Sunday, April 29, 2012

Blues v. Blahs



I haven’t written in a few days, as I was having the blahs. To me anyway, the blahs are an empty feeling, just numb. Whereas the blues, can have a topic or not, but it is definitely sad. Why did I have the blahs? I don’t know… because I am human? Maybe some of it was that I realized my last blog went somewhat off topic, more a “preaching” on being kind, than inspirational or narrative of a particular experience.

So… this is Sunday, I woke 2 hours before my alarm went off. I REALLY needed to go to church. Yes, I had prayed often the few days prior, asking God to guide me to do what he has planned for me. I am still here; I keep asking; I keep attempting different things; Yet I feel I have not gotten a clear answer. Maybe I won’t, but today’s songs at church seemed specifically pointed at me, although I know I am not alone in this situation, and many ask the same question of God, repeatedly, but it just hit the spot. The words were essentially “God take all of me… I want to do as you wish.” I obviously paraphrase, as my short-term memory is quite hampered.

Anyway, there I was, I sit while others stand in the beginning, as my back somewhat yells at me, and I figure God understands. But as I sung, deep from my heart, the words echoing my sentiment, especially of the last few days, and tears were rolling down my face, my friend bent down to hug me and tell me she loved me, and I her. They were not sad tears, but tears of being touched by God and blessed with this friendship, this church, and this day. I am not alone; God is with me; I need to keep digging deeper; I will know what I want to know when I am supposed to know; Until then I will live as closely as I can to what I believe God would want me to do. For now, it is to spread my experiences, and the fulfillment of faith in this journey. And to do everything I can do, to the best of my ability and in an unselfish, loving, giving way. I stray, as we all do, but I know, above all I must focus on that. My life, my journey, and my faith are His.

I do not have an answer to my question of purpose, but I have some peace. I am no longer empty, but feel God’s love throughout my being. I also know it does not stop there; There is no end; I must live each day to the fullest; Thank God for all of my blessings; and Continue to pray for guidance… at all times.

Thank you God for vanishing my blahs.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Shooting the Messenger



I am not sure how this subject came to mind at this time, as I have not had a recent occasion that spurred it. However, I have often thought about it in the past, and I am certain it will arise again. Let me narrow the topic even further to dealing with service employees with patience and empathy.

First, I am certain we are all aware that our education system in the States has fallen dramatically over the decades. I know that what my children were required to learn in High School was equivalent to that which I learned in Junior High. Also, when I attended college again, recently I might add, and at a State University, much of the curriculum for college students, was more equivalent to what I had been taught in High School. Second, above and beyond the material and expectations in school being lowered, our children are not being taught how to really think and reason, but rather to memorize. How do you recall something you had to memorize without understanding the basic principles behind a theory or piece of literature?

Now, fast forward to the people who sit behind the phones at customer service desks, behind the cashiers counters, etc. Not only were they most likely deprived of an adequate education to prepare them on how to deal with dilemmas, but overall, employers are spending much less time and effort into training. Often the person you deal with, as a first contact, has absolutely no authority to alter the situation. Not because they don’t want to help, but because they do not have the tools or authority to do so. They may be a very helpful empathetic person, trying to br a productive part of society, while also trying to provide financially for themselves and perhaps a family. Maybe they are a single parent, in a job where they are not allowed to have personal calls or visitors while “on the clock”. She or he may worry about their children’s’ welfare, while working to provide for their needs. Maybe this person simply was not blessed with the abilities to do this job, but has not had the direction or opportunity to serve in one more suited to their abilities. This does not make them less of a person than the CEO of a large corporation, if anything, they may lead a “better” life, one of love, empathy, caring, giving.

I try, no I am not always successful and I ask for forgiveness for those times when I allowed myself to become frustrated or angry, but I try to be calm and start my conversations with “I understand this has nothing to do with you specifically, but I have a problem that needs to be addressed”. Most of the time this opens the person up to wanting to assist you rather than hide behind the counter, or perhaps “spit in your beverage”??? (no, I am not encouraging this action, but well I'm certain it happens, maybe not as often as TV and movies depict it but well, the idea came from somewhere).  Another thought to keep in mind is “What goes around, comes around” J


Also, if you have to go over this person’s head, and ask for a supervisor, make it clear that you know their authority is limited and while they have tried to be helpful, you need to speak with someone with authority. Again, most of the time you will be granted that request much quicker, while sparing the feelings of the first line personnel.

Companies, Businesses…. What happened to “the customer is always right” even though sometimes that is not the case, decades ago, I was taught techniques, within basic training, how to try to calm the customer, to understand their frustration, and have the knowledge to more adequately serve them, rather than spouting off pre written answers that just increase the customers’ frustration and hence their temper. If you want return business, train your staff adequately, and treat them as individuals, people with lives outside of work. AND train anyone in authority that “staff reprimands, if actually deserved” are NOT addressed in public, especially in front of customers.

Okay, I suppose it’s time to step off my pedestal. J Again, I do not mean to preach, as I am as guilty as the next at allowing my emotions to get carried away and directing that frustration at the first person I contact. Deep breaths, forethought, and knowing ahead of time, that in today’s world, problems are rarely solved with one phone call or even two, but they are solved quicker with honey than vinegar. Sorry for all the clich├ęs (but they exist for a reason – they usually get the point across).

Have a blessed day, where the sun shines within your heart J


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lazy Day

video

Borrowed my neighbors little sweetie today; Took a scooter walk to enjoy this glorious day; Now time for a little snuggle nap. 

My mind is clear, happy, and serene. :) May be more, ummmm, in a writing mood later or tomorrow. But for now, this is heaven :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Being Open



Open? Open to what? Everything. By opening our eyes, hands, minds, hearts, etc., we are welcoming insight, friendships, knowledge, experience, and faith into our lives.  Yes, sometimes it is a little scary to open ourselves up to new and different possibilities, but the reward is well worth it.

One day, while sitting out on my patio area (if you can call it that, as it is the size of a small apartment balcony, but it serves it’s purpose), a neighbor was taking a walk. She caught my eye, or me hers, and she started walking toward me. Yes, I was a little apprehensive, not because of her appearance, as she was a gentle petite older woman, but I suppose just because we had not met. What were her intentions? Anyway, she introduced herself to me, and asked if she could sit, as dumb me had not yet offered a seat. She said she had seen me out there many times on her walks and wanted to introduce herself to me. Her demeanor was very pleasant, had a soft voice and loving eyes, but I was still hesitant. Why?  She spoke mostly of religion and wanted to say a prayer for me, not later, right then, right there, out loud. I hesitantly said okay??? At this point in time, I was still working on my faith, keeping it to myself so to speak. But at the end of our conversation, we exchanged telephone numbers and wished each other well.

Since that day, I have seen her many times. And, I suppose as my faith grew, and our encounters multiplied, the awkward feelings, I had at first, vanished. She is now a very welcome visitor, often telling me stories of her grandmother, sitting in her garden, surrounded by the beauty of flowers, reading her bible, and of her travels and experiences.  As I have found out over time, she is half Italian and half Indian, and her husband, I believe, is African. He served in some type of diplomatic career, so they traveled extensively. I also recently learned that she is 90 years old. I thought she was elderly, but closer to 70. I now not only welcome her into my home, but I admire her, and her courage to come up to a total stranger and say a prayer for them. What a gift I received when I opened my heart to her presence in my life.

Another example of being open… which actually started this blog idea in my head, was last night, late, I saw a tall man, I do not know of what age or race, all dressed in black, with a hood over his head, and caught myself feeling afraid. Why? He was not coming after me, acting aggressive, or giving off any sense of danger. I immediately thought of the recent case in the news and all the ridiculous comments about hoodies. I have a a couple of hoodies, and yes when it is cold, I pull the hood over my head. Many people dress in black, as it is often considered elegant, classic, and complimentary. So, why was I apprehensive? He could simply have been walking at a good pace and wearing his hoodie, because he was cold and afraid himself, or neither. Rather, just simply out for a brisk walk at night.

So I suppose being open, also means questioning those innate or learned hidden fears. Yes, sometimes those feelings are intuition, but sometimes, they are completely off base. The point is to be open, to examine why you are feeling the way you are, and to question if there could be another explanation, one more pleasant perhaps (cup half full, or even brimming over) J

Monday, April 23, 2012

Jobs v. Careers



Yesterday, I did not post, as it was my day of rest… well these days most are days of rest. But, I literally took a 5-hour nap again, after returning home from church services. Today, Monday, most of the people I know are back at their jobs, frantically trying to keep up with their work, wishing it was still yesterday. I am not saying their days are not difficult, but I long for days of being productive, one of many reasons why I started to blog.  We all need a purpose, although many of us serve the majority of our day(s) in “jobs” that do not fulfill them. If only we knew when we were young, what we know now, what direction would we have taken? Well, as far as I know, we cannot turn back time, so what now?

So many say, if you do a job you love you will never work a day in your life. How many can truly say that is true for them, to have been fortunate enough to know how important that was when we were young?  Now, more than ever, at least in OUR lives’ history, people work longer harder hours in jobs they despise, or worse - desire to have any job, even one they despise.

How do we dig out of our holes… or are they holes? Remember without the bad, we would not recognize the good as anything other than the norm. What do we do with our lives, how can we evoke change, in today’s economic peril. One way I have coped in the past, is to somewhat departmentalize things, not easy, I know. But, if you are in a job that is not your dream, focus on the fact that it is your job, a means to provide sustenance, not your dream.

When you are not at your “job” evaluate yourself, your life, your dreams, and how you might work toward changing things for the better. It is difficult to give examples as all situations, as well as people are so varied. But for me, about 6 years ago, I decided to go after my dream, one that had been buried for many years while I worked to provide for my family… Art. I had gotten to a place in my life, that fortunately I had the means to pursue the education for a few years before I would have to take another “punch the clock” type of job. But knew that would be okay, because I would have my art on the side, and with favor, possibly as a career someday. Well my cancer journey interrupted that path, as we all encounter obstacles along the way. I spent many years in self-pity, feeling my dreams were now lost to me forever. But they aren’t, I simply have to adjust them to fit into my new life style. Painting, was my main love. However, with some physical restrictions, it is difficult to do these days, even though I know of many with more restrictions than me that paint with great passion. But for me, I try to find outlets that allow me to create something of minimal expense, anything meaningful, mostly small gifts for loved ones. As even old talents (crochet, knitting, and such) take much longer for me these days, my projects have become smaller, but still fulfilling.

I know there is only so much time in a day, and only so much money to go around, but as the old saying goes, “Where there is a will there is a way”. I never thought I would be “writing”, as I am by no means a professional writer. But I have been praying for God to show me my purpose, now more than ever; Asking him to hit me over the head, if needed, to get me to recognize his purpose for my life.  Well a week ago, I was sitting outside, thinking, pondering, mind wondering in all directions, as I do often, and I found myself grammatically correcting my thoughts. Yes, very odd. I know I am odd, but that was so strange to me, I took it as a sign, whether it was or not. I believe intuition is more than just chance intuition. So here I am blogging.  I still pray, asking for guidance, but oddly enough, I feel what I am doing is now part of my purpose, as I do not feel as empty as before, since I started blogging. Maybe it is not my purpose, but God’s gift to me to pacify my need until I discover it ???

So, I suppose my advice, if wanted, is to first self evaluate, searching inside, outside, your past, your present, and through God, to try to discover your next step. Don’t look at the end of the dream, as many obstacles (opportunities to learn) will come up along the way, altering your path. Go with your intuition while not letting go of common sense, such as your need to provide food and shelter. I don’t think many, if any, have survived moving to an island and living off coconuts in a grass hut. Meshing reality with dreams is difficult, but it is better than living in a hole.

May you have a blessed fulfilling day.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Positive Thinking



First, I apologize for not posting yesterday. It was the first time receiving a new shot to treat my cancer, and although I do not feel really painful side-effects, it did put me down for a long, solid 5-hour nap, which for me, basically consumed the majority of my day. So, last night I prayed to come up with a topic that is inspirational or at least positive. Hence, this morning I decided I would continue with my last post’s “cup runnith over” or cup half-full topic.

In today’s economic, ecological, political situation, it is sometimes difficult to see positives, but if you intentionally try, you can see an abundance of blessings. Is it worth it? I say yes, it is worth it ten-fold, even more.

Night before last, I did not want to sleep in my bed, because shortly before bedtime, I saw a bug run across my bed, so… recliner it was. Last night, when the vision was not so clearly in the present (short-term memory loss can be a benefit at times), I decided I needed to face that silly fear and have rest-full night in my comfy little twin bed, bug or not. Knowing that even when we don’t see them (bugs, in this case), they are likely there anyway, and most are harmless. I have to tell you that once I crawled into bed after my nightly prayers, I pulled the covers over my shoulder and snuggled up on my pillow, I just had to thank God for having such a marvelous comforting place to lay my head at night. Well, I slept like a baby, or even better, and woke refreshed this morning. I am still a little sore on my rump, as the shot was in both cheeks, but I have a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eyes. J Thank you God, for a new and glorious day!

Yes, I fall prey to the blues, just like anyone, but I refuse to stay there, as it feeds upon itself and grows and grows if left unchecked. It is easy to fall victim to negative thoughts, it takes no effort at all. Sometimes it feels impossible to find the positive in a situation, but once you do, and focus in on that, you can use that strength to climb out of the hole we bury ourselves in. Is it hard? Yes, sometimes extremely overwhelming, that is where faith comes in. God does not always give us what we want, but he does give us what we need, whether we can see it our not.  I suppose that is where the title of my blog came from “Faith in the Dark”.

We usually get what we give out, in one form or another. What we receive for our efforts is not always immediate, related, or even visible. But, the positive does multiply on it's return, sometimes, in just being able to sleep at night, knowing you did the righteous thing, or in brightening someone else’s day, who then passed that smile forward (Tangent... I love the movie “Pay it Forward”). Imagine the feeling in the air, the fullness of our beings, if we were surrounded by positive people, deeds, visions, etc.. Yes, bad things will always happen and sometimes to whom we judge as being a “good” person. However, how else would we know what is good, without the comparison to bad? It is what we do when we encounter negativity that determines what we will gain from the experience.

Some people ask me “how can I smile and be positive?” (again I am not always positive – I am human) when I have terminal cancer, osteo-necrosis of the jaw, possibly MS, multiple side effects from the diseases and the treatments, etc. See how easy it is to ramble off all the “bad” things. I just respond, that it is nothing to admire, rather, to me, it simply beats the alternative. If I give up on me and thus God, why should anyone else care about me? If I can hold on to the fact, that God is there, in the dark as well as in the light, even though I cannot see him, he lifts me up and gives me strength to try to see the good in all things.

With that, I am going to go sit on my little patio area, and relish in this beautiful spring day, thanking God for all that surrounds me J

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Glorious Day!



No, my health has not changed over-night, but I woke with my cup runnith over, so to speak. You see, my neighbor/friend that I mentioned earlier has the most loving adorable little longhaired Chihuahua, that I borrow occasionally… and today is one of those days. I have no doctor appointments and no visitors today and the weather is supposed to be dry, so I can take him on scooter walks, yep scooter walks, he took to them immediately with no fear of my electric scooter, even though he is usually a somewhat skittish dog.

A few years ago, I had to find a new home for my baby pug, Cuddles. The rescue foundation in Florida, where I was living at the time found her the perfect place. A home with two 10ish aged children and a mother that worked from her home, AND a boxer (my pug had already developed a special affection for this particular dog breed). I had adopted my Cuddles right after my cancer diagnosis, not really thinking of what lie ahead, but needing company, as I lived alone. She was a love, licked my bald head, had an adorable character and yes I spoiled her rotten. However as time passed, I did not have the finances or the strength to care for her the way she deserved. I kept her while the rescue foundation searched for the perfect home for her, and well, they found it, ten-fold. Now she can be a happy playful pup.

Fast forward to last year, when I moved into this apartment, with huge help from my dear “rock of my life” Mom, so I could be closer to my children as my cancer was progressing again and not responding well to treatment. Quickly, I made friends with a woman who lived a couple floors above me that owed “Lucky” the Chihuahua. We took to each other rather quickly, both the friend and the dog J. Eventually it occurred to one of us, that it was silly, for Lucky to be laying around upstairs all day, while “his mom” worked, and I lay around down here, living alone. So it began. I have periodic “Lucky” days, when I do not have appointments or visitors or am not too under the weather.

Today is one of those days. My friend has a key to my apartment (for many reasons)… but she just brings “Lucky” down, and into my apartment on her way to work. As I am not a morning person, this works perfectly, with him already have gone "out" once, i can go back to sleep for a bit longer. He proceeded to lick my face frantically while doing his excited dance. What a loved feeling! His temperament with me is perfect; Has no problem taking lazy nap days cuddling up next to me; Taking scooter-walks on nice days (getting out of the apartment and lifting my spirits even more); He is light enough for me to pick up if needed, although he is a good jumper; and Yes, he is welcome on my furniture. Just one of those things that was meant to be, and that I have been blessed with. Yep, God is smiling on me.  Unconditional love is a fantastic, glorious, and wondrous blessing. I am, of course, referring to that of God’s And the dog’s Love. J

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spirituality



I promise not to preach. I know from my own experience that when people push me,I instinctively push back or walk away. With that being said, I am simply going to recount some of my spiritual journey on this blog as it overlaps with all my experiences and cannot be separated out.

Brief history… I was born into a family that belonged to the Catholic Church. So my first 10 or 11 years, regular Sunday mass and catechism (Saturday religious school) were part of life, unquestioned. After my parents divorced, I did not attend regularly. I went back periodically to the church for short stints, during momentous (for lack of a better word) periods in my life: Marriage, Childbirth and their baptisms, and when my children lost their father, etc.. However, I never really truly felt “it” in my heart and soul. I even went through periods of my life when I questioned or outright denied the existence of God.

Then came my very slow “awakening” (my cancer diagnosis). Slowly I started to talk to God in my head, researched churches, but couldn’t quite get myself to go, either from guilt of my past denial of existence or just not spiritually ready to accept God. I tried to live a “better” life. More patience, less judging, less greed, etc. thinking that was the same as attending a church.

My beliefs and “talks” with God increased at a somewhat regular pace over the years, until this last year, when a neighbor/new friend and I discussed wanting to go back to a church. We were brought up in different Christian religions, but both Christian faiths. We each had our issues with the religions we previously attended, so we researched, yes on the internet, nondenominational Christian churches in our area.

So we decided at the beginning of the new-year (2012), to start our quest. We drove (actually my neighbor drove) to the first church we thought might fit, and just didn’t feel “it”, sitting in the parking lot in-between services, so we drove to another church nearby, and when we saw the people exiting the church with smiles, hugs and chatting, we thought ok, let’s give it a try. Also the fact that this churches’ other (?) message – was diversity and unity, and the congregation WAS diverse and intermingled, really gave us hope.

That was one of the best days ever. We didn’t even realize that the service went on for well over an hour and both felt entirely uplifted upon leaving. Because of schedules, health issues, and me not driving these days (too many pain meds and no car), we have not attended every Sunday, but as many as possible, craving that uplifting “complete” feeling.

People have placed me on prayer lists all over the world, hundreds of thousands of people praying for me? Hard to grasp but the warmth and gestures gave me the warm fuzzies, and I “spoke” with God in my head more often (thinking that was prayer). Well because of my wondering mind, I often found myself off on tangents in my head and apologizing to God for getting off track.

Recently, after my mastectomy (I know “mastectomy five years in???- I will touch on that later), I received a gift from a lovely Nun in Santa Fe, that had been communicating with me over the years. She is close to my amazing sister, who lives there. The gift was a book of prayers. It has been one of the best gifts I ever received, and have already begun sharing it. After a night of nonstop reading, which I rarely do these days, and going through a half-box of tissues, I had a new awakening. The prayers had given me a template, so to speak, to arrange my own prayers more meaningfully?? AND to not just “talk” to God, but to kneel and pray. I had always given him thanks for my blessings, etc., but now I am much more specific, and always begin and end my prayer with thanks. Wow, I now go to bed, feeling complete? Good? Blessed? I cannot describe it adequately in words.

I still am not clear entirely what my “purpose” is and maybe I am not supposed to know. But I ask God every night and day to stay with me (although I now know he never left, I did), not to give up on my stubborn brain, and to help guild me to fulfill his intent. That, in itself, is such a blessing to me. I am not a prophet or messenger, or are we all and just don’t know it??? I just know I have to share my experiences with the world. Hence, the start of my blog - My stab in the dark at my purpose.

Not all posts will be “religious” but spirituality is a huge part of my life now, and it will intertwine or be the subject of many posts.

May God bless you all.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Facing Mortality



Where do I begin? I have spent a large portion of the last five years pondering many aspects of life, as that was when I was diagnosed with cancer, an aggressive breast cancer with a poor prognosis. I am now past the point of which only 20% survive. Now I ponder why am I still here, what is my purpose, mission, etc. 


Obviously the cancer evoked many emotions initially and every day since. Although I can say, oddly enough, my situation never made me angry and I never asked why me. Why? I don’t know. I am by no means a saint or perfect. I am certain I have repeatedly gone through numerous other emotions, good and bad, on this roller-coaster ride of a life.

While exploring my feelings, as well as those of others in a similar situation and those of the people closest to me, I have often felt utterly confused and baffled. Why does it often take devastating news to awaken some to the reality of our mortality? Is it because our “average” life spans have continued to increase with time, that death seams so far away; Is it because we see it as a negative, that we block it from our thoughts; Is it because we are exposed to so much worldwide news everyday, that we have become numb; or Is it for all of the above or some other reason? I think I have come to the conclusion that it is because of all of the above AND for other reasons. We are all unique, shaped by too numerous factors, more than I can list, such as genetics, beliefs, experiences, location, etc.


Okay, we are all going to die some day. This is not necessarily negative, rather it is simply a fact of life. But what do we do with that knowledge? How do we live, educate our children, treat others, care for our environment, etc.? Maybe because we are living longer, believe it to be negative, are numb from overexposure, etc., that we should purposefully discuss it more often... or maybe not discussing death, but life because of death. Does that make any sense?


I am going to stop there for today, as I tend to go off onto tangents and lose focus often, as I am sure I will expose in future entries or have already in this one.