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

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Unintended Walls We Build

I don’t talk very often about my son’s cancer or the time he spent treating for it.  Mostly because he has moved on and doesn’t want to be reminded of it.  Out of respect for his wishes, I chose not to become involved in organizations like Relay for Life, or other fundraising or support groups.  This was his experience first, not mine and he needed to be the one to call the shots.

It has been three years since he has been declared officially cancer free.  A total of eight years since he was originally diagnosed.  And at times it feels like a blur, or even like it never happened. 

But it did happen, and while it was his experience, I was there with him every step of the way.  And I learned some things.  I learned how to take care of a child with cancer. I learned how to juggle the needs of the family so that none of my other kids felt neglected.  But mostly, I learned how to lock down my emotions.

I learned how to be strong, capable and independent.  And the more help I was offered the more I resented it.  I did not want help.  I was perfectly capable of handling this situation and anything else that came my way, thank you very much. And how dare you insinuate that I can’t handle this by offering assistance.  Or at least that’s how I took it.

My son’s cancer is gone, long gone, but the lesson I learned…that to be vulnerable is to be weak, has been firmly cemented in my mind.  I still become obstinate about not needing help.  I can do this thing called life on my own.  And I have largely managed to get that message across to everyone. 

Last night was date night. My husband and I went out for dinner and during the course of the evening he shared with me that while he admires my strength and independence, he wishes I would let my guard down with him. He wants to help me. He wants to support me.  I, of course, responded by quickly wiping away the one small tear that formed in my eye, and changed the subject.

But this morning I’m thinking heavily about what he said.  Does he really want me to let my guard down? To be vulnerable?  Has my unwillingness to do that created a wedge between us that keeps us from becoming even closer?  There’s a certain amount of trust and faith that goes into being vulnerable.  And I wonder…is being vulnerable a weakness or is it a strength?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Crisis of Faith

When I started this blog over a year ago, I was filled with purpose and determination. I  had set a large goal for myself, not only to give up drinking for a year but also to “fix” my relationship with God.  I blogged daily and so much of what I had to say was about God.

I don’t blog as much anymore.  And believe me, it’s not for lack of thoughts swirling through my head, it’s just that I like to have the answers. I like to know that when I have a problem, concern, whatever, that by the end of my tidy and concisely written article I have already drawn my conclusions.

I am struggling to write because I’m struggling to find the answers.  How can I wrap up my thoughts in a blog if I can’t organize them or make sense of them. 

I have been in search of peace.  A peace beyond all understanding that is promised to me in the Bible if I simply place my faith in Jesus Christ.  But if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that there is no peace.  How can there be really? One look at the newspaper confirms that truth.

Life is a bitch, quite frankly, as the saying goes.  It’s hard. People get sick, they die, they lose their jobs, their friends, they struggle with addictions, money problems, health issues. The list goes on…

So the obvious answer is to assume there really is no God. How could there be in a world filled with strife.  Or maybe there’s a God, in the sense of some great energy force or some other such scientific something or other, but certainly no personal God.  If there was, wouldn’t I feel his presence? Wouldn’t I feel that peace that I yearn for so desperately? Wouldn’t I know for sure that everything would be all right in the end?

I don’t have the answers to those questions. Not today, maybe not ever. But I don’t believe the answer is to do what I have done over the last few months and turn away from the hope that He is there.  To give up on God is the easy way out.  To have faith amidst a headful of doubt is difficult.  It requires a choice.  A daily decision to believe that everything will be all right in the end.

My faith is shattered, fragmented and hanging on by a thread, but it’s not gone. I hope its enough…

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Freeing Myself From Self-Help

I am pushing through my procrastination tendencies today to finally tackle the overwhelming project of weeding through the books on my bookshelves.  The hundreds of books that I have collected and read over the years and that have become something I have, until now, been unwilling to let go of.

I am amazed at the number of self help books that I have purchased and read over the years.  Books that I thought would help me define and conquer all of my faults.  My anxiety, my ADD, my drinking, my obsessive compulsive tendencies, my parenting skills...

For years I have been under the assumption that if I am doing something different than the next person, I must be doing it wrong and therefore must change or fix the way I’m doing it.  I don’t exactly know when or where I drew that conclusion, but it has been part of my driving force for years.

But am I doing it wrong?  I may worry too much but that drives me to pre-plan, investigate, consider all my options, and proceed with caution.  I may pursue my goals with a drive that’s borderline obsessive, but it allows me to achieve those goals, which gives me a great sense of pride and accomplishment.  And I mean no offense to the people this applies to, but perhaps my lack of ability to focus during conversations has less to do with an attention deficit of mine,  and more to do with the boring content of the discussion.

My point is, I do have idiosyncrasies and natural inclinations towards certain behaviors, but does that make them wrong? Do I really need a bookcase full of self help books because some psychologist with more schooling than me decides that I shouldn’t check my burners three times before I leave the house? 

No, the only thing I have been doing wrong, is focusing on my differences as if they were weaknesses and not focusing enough on my strengths.  And today I am especially grateful for my upper body strength that will allow me to toss this neatly packed up box of self help books out of my house for good.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Mere Speck

I recently traveled to Norway because I decided it was time to overcome my fear of flying.  It was a whirlwind adventure that took me around the entire country by plane, train, boat, bus, and cruiseliner.  There were moments of profound awe as I viewed the immense and beautiful Norwegian landscape. And moments of anxiety as I had to board yet another plane. For the most part, everything went according to plan, but there was a moment on the cruiseliner, when I was being tossed around by stormy seas, that I began to wonder about my need to take this trip, my purpose in life, and my relationship with God.  And this is what I wrote…

It’s funny how people always say, don’t worry…it’s a big plane or a big boat…when trying to calm my nerves about traveling.  But after being here in this beautiful country and witnessing the awesome natural sights, and while sitting on this ship being tossed about like a canoe in these stormy seas, I can tell you this.  I don’t care how big any manmade structure is.  It is, and I am, but a speck on this earth.

I am powerless in the face of the power and size and vastness of nature.  And of  God.

I am constantly asking myself what my purpose is and I always feel guilty that I am not enough. That I am not doing enough. But what can one speck do? Am I here to enjoy life as a series of experiences? Is the pursuit of pleasure my purpose…to go after what I want at all costs? Or is my purpose to make life, which can be so difficult, just a little easier for the next person.

I think of the cab driver who was so pleasant to me as he drove me to this ship.  And the ladies in the hotel reception area who made me and my daughter, two weary travelers, feel so welcome.  And the bus driver, who made one extra stop out of his way, to be sure we were safely at the door to our hotel, knowing we were foreigners and did not know our way around the city.

Ordinary folk doing ordinary work and yet having such a profound impact on me, a mere speck.  Is that ultimately what it’s all about?  Small, loving acts of kindness towards other humans, other specks, as we drift through our own individual life journeys?  It doesn’t matter, I suppose, our job titles, our address, our bank account.  The only thing that matters is how we make each other feel.  Each day, every day, all day.

I think of the author, the musician, the screenwriter, who moves us to feel. A song that brings us back in time. A book we connect with. Small things. Chance encounters. The opportunity to meet other specks. Become involved, care for, meet the needs of…all while appreciating the vast beauty of this great earth we all share. And why? Because we can.  We each have one life. A small life with great impact, if we but chose to see it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Moment to Reflect

Just over one year ago, I sat with a martini in hand and reflected on my life.  Or rather what had become of my life.  I looked at my house, my kids, my husband.  All things I wanted and yet there was a sense of sadness within me that I couldn’t explain.  Why was I unhappy? I had everything I wanted but I reached a point where I was just getting through.  Just going through the motions. And the only thing keeping me going was my evening cocktail.

So I made a deal with God.  God, I said, I don’t seem to be handling my life that well.  If you think you can do a better job, have at it.  And in return I will give up alcohol for one year. 

Well that year has come and gone, and I lived up to my end of the bargain.  Not once did an alcoholic drink pass through my lips.  And as I reflect on my life, I am happier, more content and I feel more fulfilled. I have taken on many new activities. I have challenged myself and stepped outside my comfort zone.  But something continued to elude me.

I was convinced that at some point throughout this year I would hear from God. I was sure I would get a sign, something that I knew for sure came directly from the Heavens above.  I didn’t know what that sign would be, but I knew that when it came, there would be no question that it was from God.

So I waited, and I watched, and I continued to fill my life with non alcohol related activities. I met new people, I saw new things, went new places.  I even traveled by plane all the way to Norway.  But even as I stood amidst the breathtaking landscape of this incredible country, God remained silent. No whisper, no voice in my ear, no unmistakable sign that, yes, He is with me.

I used to believe that my life was already mapped out.  That God had a plan for me and my life and I spent most of my life searching for that plan. But now as I sit here on New Year’s Day, thinking ahead to all the things I want to accomplish…the places I still want to go, the things I still want to do with my life, I feel as though my life belongs to me. 

Right or wrong, good or bad, my life and my choices are mine.  Nobody else, including God, is responsible for telling me what to do or how to live my life.  Finding my happiness rests with me and me alone.  So I will embrace this new found knowledge as I look ahead to 2012 and I will create the life I want.  

Perhaps that’s what God wanted for me all along…