Coping with life and those who judge

care kitEvery day is different. There is no being prepared for what comes next. I am sad. Sad for two members of my family whose life has been disrupted each in a different way. Concern for them and wishes for some peace and foremost in my mind. It causes my worry to raise its head. Life definitely changes from day to day and we have to find ways of coping. The younger we are the less coping skills we have.

Things that happen to us teach us and we learn the skills we need. Some people are lucky enough to not have things go wrong in their lives. However, this means that they develop little ability to handle things when the fall apart.

The only people who can really understand what someone else is going through is a person who has had a similar experience. When people don’t understand they can be judgmental. For so long there has been a stigma for those who struggle with any sort of mental issue. Sometimes I would love to make them have the same problems so that they will get it. For many years those with AIDS struggled with abuse and being ostracized. It is still happening with mental issues. I is amazing how hatred can be born.

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I think that people often wonder why those who struggle just can’t pull up their socks and fix it themselves. It is just not that easy. Everything can’t be fixed. That is a hard lesson to learn. You can’t judge others. You don’t know where they have been.

Remove the mask

tiredYesterday I wrote about long term commitment and the benefits of it. When I think about it I left out something important. It is the ability to be yourself. No mask, no costume. nothing to hide the real you.

Most of my life I have been adaptable. It is something I learned early on from my father. He felt strongly that we should do our best to not make people uncomfortable. …..especially in social situations. This required not making anyone feel out of place by what they were wearing, how they spoke etc. I was a genius at adjusting language and conversation to fit my audience. I sought out people who seemed on the outside and tried to help them feel included. This is not a bad thing and it certainly is a kind thing.

This kind of thinking also led me into being the peacemaker. I do’t like conflict or discord at all. It can be very hard to always try to keep the peace. I’ve realized that this made me very tired. It is a lot less enervating to be yourself.

Somewhere along the way I forgot who I was. I was always wearing a mask, always being part of the group. I never voiced my own opinions if they were contrary. I wanted everything to go smoothly. … everyone to be happy. When my children were growing I smoothed most arguments. I was still playing a role.

true loveManaging children at home led to more peacemaking and avoiding conflict. As our marriage grew I began removing the masks and the other personas and was free to be me. Total acceptance of who you are frees you. Unconditional love allows you to be totally open. It’s not that we were not ourselves in the beginning but now there are no closets unopened. Time has opened them all.

 

Why are we here?

butterfly effectLife is a puzzle. Sometimes I wonder what it is all about and why we are here. What is my purpose? Am I here for a reason? I have spent my life raising a family, being involved in church and being a nurse. I hope that those things have made the world a better place. Not in some grand way but by trying to be a good person I have made a contribution.

I think we expect that in order to make a difference we have to be someone important – some sort of celebrity but I don’t think that is it at all. I am a believer in the butterfly principle. What each of us does makes a difference for good or ill. Everything that we do has an impact. This makes me strive even harder to learn all that I can so that I can change the world for the better even if in a very, very small way.

Sometimes I catch myself saying something that will impact someone in a negative way and I think about it later. Recently I met a nurse in a doctor’s office who is about to have her first baby. I made the comment that I used to work in Neonatal Intensive Care. She responded that she hoped her baby didn’t need to go there. I answered that she seemed healthy and that I was sure all would go well. Then I added: we used to say nurses babies were the riskiest. That was a bridge too far. The remark was true but she didn’t need to hear that. I have thought about it ever since and regret it.

tutuEvery day is a chance to be kind. To say the kind thing. A chance to help. I have decided that doing the right thing is why we are here. Nothing else is as important.

Matthew 25:37-39New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’

Frantic to Peaceful Sleep

“It is but lost labour that we haste to rise up early, and so late take rest, and eat the bread of anxiety. For those beloved of God are given gifts even while they sleep.”

This is a quote from the beginning prayers of Night Prayer from”A New Zealand Prayer Book.” 

franticNow with Christmas on the way we will begin our mad dash to get everything ready. Presents to be bought, baking to do, parties to attend. There is so much we think we have to do. As the quote says we rise early and go to bed late. In between we obsess about the things we haven’t done yet. We are the creators of the pressure we are under. We can’t turn loose of our control. We won’t let ourselves fall down on the job.

As the time draws closer we become more and more anxious. Anxiety becomes an even more part of life. We Christians are not the only ones who are frantic. Hanukkah is coming also and events for others. Even many agnostics and atheists can get caught up in the commercial part of the season. It leaves very few untouched.

For those of us who grew up with the Christmas traditions it can seem magical. People seem nicer. Charities receive donations and people help each other more. The sad part is that we do all this in one short season. Then we seem to go to sleep until the following year. Showing kindness, helping others, and sharing what we have should go on all year. Somehow we need to learn to carry it forward. Think what a wonderful world it would be if we did.

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Maybe then we would not be frantic for a month and take the gifts that God gives us even when we sleep.

Sadness and Joy

sad bearThis week has been sort of up and down. For me it wasn’t a normal week. This week we celebrated Thanksgiving. I used to love this time of the year with Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now I find myself with mixed feeling.

As we grow older things are not the same as when small children were around and there was a sense of excitement building. My children and even their children are grown and flown. Don’t get  me wrong. This is what parents want. My children are gainfully employed and some of their children are beginning careers. However, it is an adjustment. The Christmases from those younger days are past. Family doesn’t all live near and other priorities prevail. I am blessed to have loving children but they have priorities of their own. My husband and I encouraged them to form their own traditions. We do see the nearest ones during the holidays but one daughter and her family are far away and can’t always be here. We do go there when we can.

I guess the bottom line of all of this is that time moves on and our lives change. Change is the only constant. Even though the changes can make me sad at times I am still grateful for what I have. So many people really suffer through the holidays. Grief crops up in a big way for those who have lost a loved one or if life has had some bad turns during the year. There are so many pictures of happy families and perfect Christmases that hit you in the face and remind you of your losses. The ads begin earlier and earlier each year.

Sully, Thomas, 1783-1872; Old Stables of the 'Dolpinn' Inn, LincolnI am not sure there is such a thing as a perfect Christmas. At least not like the ones in the ads. The problem is that the perfect Christmas happened 2000 years ago and the conditions would never be shown in an ad. What we are longing for is right in front of us. It is the birth of Christ. It was not in a beautiful home but in a stable. If we can spend our time with that in focus it changes everything. Celebrate that Christ was born to show us the way to God.

Choose the need

Last-minute-blog-post-jan-25thWe had friends for lunch today. One is over ninety and fragile. His wife called yesterday saying he wanted to get out of the house and could they come and see us. That was a resounding yes and we invited another couple who are special friends of us all. This lunch was a blessing. Our aging friend is slipping and it was a joy to give him a day of pleasure.

I worked hard yesterday and today to make a good lunch and a welcoming place for he and his wife. Our other friends felt the same. This is the first time that he has been out with friends in a long time and it gave us great pleasure to be able to do this.

Planning and executing a special lunch in 24 hours can be challenging but somehow God was involved in this. I have a friend who like to say the “arangels” were at work.

listenI wonder how many times I have balked at something that seemed difficult at the time but was something God had in mind. It is so easy to back away and not do the thing right in front of us. Do we pay attention or do we let it slip by us? Our own agenda can so easily get in the way. We will decide that we have plans and don’t want to change them. We can choose the easy path and put ourselves first.

We need to listen to hear when these moments appear and choose in favor of the needs of others.

Love never dies

motherYesterday I did something I have not done in a very long time. ….I visited my mother’s grave. Most of my close relatives are in a mausoleum type place in a local cemetery. I seldom visit because for me they are not there. Only the shell they inhabited is there. Nevertheless I do feel guilty for not going there to see that all is as is should be.

My mother was a loving, caring person and reached out to those around her. She was a tremendous blessing in my life and brought me up to love God and others.

Almost two years ago I lost my longtime friend. She was the last person who knew me as a child. Life feels different when that person is gone. You can’t call them and say “remember when.” I miss her very much and was blessed to be given some pieces of costume jewelry that were precious to her. Every time I wear one of those pieces I can feel her with me.

friendsShe was an amazing person whose deep faith was an inspiration. She had a strong sense of social justice and was always helping where she could. Lots of people loved her and she has been missed.

Her youngest child, a daughter, was born with multiple heart defects and struggled through her life. It was my joy to be there for her following the death of Deirdre (my friend), Sadly, I think the loss of her mother was just too much and she died six months later. I was with her. She also had a deep faith and I loved the fact that she asked to be buried with a tree. Her ashes were scattered in the hole and the tree planted with her. She will nourish that tree as it grows. What a wonderful understanding of God’s creation and the cycle of life.

Though these three (my mother, my friend, her daughter) are all gone their love and faith sustained me through the loss and reminds me still that God is loving and caring.