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?
To that I say Amen!
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.
Peace, blessings, and love to all.
There are a few people in the world who make me want to hide myself under the Harry Potter invisibility cloak. They are the peace disturbers, the annoyers, the ones who make me crazy with just a word, a look, a comment, a request—that’s all it takes to send me off into a world of anger, frustration, criticism, or judgment. Try as I might, it seems impossible to avoid some sort of conflict or contact with them. I hear a voice, I turn and do a quick-step in the opposite direction. Then another pops up and blocks my exit route. There’s no escape. While there are only a couple of folks who have that effect on me, it seems more like an army. They’re everywhere. It’s maddening.
I try. I mean, I really, really try hard to not allow myself to be negatively impacted by the words and deeds of others, no matter how underhanded, manipulative, or controlling I perceive them to be. Once in a blue moon, I succeed for a minute, but a minute is about all I can manage to muster up before the next offense rises up and challenges me to get over myself and behave like an adult.
Maybe it’s karma. Maybe it’s lifetimes of unhealed junk that I’ve carried around in my backpack for as long as the world has been spinning. Maybe these blessed souls are there for the sole purpose of teaching me some sort of a gigantic life lesson. Maybe I’m not getting out of here alive before first realizing that avoidance is not the best or healthiest way to deal with a troubling situation. The most troubling of all is the wee perception that what I perceive as “wrong with them” may be something within myself that needs to be healed, else I would not be able to recognize it outside of myself. Yikes.
Sometimes it helps to focus on the benefit of letting go. Sometimes it’s a matter of asking myself my least favorite question, “What’s in it for me?” What’s in it for me to forgive a husband who had a brief fling with a friend? My knee jerk reaction was to distance myself from the co-respondent, along with the entire group of friends of which we were all a part. My unwillingness to associate with the betrayer fueled my departure from a group of friends that I enjoyed and robbed me of a large piece of my social life. Oh, the things I do to myself!
The forgive-and-forget plan fell short of its goal, and neither avoidance nor denial provided solution or solace. I was the one left suffering the effect of my own anger with the loss of peace, trust, and friendship. The infraction of one person (well, maybe two if you count my philandering husband) who had crossed a line had rocked my world.
Two years after the discovery, as I was riding down Connecticut Avenue on my way to work, I had an epiphany. I suddenly saw that I was the one denying myself the joy of love and friendship by virtue of my blame, criticism, and judgment of one person. I was the one stuck on my righteous attitude of anger and blame. I was the only one suffering while the others went merrily on their way without me, utterly clueless about my pain. I was the one refusing to forgive because clearly, I was right and they were wrong. Right? Wrong!
With that epiphany came another—the instant realization that since I was the only one suffering by my own hand (or head is more like it) in this scenario, I was the only one who could change the situation that I had created for myself. I was my own peace thief.
Simultaneously, another amazing thing happened. An actual desire to let it go and forgive and forget washed over me and a spontaneous prayer arose within me. Oh God I truly do want to forgive this situation, but I don’t know how. Please help! And I sat back, let go, and relaxed.
Day by day, little by little, inch by inch, I began to feel better until one day soon after, I awoke and discovered that it was gone—all of the blame, criticism, anger, judgment—gone. In the midst of the quiet miracle that had occurred within me, it dawned on me that forgiveness requires true willingness. Only the sincere desire and heartfelt commitment to forgive will open the floodgates to the miracle of forgiveness. It doesn’t work if there’s even the tiniest bit of anger or resentment. Sometimes one has to be willing to be willing to be willing to let go and forgive.
As I ponder my attitude toward my current peace disturbers, I must sit myself down and ask a soul-searching question. Am I truly willing? Do I really, really mean it when I ask for forgiveness such that I can stand to be in the same room with one of my peace thieves and not wish to commit dishonorable hara-kiri? Do I have it within myself to pull it off? Do I? Can I? Will I?
Yes, I do, yes I can, and yes I will.
To my unwitting teachers of peace, I pray that with each thought of you, my heart opens spontaneously so that I may clearly see that purity and radiating love are a force in your life. I pray that I look beyond any and all behavior that causes me to think less of you, or that distorts my image of you as anything other than the Truth of your being, which is Love.
With my backpack fully loaded with willingness, desire, and a prayer for forgiveness, all I need do now is sit back, relax, and be amazed and grateful for the miracle that restores me to peace and floods my life and the lives of others with love and grace.
So what’s in it for me? Only peace of mind. Oh–and maybe a bit of happiness too. That’s all.
I wandered into Sur La Table for a lemon zester and stood at the check-out counter while the transaction was being completed. As I waited, a hulking figure emerged from the back room carrying a bag full of money. He was wearing a dark blue uniform and the brightest smile I have seen since my soon-to-be son-in-law caught his first glimpse of his bride walking down the aisle a couple of decades ago.
As he passed by, he looked me straight in the eye with a grin the size of Texas and wished me a cheery “Good morning.” How is it, I wonder, that just one beaming smile coupled with an enthusiastic, heartfelt “good morning” can leave me feeling so over-the-top-happy? What a zesty guy!
I had only one word for the encounter. “Wow,” I said. My gaze followed him out the door as he walked toward his armored truck. Reading my mind, the cashier glanced at me with a faraway look in her eye and a soft smile on her face. “I know,” she said. “I really look forward to Friday mornings when he comes in because I always feel so good when he’s here, and all day even after he leaves.”
The man had a palpable, larger-than-life presence that lit up the room and left me in a state of awe. In that one brief instant, I was reminded that we all carry a presence, and that what we carry within ourselves reaches out and touches those around us, for better or for worse. It made me stop for a moment and ask myself what it is that I am sending out to those around me, to the ones I love, and to strangers.
What about the people who zoom down the shoulder of the road and cut in the front of the line, or those who leave their dog’s droppings for other people to step in, or the folks whose empty Budweiser cans I pick up on my daily walks? What about the myriad of other small irritations that are available to confront my peace of mind every single day of my life? Are my thoughts and judgments polluting the air around me, and negatively impacting those unfortunate unsuspecting souls who happen to stand within close range? Worse, are they polluting my own inner space? Do I allow these small little annoyances to become volcanic in my mind? Or do I embrace them as part of a plan to grow up and get over it?
I’m not sure that I can possibly begin to imagine what it must be like to live within that man’s big heart. I can’t think of any cause greater than to spread kindness and goodwill just simply by being. But just for an instant, I’d sure like to be able to pop inside his skin and check it out for myself, to experience how it feels to reside within such an amazing presence. No, I can’t imagine it. But this much I do know. I want to be a zester just like him when I grow up. After all, I am the only one who can do something about how they will feel when I walk away, right?