There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~Anaïs Nin

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Me and God Against the World

I used to think that relying on God was a sign of weakness.  I thought that I was a stronger person for going it alone.  For doing it my way.  It never occurred to me that reaching for a drink was a sign of weakness.  That, to me, meant that I didn’t need anybody to help get me through.  I could take care of myself.  It was me and my cocktail against the world.

Well, nine months into my non alcoholic year, I realize that I had it all wrong. 

I have come to realize that I am a much stronger person than I ever gave myself credit for.  But I have also come to realize that I have not been going it alone.  I know that something is sustaining me.  Something is always there to pick me up when I fall, a force or energy that I know is there.

I call that energy God.  And I believe Jesus when He said “the kingdom of God is within”.  Those are the words I focus on now.  Because I no longer believe the Christian mantra that we are all sinners in need of saving.  To focus on being a sinner quite frankly causes me to resign myself to a life of sin. 

But when I focus on the kingdom of God being within me, it causes me to want to aspire to that truth.  We all have that energy, that force within us.  We all have a flame burning inside us that reminds us that we are part of God’s great and beautiful creation.

And we allow that flame to grow stronger and brighter the more we listen to that voice within and become the person we were created to be.  Unfortunately, so many things of this world try to extinquish that flame.  Luckily for us, that flame was put there by God.  It can never completely go out.  But we have to fight like hell to keep it going sometimes.

No, relying on God is not a sign of weakness.  Relying on God means embracing the full force of the universe so that when things seem difficult, bleak or hopeless, I can find the strength to put on my armor and cry out to the world “You may beat me yet, but it’s not going to be today…”

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Voice in my Heart

I have so many voices in my head I often feel like I have multiple personalities.  These voices tell me who I am, or who I’m supposed to be, or what I should say, do and think about the things of this world and the things of my life.

The problem is the voices in my head are not mine.  These voices belong to my parents, past teachers, coaches and friends.  And I listen to them because I think they know what’s best for me.  After all, that’s why they started talking to me in the first place, isn’t it?

“I know what’s best so listen to me.”

And I trusted them.  I trusted that others, because they were older and smarter, knew what was best for me.  So I listened, and I followed.  And they were right.  I have a good life.  I have a wonderful husband and great kids and a comfortable home.

But there’s another voice.  A very quiet voice and it’s not in my head, it’s in my heart.  That one belongs to me.  But I don’t listen to it because the voices in my head are so much louder and much more determined to be heard.

This other voice sits and waits patiently.  And I know it’s there because I do my best to drown it out.  By keeping busy.  By taking care of others.  By staying “plugged in”.  As long as there is noise, the voice can’t be heard.  But it’s still there.  It never goes away. 

And I feel restless.  Because this voice holds the secret to my personal happiness.  It knows my hopes and dreams.  But it doesn’t fight to be heard. It fades off into the background and let’s the voices in my head duke it out.   

I can choose to listen to the voice of my heart but that means trusting that I know what’s best for me and I have long since forgotten how to do that.  I second guess myself, and I ask others for their opinions, and I read book after book after book trying to find the answers.  But they can’t be found out there, they can only be found within.

I have been given a gift.  That gift is my life.  It’s like a candle, burning so brightly. But also like a candle it is growing shorter with each passing day.  Will I let my light burn out without ever allowing the fire in my heart to burn it’s brightest?

Will I let the voices in my head win the day?  Never to be quieted by the voice in my heart that only has to be heard one time.  Just once. And all it has to say is “Thanks, but no thanks. I know what’s best for me.”

Monday, September 12, 2011

What Does My Gut Say?

I was watching Housewives of Beverly Hills last night…wait, did I just say that out loud?  Ok, yes I am a closet drama junkie.  I realize I should engage my brain with loftier pursuits, but I can’t seem to help myself.  I love reality TV.

So last night, Taylor, (one of the housewives) was talking about her therapy sessions and one of the other housewife’s husbands indicated that therapy was a sign of weakness.  His idea of therapy was basically get over it.

I have been in therapy for years.  Personally it suits me.  Where else can I talk about myself for an hour knowing that my audience is giving me his complete attention, if only because he is paid to feign interest in my pathetic little life.   But I would rather pay to dump on someone than dump all over a friend.   That gets old, plus it would require me to reciprocate, which I’m willing to do, but my willingness and ability to do that is closely tied in with my mood at the moment.

So back to the issue of therapy…is it a sign of weakness?  Is it a tool of the narcissist? Or is it a valid method to improve my mental health?

I go back and forth.  I’m in therapy so obviously I find it helpful on some level or I wouldn’t go, but there are times when I feel that what I need is to get over myself.   Nothing like a good swift kick in the pants to get me to focus outward, not inward. 

But actually I go to therapy because I have lost confidence in myself and my basic instincts.  I doubt my thoughts and my actions and I need someone to tell me I’m on the right track. 

I would like to get to the point where I trust myself again.  Where I’m confident enough with myself that I realize I have everything I need to decide what’s best for me.  I’m just not quite sure how to do it yet…I think I will ask my therapist.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Tables Are Turning

I haven’t thought much about God lately.  I think back to Lent when every post was somehow related to my thoughts and feelings about God and now I hardly think about Him at all.  I haven’t been to church all summer and I haven’t read my Bible. 

I’m tempted to give up on the idea all together.  After all, my life doesn’t look that much different with or without Him, so where does He fit in? What’s the point of believing in God anyway?

Is it to give me strength? Because I don’t always feel His presence even during those times when I feel I need Him most.  And whether He’s there or not I manage to move forward with my life regardless.  So is it Him? Or me?

Is my belief in God simply my get out of jail free card? My ticket into Heaven?  Or do I believe in God because He has the answers on how I’m supposed to live my life?  Does He know the path I’m supposed to follow and I can only find it through Him?  Or is He simply the guy who keeps me in check, keeps me on the straight and narrow, as if the only reason I strive to be a good and moral person is to avoid the wrath of the old man in the sky.

My daughter has just started confirmation class.  This is her opportunity to learn about God and Jesus and decide for herself what she believes and if she will follow Him.  I’m grateful for this opportunity to watch her go through this process.  My hope for her is that she thinks about what she is hearing. That she asks the tough questions and is satisfied with the responses.  So that by the end of the year she knows who God is and what it means to believe in Him.

And I will do my best to stand by silently, not imposing my own doubts and cynicism upon her.  It’s time for my daughter to formulate her own thoughts and opinions about God and faith and life.  And maybe, just maybe, I will learn a little bit more about God through her.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

If I Could Turn Back Time

The summer that my first son started kindergarten I was with a friend who was also sending her first child off to school for the first time and she commented, “I hope I’ve done a good job as a mom.”

I laughed at the comment finding it strange.  Her son was 5 years old, like mine.  We had plenty of mothering left to do.  But as she continued to talk, I understood her point.  The first few years of our childrens’ lives are the only years that I, as their mother, have sole custody so to speak. 

It is the only time that I am the main influence in their lives.  As they enter school, they will encounter teachers, principals, coaches and friends.  And they will have an influence on my children.  So what my friend really was talking about was their foundation…so I considered that.  Did I give my kids a good foundation?

I just dropped my third son off at college for the first time.  I wish I could say it gets easier with each child but in a way it gets more difficult.  I’m so grateful my kids are able to take advantage of the college experience.  I’m grateful they have their drivers licenses, jobs, friends, and a certain amount of freedom because of those things.

But each time they walk out the door, each time I say goodbye to them, I feel just the tiniest bit sad.  Because in my head, I want my kids to be strong, independent, self-sufficient people, but in my heart I want them to be 4 years old again. 

Does anyone but a mother really appreciate the words of Elizabeth Stone?  “Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart walk around outside of your body.”

Today I feel the weight of those words.  And while outwardly I wouldn’t have it any other way for I want my children to spread their wings and fly, inwardly I wish they were mine…all mine.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Trust Me To Make Mistakes

There are so many quotes about making mistakes, most alluding to the fact that the best and hardest lessons are learned from our mistakes.  In fact, I know for myself, the lessons that have stuck with me the most are the ones I learned the hard way.  Through mistakes. Or poor choices. Or lack of information.

There are those who love me so much that they wish to protect me from making mistakes.  “Learn from my mistakes” they say.  Don’t do what I did.  And I understand that love.  I would love to protect my children from all bad things.  I would love for them to never feel pain, sorrow or regret, especially when I see, as an onlooker, that the pain, sorrow, regret, could have been avoided.

But then would they grow? Would they learn?  If I never let go of the reins long enough to let my children fall, will they become who they were meant to be? 

I come from a long line of worriers.  And this worry drives my family to overprotect.  Even control.  And I have resisted this control.  I have been called a rebel without a cause, the black sheep, because I wish to break free from this control.

In my weak moments, I rationalize the control and worry.  They just love me, they want what’s best for me, I should listen to them.  I should play it safe. They are right and I am wrong.

In my strong moments, I make my own decisions, live my own life, listen to the beat of my own drum.  And yes, sometimes I make mistakes.  But I assess and consider, and reconsider.  And believe it or not, I can be trusted to learn from my mistakes.  I can be trusted to make decisions that are right for me. 

So I appreciate the love, the worry and the concern.  I appreciate that there are people in my life who have gone before me, who know things that I do not know and who wish to keep me safe, but that is not how I will learn, and it is not how I will come to fully live.  So let go of the reins, keep me in your prayers, but not under your thumb, and let me learn for myself…even, and maybe especially, if it’s the hard way.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

When You Wish Upon A Star

I grew up believing that my happiness would come when I found true love.  I devoured all the great fairy tales.  The princess saved by Prince Charming who swept her off her feet after rescuing her from the evil witch or whatever the particular details of that story happened to be.

So I grew up thinking of myself as the weaker, frail girl who needed rescuing.  I didn’t have to worry about anything because my knight in shining armor would ride in on his white stallion and save the day.

But then I got older, and I got married (to my Prince Charming) but he wasn’t always my knight in shining armor.  He often didn’t swoop in to rescue me from all the evils of the world and I thought something was missing.  It wasn’t enough that he went off to work every day to provide for me and our kids.  It wasn’t enough that he came home every night after a long day to the insanity of our lives, willing to help me out where he could.

I wanted more…I wanted the fairy tale. Perfection and bliss.  No worries or troubles because my Prince Charming was there to take all of that away from me, so I could live happily ever after.  But that’s not my life.  I have worries and troubles.  I have chores and messiness.  And I grew angry and resentful.

I felt alone and I secretly continued to wish for a new Prince Charming.  A better one.  One who fulfilled my fantasies, who would protect me, take care of me and allow me to live happily ever after in perfection and bliss. 

But I have come to realize something (and it only took 46 years).  I am not a woman in need of rescuing.  I need no knight in shining armor to take care of me.  I got lost in the fairy tales of old believing that’s what I needed.  And not only do I not need that, I don’t even want it. 

My Prince Charming doesn’t need to swoop in and rescue me.  He only needs to be my friend, my greatest supporter, he needs to love me through thick and thin, for better for worse, on good hair days and bad, with or without makeup, through PMS and menopause.  And that’s what I have. 

So I’m the lucky one.  I don’t need rescuing because I am not weak or incapable or frail.  I am much stronger and far more independent than I have ever given myself credit for.  And the best part is, in my fairy tale, I have my own white stallion which I can saddle up all by myself and ride next to my Prince Charming into happily ever after…

Saturday, July 30, 2011

It Is Finished...For Real

One of my son’s friends is an atheist.  He makes it very clear that he has no interest in talking about God and I respect that.  I don’t fear for his soul, I don’t feel the need to evangelize, to share the Gospel message or otherwise try to convert him to my belief system.  And yet I call myself a Christian.

Can I, as a Christian, believe that there are other paths to God? Or other worldviews?  As a Christian I have been taught the terrors of Hell.  Christianity professes that Jesus Christ is the only path to God and Heaven. So if I am a Christian, and I accept the tenets of the Christian faith, shouldn’t at least part of my life’s purpose be to bring this boy over from the dark side?

And yet, I don’t do it.  So that either makes me cold and heartless, caring little for the fact that this person is going to spend eternity in Hell, or I simply don’t believe he is going to Hell because he has a different opinion than me about God.

I respect other opinions.  Not only do I respect them, I have done enough reading, questioning, doubting of my own that I can even appreciate how someone arrives at their conclusion that there either is no God, or at least that there are many paths to God.  So again I ask the question…am I a Christian?

Can I pick and choose which parts of the Christian faith to believe in and still call myself a Christian?  Can I believe that Jesus was God and died on the cross claiming that through His death we receive life and yet not believe that unbelievers will end up in the fiery pit?

I cringe at the words saved and unsaved, believers and non-believers.  To me, these terms create division, not harmony.  Exclusion as opposed to inclusion.  Jesus himself created much trouble among the religious leaders of his day by including the excluded. 

As I read my Bible, I don’t see a panicked Jesus, desperately trying to save souls.  If Jesus is God, and knew of this terrible place called Hell, why would it be good enough for Him to only reach those who had ears to hear?  To me, it seems as if he’s perfectly happy to move on from people who don’t wish to hear His message, understanding that not everyone will get it.

So that makes Him either as cold and heartless as me with my lack of evangelizing or He simply didn’t worry because He knew that His work on the cross would save everyone, regardless of whether they heard or understood or even accepted or denied His message. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tell Me Why

I have vivid memories of my childhood.  One of them being that I had a natural curiosity about everything in the world.  I would drive my parents crazy with my why questions...why is the sky blue? Why do the leaves change colors?  Why do bees sting?   To the point where my father finally bought me a series of children’s books called Tell Me Why.

I spent hours reading them.  I found the answers to all my questions and many that I didn’t know to ask yet.  And as an adult I find I am no different.  I still ask the why questions.  Partly because I still have a natural curiosity about things, but mostly because things have to make sense to me.

Throughout this past year and for much of my adult life I have thought long and hard about my faith, about God, about my life and it’s meaning and purpose.  I have grown up attending Christian churches so I have been influenced by the Christian faith. 

I have tried desperately to fit into this community.  I sent my kids to a Christian high school, attended numerous bible studies and many churches, all in an effort to understand the Christian faith, the Christian God. 

I generally assumed that because I struggled with so much of what I was taught that that meant my faith was weak.  I was frustrated when I would ask questions about things that didn’t make sense to me and heard the response “some things are just a mystery, they can’t be explained.”

I have tried to accept that response, tried to “let go and let God”.   Tried to ignore the nagging questions and doubts, but I simply can’t do it anymore.  There are so many things about this Christian belief system that simply don’t make sense to me.  The inconsistencies in the bible, the miracle stories, the fact that God would send his Son to be brutally tortured and murdered on the cross and I’m supposed to accept that as a sign of God’s love for us.  Really?

So I wonder…why do I feel the need to believe things that don’t make sense to me?  Why do I try so desperately to be a good, faithful, and devout Christian when so much of it seems to go against my own worldview?

My relationship with God is defined by my questions so I will continue to ask them until I find the answers that make sense. Because perhaps it’s not a lack of faith that causes me such anxst, perhaps it’s that I’m walking in a direction I was never intended to go.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ok God...You Win

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.  – John 14:27

There’s a cartoon I think of from time to time because it reminds me of my relationship with God…

A man is driving around a very crowded parking lot looking for an open space.  He cries out to God, “God, if  you help me find a space I will commit my life to you.”  Just then a parking spot becomes available to the man.  As he pulls into the spot he says “never mind God, I got it”.

How often do I cry out to God when I need something, then walk away from Him when I think I’ve got it covered, when I think I’m all set?

I was reading over my past blogs today.  And what struck me was how much progress I seemed to have been making during the Lent season when my focus was on God.  Then as soon as Easter came and went so did my focus on Him.  And I find I am struggling with some old issues, some old weaknesses and temptations.

It’s funny how I resist devoting my life to God for good.  I resist the idea that I need God, that I should humble myself to this unseen power because He is in control.  I can do it for a time, for a season, but once things get back on track…”thanks God, I’ll take over from here.”

Why do I view it as a weakness to admit that I need God in my life? 

Somehow, it’s ok to need a drink, or need caffeine, or need chocolate.  But to need God?  No, it’s much easier to blame God for the fact that I need a drink, caffeine and chocolate. In fact, it’s much easier to blame God for just about everything that I’m unhappy about. 

But the truth is I do need God.  My life looks different when I put Him first.  It’s just that it’s hard to remember to put Him first.  It’s hard to live a life that honors God when I have my own agenda.  It’s hard to say “thy will be done” rather than “my will be done.”

But I’m convinced it is the only path to peace…not necessarily happiness, which is temporary and fleeting, but peace.  Long and lasting peace.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Enough is Enough

Be the change you want to see in the world – Mahatma Gandhi

There are many people in my life, who for whatever reason, cannot seem to see their own beauty.  They are very hard on themselves, working tirelessly to live up to some image they hold of themselves.   I hear them start their sentences with such phrases as:

“I wish I was…”
“If only I could…”
“If I was more…”

…then I would be happy, then I would find peace.

And I look at them, bewildered, wondering why they don’t see how wonderful they are, wondering why they beat themselves up over things that don’t define them.  I know the impact these people have had on my life and I wish they could see it.  I wish they could see themselves through my eyes.

The problem is I do this to myself.  So how can I expect these people to change if I am not willing to do the same.  I see myself in my friends when they refuse to acknowledge their greatness and I understand why others get frustrated with me.

So what would my life look like if I just stopped.  Stopped complaining about my weaknesses, stopped focusing on my faults and instead celebrated my strengths.  What would my relationships with other people look like if I chose to be a little kinder and gentler with myself.

In the interest of being a guiding light to all my friends who cannot see their own beauty, I am willing to make a sacrifice.  I am willing to give up the self-flagellation, I am willing to give up the constant stream of negativity directed toward myself.  And hopefully, I will create the change I would love to see in the people who mean so much to me.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Anything But That

I am a very generous person, so I’m told.  I will give you the shirt off my back. I will open my house to you. I will let you borrow anything from my closet.  I will buy you what you need, I will loan you money.  But if you ask to borrow my truck, I will say no. 

I will drive you wherever you want to go, I will rent you your own truck, but you cannot have mine.  And because of this I feel selfish.  I should want to help you, right?  That’s what friends do for each other.  But I can’t give over the keys.  Why?

It took me until recently to understand this perplexing behavior of mine.  But I do understand it now.  You can’t have my truck because my personal vehicle is my refuge.  My safe haven. My place of solitude if I choose it to be, or my place to blast my music.  Not the music the kids like, or my husband likes, but the music I like.

 I can turn the volume up or down as I see fit.  I decide if I want air-conditioning, or open windows.  I decide how fast or slow I will travel, where I will go and which route I will take to get there.  Behind the wheel of my personal vehicle I am in control of my life.

When I get stressed out or frustrated, I go for a drive.  If I argue with my husband, I clear my head in my vehicle.  It is my ticket to freedom. It is where I do my best thinking, my meditating, I solve the world’s problems from the time it takes me to get from here to the grocery store and back.

So in the interest of world peace, please don’t ask to borrow my truck…

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Happiness is Overrated

I hear the question “what will make you happy?” or “what can I do to make you happy?” a lot.  Hell, I ask it of myself all the time….”what will make me happy?”  or “what do I need in my life to make me happy”.  I ask it as if by finding the answer, that elusive thing out there, that one thing that I am lacking, then I will finally be happy.

But what do I even mean when I say “I just want to be happy?”  Does that mean I never want to be sad? Is that what I really want?  I love to watch movies that make me cry, so does being sad “make” me happy?

Does being happy mean I will never experience difficult times in life? That I will have smooth sailing from here on out?  Quite frankly, that would make me bored.  Not that I want to wish difficult times on myself, but if I look closely at those times in my life, the really challenging times, it was those times that I learned the most about myself. And it was during the challenging times that I grew the most as a person.

Does being happy mean that that I will never be angry, frustrated or discontent?  But it’s when I’m feeling those emotions that I make changes in my life. And those changes are generally for the better.  When I’m frustrated or discontent, I evaluate why I am and I work to change it. 

So what do I mean when I say I need this or that to make me happy?  Happiness that I attain from something outside of myself is not really happiness.  It’s a momentary feeling of being happy, perhaps, but it never lasts.  Why?

Because I can’t be happy all the time, in fact, I think it would be downright annoying to be happy all the time.  To be fully human, fully alive, I must experience all things. All emotions, even the painful ones.  Maybe even especially the painful ones.  Because that’s when I realize that nothing out there will make me happy, that can only come from within.  And it isn’t a feeling…it’s a state of mind.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Narcissism at its Best

I haven’t been blogging very regularly.  Not sure if that’s because I don’t have anything to say, I don’t want to write about what I would like to say, or if I’m “just living life” and don’t have time to say what’s on my mind.

Regardless, I miss it.  I miss writing.  But I’m getting a little bored writing about myself all the time.  (Did I seriously just say that?) I mean it is my blog. And it is where I get out all my thoughts, but still…

So I’m trying to think about other things I can write about and tonight I’m thinking about this whole new Twitter phenomenon.  Much like blogging and Facebook, this is definitely an “all about me” thing.  Narcissism at its best. 

By signing up for Twitter I can spew out random thoughts all day long for anyone who cares to listen.  I can also follow famous people (because how did I ever manage to get through my day without knowing what Ashton Kucher had for lunch) or just follow people I know.

It seems the more technologically advanced our society becomes, the more disconnected we become.  Talking at each other, rather than with each other.  I’ve tried to understand the new generation of people, such as my kids, who are constantly plugged in.  With their phones in hand to keep up with their texts, their statuses, their tweets, and whatever else they are engaged in to keep their minds sufficiently stimulated.

Try as I might to teach my kids the value of a face to face conversation, this is a battle I’m losing.  So I’m joining the wonderful world of Twitter. For two reasons...First, because instead of taking the time to write on my kids wall to advise them that dinner is ready, I can "tweet" at them instead. And second, because just like how I feel about Ashton Kucher, I don’t want anyone being kept in the dark about what I had for lunch.

Follow me @DebBohlz

Sunday, June 19, 2011

D is for Dad

The first man a little girl falls in love with is her dadAuthor Unknown

I grew up in a house with typical old-fashioned values.  My mom stayed home and did the women’s work, my father was the provider.  And never the twain did meet.  My mom always did all the cooking, cleaning, laundry.  My father did all the yard work, house painting, etc.   They had clearly defined roles.

My father was also the disciplinarian.  “Wait till your father gets home” is a mantra I know all too well.  So I grew up with a healthy fear of my father.  Always knowing just how far I could push my mother before my dad would get involved.  Because I did not want my dad to get involved.

As I grew older, I fought with my dad, resisted him at every turn. I wanted to be different than him.  I wanted to break free from his tight control and yet secretly, when I saw him standing in the high school gym with his FBI type overcoat, and his threatening stature that he developed in the military, I felt safe.

The boys in high school knew my father well.  I think I may have lost out on some dates because they knew they weren’t going anywhere with me until they met and were approved by my father.  At times I resented his rigid control, and at other times, I was relieved by it.

My father was strong, opinionated and stoic.  It frustrated me to never quite know what he was feeling.  Was he happy with me?  Was he upset with me?  Did he love me?  I spent most of my years wavering between trying to please my father and trying to defy him.  Whatever worked to get his attention.

My father’s expectations were high, and I rarely felt as though I was living up to them.  But my father walked the walk.  He had high expectations of himself and he  met them.  He was honest to a fault, impeccable with his words.  A man of integrity and I admired him and strived to be like him.

Even today, my father is still the person I use to set the bar for myself.  Because even though I rebel against him, resist his ways, and even pick fights with him, I can’t find a better role model.  So I work to reach that bar, I push myself, place high demands on myself, because it’s the only way I know to show my father that I love him…I just wonder if he knows that.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

You've Come A Long Way, Baby...

My favorite job growing up was babysitting for the kids who lived across the street from me.  Their mom was the coolest lady around.  She was tall and pretty . She dressed very fashionably and she always had a Kool Menthol cigarette nestled casually between her fingers.  By all standards, she was sophisticated.

I couldn’t wait to be in my 40’s so I could be as cool and confident as my neighbor.  I thought that with age all of my insecurities would naturally fade away.  I wouldn’t care what other people thought of me. I wouldn’t be thinking about what I wanted to do with my life because I would be doing it, and I would be enjoying life to the fullest. 

But now I’m in my 40’s and I don’t feel as though I’m living up to the image of the lady I thought I would become.  I still have insecurities, I still care far too much what other’s think and now I’m wishing I was young again.  I think about the things I would have done differently if I had paid more attention to what I wanted and not followed the script.

What would my life be like now if I had taken that year to live in a big city before I got married?  What would my life be like now if I had chosen to continue to work after my kids were born?  What would my life look like now if I had insisted that my husband take that job in that other state so I could experience something new?

I will never know the answers to those questions because those are not the decisions I made.  So I have a choice.  I can continue to live with what if’s and regrets, or I can be thankful for all the wonderful things that I do have in my life. 

Which, come to think of it, actually looks an awful lot like the life of the lady that I have admired for all these years.  The only difference, as far as I can tell, are the ultra cool, Kool cigarettes.

Damn...I think I picked the wrong crutch…

Monday, June 13, 2011

Blowin' in the Wind

Sometimes I wonder about the things I say in my blog.  I read over some of my entries and think, wow, I’ve got it all going on.  I’ve got it all figured out and I’m moving forward with perserverance and quiet confidence knowing that in the 20 minutes it takes to share some new piece of my journey, I have the answers.

But I don’t have all the answers. Somedays I have my relationship with God all wrapped up in a nice little package with a pretty bow.  But other days, I’m not even sure I believe in God, thinking that I’m quite content to be the master of my destiny and draw from my own strength and look to myself for guidance.

Somedays, I handle things with my kids perfectly, giving myself a pat on the back for a job well done.  And other days, I think I don’t even know my own kids.  They become unrecognizable and I question if we have a relationship at all.   Some days I’m strong, content to go about my business on my own.  I am independent and capable and don’t need anyone in my life. 

And sometimes I am so lonely as to wonder if there is anyone out there.

And I’m learning as I continue my journey that that the one thing I know for certain is this…I don’t know anything for certain.

Because life isn’t easy, life is challenging and constantly changing.

Which brings me back to wondering about my blog.  Is this the real me?  Is it the me I wish I was?  The me I think I should be? Or is it the me I’m striving to be…

Perhaps throughout my journey I will find those answers.  In the meantime, I will continue to do the best I can with the information at hand.  I will continue to do my best given my own personal struggles, weaknesses, shortcomings, needs and desires.

And I hope like hell that it’s enough…

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"And Who Do You Say That I Am?"

When I was young I was taught the “truth” about God and Jesus.  I learned that Jesus was God and only those who believe in Him will go to Heaven.  And that I must pray a specific prayer to invite Him into my heart and then do what the Bible says to do as far as “right living” in order to remain in good standing.  I learned that the Bible was the inerrant, infallible word of God and therefore need not and should not be questioned.

Then I learned that there were more gospels written, the Gnostic gospels, which were not included in the Bible.  And I also learned that there was a council held in 325 AD to determine the divinity of Jesus and which ultimately came down to a simple vote.  Then I learned that other faith traditions also claimed virgin births for their gods.  And further I learned that the Protestant Reformation was driven by King Henry VIII’s need to get a divorce.

And I became skeptical of what I was taught about absolute truth. I began to wonder if Karl Marx was right about religion being the opiate of the masses. Is it a tool used by the power hungry to control our thoughts, deeds and wallets? 

The more questions I had, the more books I would read in search of answers.  And with every new book I finished, I was more confused about the “truth”.  It seems everyone had different theories about God, truth, religion, the universe.  But I pressed on, determined to find that one right answer, the absolute truth about God.

And throughout this time, I talked to Jesus. I went to Him with my concerns and questions. I believe He alone has been with me all along, and yet, I forget that.  I forget that God is with me and within me.  Guiding me, loving me, supporting me.  I forget that I have a relationship with God that comes first, before my relationships with anybody else.

And when I forget that, I rely on others to tell me what’s best for me.  I forget to trust in my own relationship with Jesus, thinking that others, who are more trained, schooled, or well-read than I am might know better than me what’s best for me.  But there are no tricks, no secret codes, that can only be unearthed by scholars.  God is as available to me as He is to anyone, and once I finally embrace that absolute truth, I can move forward secure in the knowledge that the decisions I make for my life are between me and God, and I don’t have to explain or justify them to anyone.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Excuses, Excuses

Shortly after 9/11, I convinced myself that the terrorists were going to blow up our bridges. This fear progressed to a full-blown phobia of all of bridges, including overpasses, to the point where I couldn’t drive on any highways.  I consulted my doctor and went on Paxil for about 6 months.  When I felt the time was right to go off the medication I went cold turkey, against the doctor’s advice.

It was a difficult time.  I had incredible dizzy spells and these strange electric zap feelings in my head.  But each morning I would force myself to walk for an hour. By the end of the hour, with cell phone tight in hand in case I fell, I was able to get through my day without side effects.

I learned from that experience and others like it, that once I set my mind to something I do it.  I can be very motivated and driven. And yet,  I often get down on myself about how disorganized I am with bills and housework, and think that I’m lazy and incapable.  I have been making all kinds of excuses for not doing my housework.

“I’m so busy with the kids”
“I’m not good at it.”
“I never learned how to be a good housekeeper.”
“I have ADD, my brain doesn’t function right, so it’s impossible for me to be organized.”

I could keep going…

The reality is, though, I don’t do my housework, because there are about 3 million things I would rather be doing.  I simply don’t want to put my energies into cleaning my house. It bores me, it’s unrewarding, and never-ending.

So if I look at all the things I have accomplished, the goals I have met, there really is no excuse for me to not also keep my house clean. It’s not that I can’t do it, I am choosing not to do it…and that’s a very different mindset.

Monday, June 6, 2011

You Can't Change What You Don't Acknowledge

I recently misinterpreted some signals from a friend that led me to the conclusion that he was mad at me.  I didn’t come out and ask him if he was until I saw him later and he told me that what I had interpreted as him being mad at me, actually had nothing to do with me at all.  There were other things going on his life that had created the situation.

Then he said something to me that struck me very hard.  He said “the universe doesn’t revolve around you, Deb”.

Now had that come from anyone else I would have let that comment upset me to the point of probably not talking to the person for awhile.  I have a tendency to avoid that which makes me uncomfortable.  But this person is a close friend whom I know always has my best interests at heart.  So instead of getting upset, I chose to hear his words and consider them carefully.

Is it true?  Do I think the universe revolves around me?  I am a highly self-conscious person.  I am very aware of everything I say and do.  Checking and rechecking my comments in my head before I say them, doing the same with my appearance so that nothing is out of place.

I know this comes from my anxiety about myself and the world around me.  It’s my way of controlling myself, my emotions, my thoughts so that people only see what I want them to see.  But have I crossed the line from being anxiously self-conscious to selfishly self-absorbed?

When I think of the times I am having a conversation with a friend, barely listening to what they are saying because I am too busy formulating in my head what I am going to say next, the answer is yes.

When I take so long picking out just the right outfit that I’m running late and have no time to stop for a birthday card for a friend, the answer is yes.

When I choose to delete a great photo of one of my kids because I wasn’t looking my absolute best, the answer is yes.

How many times have I let my anxiety keep me from enjoying the moment and appreciating my friends and family.  I’m grateful to my friend, that he had the courage to bring this to my attention because now that I’m aware of it, I can do something about it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Perfection to a Fault

My father-in-law said something interesting to me today.   He said “Deb, you need to stop overthinking everything.  It’s not possible to be a perfect wife or perfect mom so stop trying so hard.  Just let you be you. Relax and have some fun.”

I have been thinking about that comment all day.

I mean, he’s right.  I rarely just blurt out a comment or allow myself to feel an emotion without giving careful consideration to whether I should say what’s on my mind or allow myself to feel what I am feeling.

I am not spontaneous. I analyze and consider, giving special attention to the person or people I am with so as to predetermine their reaction to anything I might say or do.  Then if I believe I will be met with a favorable response, I will say what’s on my mind.

It’s rather exhausting, I must say.  I’m tired.  Mentally drained.  It’s very difficult to try to guess how others  will respond to what I say and do.  It takes tremendous concentration, which of course, takes me out of the moment.  And sucks the joy out of any activity.

Today was my niece’s graduation party.  I wanted to relax and enjoy myself while visiting with her and her family, but I was tense.  I thought I was hiding it well, but judging by my father-in-law’s comment, it must have been written all over my face that my wheels were spinning. 

And I realized while sitting there, that I missed drinking.  When I drink, that is just about the only time I am not carefully considering my every thought.  It is very freeing to have a little buzz and let my guard down.  I was hoping as this non-drinking year progressed that I would learn to have fun without alcohol…I’m starting to wonder if that’s possible.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Diamond in the Rough

“I’ma be what I set out to be, without a doubt undoubtedly, and all those who looked down on me, I’m tearing down your balcony.”

I am a huge fan of Eminem.  I probably shouldn’t be.  At least that’s what I have been told.  His lyrics are offensive, he’s an angry guy, I should listen to more uplifting music. Music that inspires, music that I can play aloud and not worry about who might be listening.

And I agree that some of his lyrics are offensive, but when I take the time to hear the message behind the rough exterior I like what he has to say.  I listen to his Recovery CD every day in my car. I have memorized the lyrics to several songs so I can sing along.  (My kids are so proud).

Because this is the music I find inspiring, this is what works for me. It builds me up, gives me strength and makes me feel like I can handle anything.  I find his words empowering. 

But I still feel as though I shouldn’t listen to it.  I still turn it down when I come into a parking lot or pass a construction zone and think that other people might actually hear the words that I am listening to in my car.

I have been taught to believe that as an older mom I am supposed to look and act a certain way, and that way doesn’t include Eminem.  Where did I get my ideas of who I am supposed to be?  And when did I accept this truth that someone else knows better than me who I should be?

I don’t want to be that person anymore. The person who is so concerned about what other people think of me that I can’t even play the music I like aloud.  But I don’t know if I have the courage to be that person.  I will need encouragement and inspiration, something to empower me and I know just where to go to find it…

“You can do anything you set your mind to, man”

Monday, May 30, 2011

Never Let Them See You Cry

On June 23, 2004 my husband and I followed two doctors into a small conference room designed for privacy.  It was then that we learned that our son had cancer.  Upon delivering the difficult news the doctors waited, expectantly, for my emotional outburst, my breakdown.  Instead, I considered their words carefully and replied “what’s the treatment plan?”

The doctors exchanged curious looks and proceeded to give me the “plan”.  Weeks later, one of the doctors approached me and said that he had never in all his years of practicing met someone who responded the way I did to the news of my son’s diagnosis, further commenting on how strong I was.

But he was wrong. Several days after that devastating meeting, while holding a baby picture of my son, I curled up in my closet of all places and cried.  And when I say I cried I mean I sobbed.  It had finally sunk in that my son could die and I cried a lifetime of tears.

Ten months later, my son finished his treatment plan and was declared cancer free. However, during that time, my dog was diagnosed with cancer as well and two weeks after Erik was declared healthy, my dog received  his death sentence.  There was nothing more that could be done, and in Marley and Me fashion, I sat in the vet’s office on Memorial Day weekend 2005 and with my beloved greyhound's head in my lap I watched him take his last breath.

And with that came another torrent of tears. Beyond anything I had ever experienced.  I felt sick to my stomach, a hole the size of the planet in my soul.  I could not pull myself together.  Finally, my husband came to my aid, forcing me to leave the house and go to a baseball game. And I remember thinking how strange it was that in my moment of despair life just kept going.  Just as it did during Erik’s cancer treatment.  The world didn’t stop.  Bills still had to be paid, the lawn still needed to be mowed,

And I realized that there was no time for crying. So I built a dam.  A carefully crafted wall that for the last six years has worked beautifully to contain my reservoir of tears. 

But lately, I have noticed that my dam is getting weaker, it’s starting to crack and I spend my time and energy patching up these cracks because if I don’t, the dam will give way, the floodgates will open and I fear I will never again be able to stop it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

In the Good Ol' Summertime

My favorite time of year is summer.  I love the heat. The hotter the better.  But there have been some summers that just don’t quite get hot enough for me.  There are fewer heat waves and more cooler, rainy days.  Those summers are difficult for me because I believe that if I don’t get my fill of the heat, I won’t be able to handle the cold, dreary winter.

In other words, I believe that I need to soak in all that warmth and sunshine because it will carry over to the dark and cold days of winter, allowing me to get through till the next summer when I essentially gear up again for winter.

Unfortunately, that mindset doesn’t carry over into other areas of my life.  I have plenty of wilderness periods or valleys. Times of difficulty, times of testing, but there have also been many times in my life where things were very good, the peaks, where  everything was calm and settled, peaceful.

During the peaks my tendency has been to brace myself for the next valley, so I don’t allow myself to fully embrace the good times as if by doing so, I will cause the valley to come even quicker, because I know it”s there, looming on the horizon.

But if there is one thing I have learned in all my years, good times and bad times are both a part of life.  I was never promised a life free of pain and heartache so rather than spending all of my energy trying to keep those times away, perhaps my energy is better spent fully embracing all the summers in my life.  That way I will be better equipped to handle all of my winters.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Just When I Thought I Had It All Figured Out

I want to be a Christian.  But what does that mean exactly? Early on I thought it meant going to church and professing my faith in Christ.  As years went on, I learned that to be a Christian I had to serve the poor, give to the needy, and share my testimonial so I could bring others to God.

I try to help those in need.  I see someone struggling and I want to help. I want to do what Jesus taught me. Take care of the down and out, the marginalized. I want to help them feel the love of God through my actions.  I take that seriously.

At what point, though, does a person need to take responsibility for their own choices? Their own actions.  I understand that difficult times befall people, especially kids.  Whether it’s a dysfunctional family situation, or bullying at school, kids sometimes suffer.  And it breaks my heart.

But how long do I coddle, nurture, care for someone who just doesn’t want to be helped.  Who gets so much pleasure, for lack of a better word, out of being the victim that they just don’t want to change. 

Does there come a point where its time to give up?  Does there come a time when I have to accept that there is nothing more I can do? Would Jesus do that?  Does Jesus expect me to do that?

Today, I’m struggling with my faith.  I still believe in God and I still believe in Jesus, because I believe that it is in God where I find all the goodness and love in the world, but I can honestly say, I don’t know what it means to be a Christian.  I don’t know if anybody does.    

Monday, May 23, 2011

Building on a New Foundation

Each morning as I get ready for my day, I make an effort to put my best foot forward.  A nice outfit, makeup, hair and just before I leave I take one last look in the mirror to make sure everything is in place.  And in that moment, I feel confident.

But as time wears on, and I am challenged by the events of the day, I forget that before I left the house I was feeling confident.  Maybe someone swore at me because I accidently cut them off in traffic.  Or maybe I got a stern phone call from the school because I forgot yet again to turn in some paperwork for my child.

Maybe I had a fight with my kids, or I forgot to get to the grocery store and we are out of milk, or eggs, or bread.  Or I forgot to pay one of my bills.  Any number of things can happen that can make me feel less than confident.  And the negative thoughts start to creep into my head.  Suddenly I feel insecure. 

But not only do I feel insecure, but I believe I look it.  To my mind, everyone looking at me can see my thoughts, can see when I’m feeling insecure, or nervous, or anxious. But the truth is,  everyone else is still looking at the woman I saw in the mirror in the morning.  Nobody knows my thoughts or how I’m feeling unless I tell them.

So I came up with a plan.  I decided I needed a constant reminder throughout the day that I left the house ready  to tackle whatever came my way.  So I found a picture of myself that I particularly like.  One that says “confident, strong, beautiful”.

And I made it the wallpaper on my cell phone.

Now every time I take a call, or receive a text, I get a quick glimpse of the “me” I am portraying to the world.  And it reminds me that even though I might not be feeling confident, strong or beautiful, the potential is there because I see it in the picture.  

And it makes me smile.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Laying a New Foundation - Part Five

I started the year 2011 making the decision to stop drinking.  I was at one of the lowest points in my life and I had to do something. I figured God could do a better job with my life than I was so as a symbolic gesture of giving up control, I gave up drinking for Him. 

At that time, I was told by more than one person that I couldn’t and shouldn’t go this alone. That I needed a 12-step program, sponsors, support or I would surely fail.  It shook my confidence, and the first couple of months were difficult, because I kept focusing on what I couldn’t have anymore…my beloved cocktail.  I kept looking forward to 2012, hoping this year would pass quickly.

But somewhere along the way I started to change.  Perhaps by blogging and releasing online all the thoughts in my head that have weighed me down.  Perhaps during Lent when my focus was purely on God and putting Him first.  Perhaps it was because I have been trying new things, forcing myself out of my comfort zone, causing a rise in my self-confidence and making some great new friends in the process.

Throughout the years, I have worked hard for my family, focusing on being the best mom and wife and I could be.  But by trying to please them, I forgot that it’s ok to sometimes please myself, that the love and care that goes into any of my relationships should also be showered upon me.  I am starting to get that now.

So forget the people who think I can’t stop drinking on my own, or for that matter, forget those who say I can’t achieve any goal I set for myself. I know I have what it takes within me to do what I say I’m going to do. Not for my husband, not for my kids, not for my friends, or even for my God, but just for me.  Because I believe I’m worth it.

So I don’t know what 2012 will bring, but it no longer matters to me.  Because I’m not focused on next year, I’m focused on today.  And if the world should end tonight, I will leave it with no regrets.  No regrets for my past mistakes or my poor choices, because everything that has happened in my life has brought me to where I am right now and to the woman I have become, and I can actually say, maybe for the first time in my life, I kinda like that girl.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Laying a New Foundation - Part Four

From the day I moved into my house, I had visions of the life I wanted to create for my family.  I dreamed of having the type of home where friends can drop by unannounced, where kids would hang out and play sports, video games, and sit around and talk with me about their daily events.

I have a corner lot, so I put a gazebo on my property where the school kids could wait for the bus when it was raining. I put in a sport court where the kids could play basketball, and I fenced in my yard so they could play wiffle ball and I wouldn’t have to worry about the street.  And I finished my basement so the kids would have a comfortable place to hang out.

But as is typical with life, I was thrown a curve ball.  When my son was diagnosed with cancer, I felt like my life as I knew it had come to an end.  Overnight my thoughts went from swing sets, Super Mario, and playdates to chemotherapy, blood counts, and protocols.  I learned how to juggle trips to the hospital with trips to the schools because even as my focus was directed toward Erik, I had three other children who’s lives I had to keep as normal as possible. 

Fortunately, all went well with Erik, but as typical with any disaster, there was fallout and it expressed itself differently with each member of my family. The worst coming when my daughter Rachael developed a germ phobia because she too was afraid of getting cancer, which progressed to full blown Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  And again I found my world turned upside down.

Three years, some medication, and a lot of therapy later, she is back to regular school and doing well.  So now that I have had a moment to catch my breath, I look at my life today and I realize that through it all, I have what I set out to create.  My house is the place where kids hang out, and play basketball and video games.  My kids friends come by unannounced, sometimes just to get a haircut or show me a good report card (which goes on the fridge right next to my own kids report cards) or to ask for advice with a problem they are struggling with.

So as I think of the things I have accomplished, the things I am proud of, the fact that my family is still together, still moving forward and closer than ever is something that I know didn’t happen by accident.  And while I’m far from being a perfect mom, I have provided for my family exactly what I promised them.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Laying a New Foundation - Part Three

Everyone thinks I hate my dogs.  Probably because I say it all the time.  But really I have tremendous guilt issues where they are concerned, feeling as if I never give them enough attention, training, exercise. But this week is about my accomplishments so let me share the other side of the story.

When I first adopted my greyhound, Callaway, off the racetracks, he was shell shocked at being in a home.  Knowing nothing but a crate and a track, he was clearly unnerved by his new surroundings.  And when approached by small children, including my own,  he would growl and snap.

This concerned me enough to make a phone call to the adoption agency telling them I had to return their dog.  But the next morning as I was packing his things, I realized I couldn’t do it.  This dog needed another chance.  So I dug my heels in and spent long hours training him around the house and specifically with children. 

It took many months of patience and kindness and Callaway responded, finally accepting my love and trusting me enough to let his guard down.  Becoming confident enough to romp around the yard with tons of kids and let them rest their heads on him when they were tired.  He was the best pet (or I should say companion animal) I ever had.

After Callaway died, from cancer, we adopted a black lab from a family who needed to find her a new home.  Annie became the new family pet.  But I noticed over the years that her allergies were getting worse and worse until they completely took over her body, becoming more of a yeast overgrowth than allergies.  Annie was on death’s door.  She lost all of her fur, she couldn’t eat, and I had to carry this 70 pound lab back and forth to the yard every time she had to relieve herself. 

I began to prepare the kids for the worst, even as I tried everything, from traditional medicines, to acupuncture to raw food diets.  My entire life was focused around saving this poor animal.  And finally, through plenty of research I tried yet another new diet, and this time it worked.  Within days, she started to recover.  All of her fur grew back, and with the exception of chronic ear infections,  she is happy, healthy and strong.

I count these stories as accomplishments because too often I beat myself up for not taking good enough care of my dogs.  And yet, maybe on some special level they know that even though I yell at them for sneaking food or ignore them when company is over, I chose to put up the good fight for them, so Callaway could spend his retirement in a safe and comfortable environment, and so Annie could have a few more years to enjoy winning the food wars against me.  I guess deep down I really do love them. (But don’t tell anyone I said that.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Laying a New Foundation - Part Two

Five years ago, at the age of 42, I was traveling down the highway, when suddenly right in front of me coming in the other direction was a jeep that was literally bouncing down the road on its side.  Flipping at least five times before it came to a rest.  Without a second’s hesitation I pulled my car over and ran across three lanes of highway to get to the person inside.

The young 16 year old girl was incredibly lucky. I was able to help her out of the car through the side window, and although she left by ambulance to get checked out, I learned later from her parents that she had not a scratch on her, and even played in her softball game the following day.

But driving away from that accident I couldn’t help but play worst case scenarios through my mind.  What if she was trapped? What if she was hurt?  What if the car  started on fire.  I had no training for any of those situations. I would have stood helplessly by had I been met with any of that.

That’s when I decided to become a firefighter.  

The first night, I remember sitting in the parking lot, with white knuckles, gripping the steering wheel trying to convince myself to just drive away.  Instead, I got out of the car and walked into the building.  I was never so scared or nervous in my life. 

But things moved quickly from there. I got to know the guys relatively easily and my training started shortly thereafter.  I couldn’t believe how much there was to learn.  How to use the airpacks, how to search for and rescue a victim, raise ladders, pull hose, work the fire hydrants, operate the vehicle extrication tools. 

I remember at first thinking everything is so heavy!

But I persisted, I worked hard to keep up with the guys, studied for hours upon hours, and about 18 months later I became a Level 2 Certified Firefighter in my state.  The first woman ever in this particular department to reach that level of training.  I even had the opportunity to drive the trucks a few times.

This is the accomplishment I am bragging about today, because as part of my new foundation its time to give at least as much, if not more, attention to my strengths than my shortcomings. Oh and did I mention I got the highest grades in my class?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Laying a New Foundation - Part One

In baseball, when a team is struggling it’s not uncommon for the manager to bring in a new coach. And typically, the new coach will go back to basics and focus on the fundamentals.  Why? Because a good coach knows the value of laying a proper foundation.

I have been challenged to acknowledge five things about myself that I am proud of, things I would brag about with regards to myself and my accomplishments.  At the moment this was first asked of me, I couldn’t do it, but today is a new day.   And I’m in the mood to have a little fun.

So first things first…what do I like about myself? What do I want to brag about?  Well, being that I can be all about appearances and putting up a good front,  let’s start with the superficial.   I have great legs.  I mean really great legs.  It’s my favorite feature.  I’m proud of them, and I work out regularly to keep them in shape.

But I’m afraid to tell you that.  It seems so self-absorbed and conceited. So Brittany Spears. Hey everyone, look at my great legs.  So I don’t show them off, preferring to play it safe and follow the rules of society.  The rules that say moms who are over 40 should not look hot and sexy.  Well today I’m breaking those rules.  Even if only for a day. 

Because I think that maybe I need to go back to basics and focus on the fundamentals.  It’s time to go back to the days when I wasn’t self-conscious and overly preoccupied with what people thought of me.  (I mean we are talking a long time ago…think diapers).  But if I can rebuild my foundation, one based on self-love and self-acceptance, who knows…maybe I can win a World Series one day.

And yep…these are my legs….pretty sexy, huh?