from 2007, and again am bombarded with the questions. What should I do with it? Delete? Publish? Save for later? Well, maybe that’s not the best option—it has already been saved for twelve years. Maybe the decision is just about making a decision.
Well, over a decade later, I’ve finally settled on a solution (some of us are a little slow you know). The decision is—ta dah—pluck one thing at a time out of the closet, and do something with it.
Turn it into a blog. Compile it into a book. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Just DO it. Maybe someday it will start to make sense, but at least for now, one step forward–even if it’s wrong–is better than no step at all. Just one little tidbit dragged out of the dark and into the light, lightens and brightens my world because that’s one less bit of clutter to deal with tomorrow.
So what’s it gonna be? Today it’s going to be a blog until maybe some day in the future I can figure out how to get organized enough to turn it into a book. The first chapter might be all about clutter. I’m an expert, after all. Meanwhile, till I get my act together, it’s one day and one piece at a time. Maybe tomorrow or the next day that bit from 2007 will see the light of day. Wish it luck. And me too.
Onward and upward! Out of the dark and into the light!
I arrived frustrated and frazzled at the destination where my niece and I planned to have lunch. Along the way I became hopelessly lost in the maze of the parking lot at the mall. Don’t laugh. If you’ve never been lost in a mall, it’s because you’ve never been to the Galleria in Tyson’s Corner, VA. It’s a nightmare to this Marylander, as are the highways that I must travel just to get there. The mere thought of accidentally getting caught up in the frightening tangle of HOV lanes and not being able to get off until I reach China grips me with the gut-wrenching fear that I may never be seen or heard from again.
I called my niece to tell her that I was hopelessly lost and in her kind and gentle way, she provided me with the directions that I needed to get myself back on track. That said, she told me that she was going to hang up, park, get a table, and wait for me.
“Nooo” I pleaded! Please don’t leave me! Please hang in there with me until I get there! She did, I got there, and we found each other in the parking lot, gave each other a gigantic hug, and headed toward lunch. What a blessed relief! God bless her. God bless cell phones.
“You’re going to turn this into a blog,” she quipped before we had even entered the building. I hadn’t considered the possibility, but since she put the idea into my head, I thought, “Why not?” It seemed like a fairly reasonable challenge—certainly one that was easier than finding the Cheesecake Factory amidst the myriad of storefronts and garage entrances.
It’s bad enough to be lost in the mall, but add to that the fact that it’s not the first time I’ve done it. Oh no, no. It happens every time I dare venture into the mystery maze of the Galleria. Repeating a mistake over and over is enough to send me into a wailing fit of “Why God? Why do I keep doing the same stupid thing again and again? When will I ever learn?“
Well now, isn’t that just the question of the century!? Why God? Why do I keep doing the same stupid thing again and again? When will I ever learn?
Like dear Connie, God is patient. God is kind. God listens to and hears my desperate calls for help. God waits for me and hangs in there with me as I bumble my way through life making wrong turns and bad decisions, and while I blindly stumble along making the same mistakes over and over, mistakes that leave me feeling befuddled, frustrated and stupid.
But it’s all okay, because just like Connie, God will be there to provide gentle guidance along the way, wait for me, and when I arrive, He’ll rejoice because I finally made it to my destination. It’s always reassuring to know that no matter what, I’ll find my way back home. He knows that I will, and I know that I will—it’s just a matter of when. Now would be good.
I’ve been gone for what seems like an eternity—off by myself again wandering around aimlessly in the desert trying to find my way back home. Another blogger asked a question worth pondering—if I stopped blogging, would anyone notice? I would. I noticed that I have gone missing, but I couldn’t seem to find the oomph to get myself back on the return trip toward home. Perhaps because I temporarily lost the way. Sometimes it is very hard to return to sanity whilst being on vacation from one’s own head. When I’m out there doing the aimless-wander dance, I wrestle with feelings of self-doubt and guilt because I think that I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing, whatever that is. Perhaps you might be somewhat familiar with the feeling?
I don’t quite know what it is that drags me off course, but the one thing I do know is that the real problem here is that I have wandered away from God. I have wandered away from that part of myself that is the best of me, and collided head-on into the self that I’ve been trying to avoid for as long as I’ve been on my spiritual journey. It doesn’t usually go very well. I don’t think that escape is the answer.
When I’m away, I experience lethargy, laziness, sloth (hmm—isn’t that one of the seven deadly sins?), and a general sense of malaise that eats away at self-esteem and sends me straight into the despair of zero self-worth. Eeks! That’s not a very nice place to live! Feelings of low self-worth sneak in while we are looking the other way and inflict torture upon most of us at one time or another whether we are aware of it or not. Now that’s a condition truly worth avoiding!
Once it finally dawns on me that my sojourn into the desert is a lonely one, and that it robs me of the joy that is my true birthright, it’s enough get me to hop on my camel and gallop out of the desert as fast as I can–or at least as fast as a camel’s legs will allow–and I return happily to my quiet time with God, and yes—maybe even blogging. But sometimes that realization comes at the speed of molasses in January. Why is that, I wonder? And what is it that makes me wander off in the first place? Maybe that part doesn’t matter. Maybe I just need to keep my eye on the end goal and enjoy the jagged journey along the way.
My last blog was written nearly two months ago on July 13 and yes, rather recently I have heard from a few readers asking about it, and for that I say thank you for your encouragement. So often a little nudge from others is all that is needed to provide a wandering soul with renewed faith and the desire to move forward on the path. So much of life is about intention. Do I intend to finish this blog, or will I get halfway through, take the dog for a walk, and forget it, as I have so many others?
Will I sit down every morning and spend my quiet time conversing with God, or will I keep Him waiting and instead fritter away precious hours and minutes checking emails, tweaking my daily to-do list, reading negative news, or fretting over undone chores—then suddenly wake up to the realization that I’ve gone missing and lost my senses again? God doesn’t care if the laundry gets folded or if there are dishes in the sink. God has more important things than household chores on Her mind.
Here’s the thing. God gave me an assignment—a job to do—and if I don’t do it, I’m not holding up my end of the bargain. Not that God bargains, mind you—it’s just that I’m the one who entered into the contract. I’m the one who said, “Okay, God, if this is all you ask, it is the least I can do.” All God asks is that we be happy, and that we find the joy that dwells deep within our hearts and waits patiently to be found. The only thing that God asks of us is that we realize that we are loved and forgiven, and that we have no reason to think or feel anything less than that. I’m the one who lays self-doubt and guilt at my own feet by allowing myself to slip into the false belief of thinking that I am less than I am.
When I am able to remember my assignment, my promise to God that I will love myself as She loves me, feelings of low self-worth, guilt and self-doubt fade and transform into the remembrance that I am truly a beloved child of God, perfect just as I am. And so are you. And so is everyone else, even though sometimes appearances may say otherwise.
This week a little voice in my head suggested that I take my umbrella into Trader Joe’s. Did I listen? No, of course not. When I emerged from the store after all of five minutes, torrential rain was flooding the parking lot. Clearly, there is something in me that is a whole lot smarter than I am, and one day perhaps I’ll learn to listen. Meanwhile, I’m going to do my darnedest to quit taking little side trips into the wilderness and make a commitment to honor my prayerful intentions instead. Wish me luck!
Now I must ask myself the question—am I going to push the publish button now or am I going to make myself crazy wondering if it’s good enough? Cheech. There I go again—listening to that pesky self-doubt voice instead of to the one that’s smarter than I am, the one that makes helpful little suggestions, like, “Take your umbrella.” Whenever will I learn? Or maybe the real question is—when will I not forget? Does it all have to be perfect? No. Does it really matter? No. Is it a good thing to be content with whatever is? Absolutely.
Thank you good readers for the nudge that I needed to get my feet back onto the return–to-God path. It feels great to be back and God willing, I’ll stay stay put, resist the temptation to wander away again, and see you soon. It is unbelievably comforting to know that God loves me when I’m ornery. He loves me when I am small and petty. He loves me when i procrastinate, when I’m lazy, and especially when I’m behaving like a sloth. He loves me no matter what. What a gift. What a wonderful God!
Yep. I’m doing it. There’s nothing quite like pushing the publish button to bring joy and set my feet back on the path. Before I push it though, just a thought to remember–God loves you and so do I. What is there to say but Thank You Thank You Thank You God?
It is not possible to get to Carnegie Hall without traveling the path of practice, nor is it possible to find joy without the practice of forgiveness. Practice, practice, practice.
In my continuing quest for peace of mind and happy endings, I am more aware than ever of the need to put my money where my mouth is and stop talking and start doing the inner work that is necessary to move forward on the path to enlightenment.
In answer to my impassioned plea for more joy in my life I was rewarded with the opportunity to practice what I preach. This answer comes to me in the form of a person who is so in-your-face angry and contentious that I want nothing more than to see the back of her head when she walks away. The experience of being in her presence is so disturbing that my heart ties itself into a knot just thinking about it. Sometimes I think that God has a very mischievous sense of humor.
Twice I have received guidance and insight into the path to forgiveness of her and twice, it has slipped away. How fleeting these precious thoughts can be, and how quickly I forget! I need to write it down so that I can remember and practice, but it is so elusive that I ask for help to remember and recapture those ephemeral thoughts. Help comes in the form of a poem. Well, sort of. I’m not a poet.
She is not angry with me
She is angry with the world
Those in her path reap her wrath
Rather than respond with anger
I prefer to offer forgiveness
Yet forgiveness is hard to find
She is not angry with me
The world has done her wrong
Her anger lashes out on others
And she drives them away with her fury
She is in great need of forgiveness
Of herself, of others, of the world
If I cannot find forgiveness
Perhaps I can find compassion
Compassion for her suffering
Compassion for the pain that drives her
And understanding of the intense grievances
That clog her heart with the fear of love
Jesus implores us to forgive seventy times seven
I may find it in my heart to forgive today
Yet tomorrow will bring renewed opportunity
When she stands in my face once again
With a glare, a frown and bitterness in her heart
In her current state of mind
She is helpless to help herself
But I can refrain from my judgment of her
And silently acknowledge her suffering
In exchange for her anger and contention
I can offer compassion and forgiveness
And a prayer of peace and love for her
Seventy times seven
The following is an excerpt from a newsletter that I sent out to the residents of my condo building on June 30, just two days after the tragic shooting at the Annapolis Gazette. Though you may have read it before, sometimes it helps to be reminded that each one of us makes a difference in our world. There is a revised ending–just so you know!
On Thursday we were reeling from a senseless tragedy that occurred right here, a mere four miles away from our own front door, in a building where many of us go to doctors and dentists. It doesn’t get very much closer to home than that. At the risk of sounding uncharacteristically negative, today I am feeling rather powerless and hopeless as I process all that is happening in our world today. The horrendous murder of innocent people coupled with a pervasively negative political climate is turning our country inside out. If I think about it or dwell on it too much, it almost seems more than I can bear. Perhaps some of you may be experiencing similar feelings.
As I sit with heavy heart, I am aware that my mind tends to run away with itself by indulging in negative thinking. I am not helping the problem—indeed, I am adding to it by allowing an insidious underlying fear to infiltrate my mind and dominate my thought process. A smile is catching. So is fear.
I don’t want to be responsible for spreading the disease of fear, for truly, it is a disease. It robs us of peace of mind, a healthy outlook, and hope for a brighter future. Instead, I am going to shift my mindset into one of looking beyond the appearance of what is, and instead focus on what may be, and of what is possible when we focus on love rather than fear. I invite you to join me in adopting and maintaining a higher vision of a better, safer world. In horoscopes, it is often written that sometimes we must “tear down in order to rebuild.” Life on our planet may never return to what it once was, but I am holding a vision and keeping the faith that one day it will be rebuilt into one that is even better. Please, please help to speed the process by focusing on what’s right rather than on what’s wrong, on light rather than dark, on love rather than fear.
If this post speaks to your heart, I hope that you will share it with others who may find solace and comfort in knowing that they too can make a difference in a world in such need of love and peace. Please pass it on. We need all of the help and hope that we can get.
To borrow a phrase from yesteryear, “Make love, not war.” Stay strong and nurture your spirit with thoughts that lift you up into the hope of a happy ending.