O”Lord we have faith!
Body confusion sounds bad but is good. As my yoga coach explained, when your exercise routine becomes routine, your muscles get bored and slack off. You can schedule the same exercise routine every week, but after awhile it becomes old hat, and your body does not benefit from the workout. In other words, you have to challenge—shuffle things around; in essence, confuse the body to keep it at its best. Challenges and new moves keep you in healthy grooves!
In this same vein, if the body slacks off, wouldn’t the mind do this also? Not to minimize the impact of a life crisis, but one thing it does do is shake you up and orbit you to unfamiliar places that may feel foreign and scary at the beginning, but later as the journey unfolds, recharges the imagination and ignites the creative problem-solving juices.
For instance, before our family’s personal crisis in 2010, I could have continued to hide under some fifty extra pounds of weight and allow myself to fade into the buttermilk color walls of my house, vaporizing behind my then husband’s emotional tailspins.
Instead, nearly four years later, “mind confusion” has kicked me into over drive. Tons of new challenges undertaken…daunting jobs, grubby courtrooms, and a longtime friend who threw me under the bus just when I was about to get my bearings! With the challenges, new joys have also unfolded…dating again since 1989, the last time I had a date; neighborhood kids who come to the door with shovels during a blizzard and a late-life love who surprises me with a kiss that transplanted me back to feel sixteen again when my high school’s gym class cheered me on as I did a tap dance atop the trampoline.
Thanks to the element of surprise, total mind confusion, I not only shed the pounds, okay, some of them, but I have also had a love affair—with my femininity, my individuality, my sometimes tragic, miserable, highly interesting, amazing life, and I learned that courage doesn’t come to me naturally, but that I have to have faith and work at it…not face danger and freak out and bolt, but face danger, freak out and stare it down—a little bit longer at each new perilous zone.
In the end, I still have “the bad” confusion in my life and I struggle as a single mom. It remains an everyday challenge to be stable and balanced, especially when the mortgage due date draws closer, every month, and my mind becomes a 24-hour melee in which I must battle it out with beasts that can and will flex their muscles to frightening proportions. Then there are those days when my body joints tell me I have been squeezed out of so much youth.
Through it all, I have learned to get my shine on and dance through life as if my experience on this earth has been a skip through a meadow of wildflowers and not a plunge into an abominable pit of hot coals, employing grace and dignity at all times when tears mar the vision, but faith carries me forward through the downpour.
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. Job 12:10
Okay it’s been over a month. We are in the middle of Thanksgiving weekend. I can talk about it now. Our beloved French poodle Crouton who has been my anchor through these crisis-filled years, my number one (ok, number three after my kids) cheerleader, my coach, my shadow, my angel passed away peacefully at home on October 17, 2013.
Instead of dwelling on Crouton’s passing, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I have been thinking about a few of the people, angels, who soared into my life and lifted me up at the times I was at my most pancake position. For instance, about a week before his death, I had informed the staff at Waggies, Crouton’s grooming salon at the time, that my doggie had a cancerous tumor. I almost did not call the salon because of his bloody wound, but I wanted my dog to look his astute best during the critical period.
The salon’s owner Ellen told me to come right down with Crouton. The minute we walked throug the door, Ellen and Lisa, my doggie’s groomer, showered us with empathy and consolation. Despite his open bloody tumor, without hesitation, Lisa washed him and clipped him gently and speedily. Two hours later, his spruced up look was just the boost I needed. Like a rite of passage, on his way through the doorway of death, the groomer kissed him on the middle, then the tip of the nose. In a very odd way, the time we spent together was like celebrating sadness.
The week after, feeling glum about Crouton’s deteriorating condition, exiting the supermarket in the middle of a torrential downpour, a man about my age made the mad dash to get his groceries into his car. Following behind, I started to pile my bags into the way back of my SUV when the man’s kindly face came into full view. He positioned the remainder of my groceries into my car, and even took my shopping carriage back to the front of the store. I knew God had sent his messenger to let me know he had not abandoned me.
Meanwhile, through Crouton’s death process, my friends, including Pat, Camille and Michelle, partook in the journey; probably helped prevent a few major falls as I did trip. A couple of weeks after his death, my dear friend Michelle arrived at my door with a homemade meal. It has been one of those days when the house felt particularly empty and big.
The emptiness in our living space was instantly filled with the aroma of the chicken soup and bread that Michelle had walked in with that night. Her entrance and exit was brisk, but her appearance had not only given us the faith we needed at the moment, but had a lifelong effect on us, like so many others that I had encountered through the trying time. In the emptiness of our hearts and our home, God filled the barrenness with His love, manifested through the human touch.
Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.
The animal shelter’s volunteer conveyed to me in confidence after my two children and I had been shown an apricot toy poodle at PAWS, “Pet Animal Welfare Society,” a nonprofit “no-kill” organization in Norwalk, CT, following my 8-year-old daughter’s discovery of him the night before on petfinder.com.
The memory is so branded on my mind that I still remember the woman’s name, Noreen. While my daughter and her brother waited in a separate room, I had nodded, but inwardly was relieved. At the time, we had two cats at home, and my then husband did not have the slightest notion that we were spending our day at the local shelter just looking.
Yes, of course, I understood, I told Noreen. The other two families, also in line with high hopes to bring a new two-year-old poodle home, were much better suited. One had only a twosome, a mom and her young daughter, and no pets at home. The other five-member family looked responsible enough.
I alone, I reasoned, would make a terrible dog owner. I always had cats. The only dog I had was a dachshund for a day. My older brother Paul had brought him home when I was eight years old as a surprise. Unfortunately, we had to bring him back to the shelter because my parents did not want to shoulder the burden of the extra responsibilities of an animal. After the dachshund’s return, my brother and his girlfriend at the time had bought me a banana split. I ate the whole thing, but my sorrow persisted along with a belly ache too. From then on, I vowed I would have a dog of my own one day and keep it forever.
Keep dreaming, that was my motto! When the kids were toddlers, one of our weekly visits was to a local pet shop where we would spend the time as speculators to some pretty fancy poodle cuts on some impressive show dogs by a groomer who rented space in the store. She herself owned five poodle show dogs. There, we learned everything there ever was about a poodle, and once you learn the innermost workings of a poodle, there is no other recourse but to fall in love; and so I was, head over heels, or tails, in this case, however, at a distance. Who, after all, was I, a mom/freelance writer with limited funds to own the most perfect dog that cost upwards to thousands upon thousands of dollars?
So, fast-forward from this point, and there I was at Paws with Noreen telling me that we were not suitable dog owners and—presto—a blue leash hit the palm of my hand like a surprise snake.
“What?” I asked, shocked as she let go of the leash.
“And even though you seem like the least likely family to adopt Crouton, I am giving you the dog, because your children were the ones who interacted with the dog the best.”
By now, I knew if I hadn’t manipulated or initiated a situation’s outcome, God was at his handiwork. So who was I to argue with the big honcho?
In hindsight, I always say give a rescue dog a 90-day trial before you make a final decision. You see, even though my husband did not bat an eye when we brought Crouton home, and the cats realized after a day with their “new master” who was in charge, it wasn’t until the 91th day that Crouton stopped piddling all over the couch and soiling the rug! In fact, if my then husband did not have a snag at work, we had decided that morning that he would come home in the afternoon on that 90th day of owning Crouton to bring him back to PAWS!
So call it another God thing, but that darn messy dog turned into an angel during his third month with us and as my son pointed out, became a part of our pack of which I was the top wolf. Although he was supposed to be my daughter’s dog, Velcro he was to me, and I learned about loyalty and the kind of unconditional love where if I really did jump off a bridge, guess who would shadow me in an instant?
Soon after those initial 90 days, the common denominator in my life was that “everyone made mistakes, but not “Crouty,” because he was perfect, an angel, my angel dog. Life without him did not and could not enter my thoughts…not for many years…..
Until that awful morning when our groomer uncovered a growth on Crouton’s hind leg. After the biopsy a few days later, I received the word on August 16, 2013; our little angel dog had a tumor, an aggressive tumor. Without recapping the horrific details, our vet felt it was a reasonable decision on my part that I decided against surgery.
Basically, for the last six weeks, I have watched Crouton die with the latest vet run this past Monday.
During this time, I realized it is not just about the person or pet you are losing. It’s about our own death on a different scale and how each passing day will sooner or later change the face of things forever. I look back about ten years ago when we first brought Crouty home, and out of the many vivid memories, I picture my son, in the middle of a snowy winter, sliding Crouton down our cul-de-sac buckled into a “dog sled,” his genius invention for a fourth-grade project. I see my daughter in her young innocence sprinting with Crouton on an early spring day, who in his dog days, could run miles; my daughter’s blonde hair reminiscent of his ears flopping in the wind. I see him too in his Cujo alter ego, as the kid’s so often referenced, with him playing attack with our dear departed Rob, my son’s best friend; head to head, nose to nose, to the secret delight of us all.
One of my best memories was on a Sunday morning eavesdropping on Crouton, my then husband and two young kids roughhousing on our queen-sized bed, wanting to pinch myself because no greater could the joy have been than at that time at those moments.
The face of any death reminds us of the sunset of our youth; our children growing and going; it is about how temporary life is and how even in its most tormented moments, if looked at closely enough, how beauty still resonates if we have the grace to dive deep below the surface.
In 2010, with the dissolution of our family, when our world, the one we knew, collapsed, I took a downward plunge and sat in the playroom alone, seriously considering the unthinkable…plotting…over thinking…while seeing images of the car’s exhaust in a closed off garage. Immobilized, not knowing what to do, or not do, in this case, a pair of indigo eyes came at me.
“Damn dog,” I said out loud to him. “Damn, angel dog.”
I called my dearest friend Pat, 24/7 savior in our family, and said crying, “I can’t do anything drastic. Crouton would die if I did anything rash.” She, as always, was at my side in human form.
So, I made a promise to Crouton, I would survive. Ironically, a few weeks later, Crouton was savagely attacked by our neighbor’s German Sheppard. Pat, who was with Crouton at the time of the incident, rushed the mangled poodle to the vet.
When I found out, I cried, traumatized. I begged God to save him. Miracles of miracles, the Lord heard my prayer and the vet’s staff called my little angel “Brave Boy” throughout the ordeal.
A lot has happened since those first few crisis-filled autumn months of 2010. For the first time in my life, I took up jogging with Crouton. He was my inspiration behind every single run. We ran in the same pack, and after all that we had been through, we felt invincible.
In the spring of 2010, me, hairspray queen, started to open up the sunroof and all the windows in my BMW, allowing for the first time my hair to run savage wild, and bolted down our little town’s rural roads with Crouton in the passenger seat, listening to Johnny Cash.
“I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around,
Yeah, I’m going to Jackson,
Soon thereafter, I took an outside job, and Crouton, momma’s boy that he was, was not amused. In fact, he was pretty darn angry at me in the morning and would stall doing his morning business, but by the time I got home, I knew I was totally forgiven, since he could not stop jumping for glee the moment I pulled into the driveway.
Now, going into our third year of our “new normal,” I am able to let him go, slowly, gently, lovingly. Three years ago, I was too broken to lose him. I was gifted three more years of having him; my strength always.
The vow I made to myself so long ago, to have my own dog one day and to keep forever, I accomplished. You see, I have faith that long after Crouton’s final rest, he, like my other memories, will live in me forever until I cruise down that final country road, wind messing up my hair, where my angel dog and all the other angels will await to celebrate a party that has no end time, only operates on dog time.
We rescued Crouty and he rescued us!
Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!
In the fall of 1984, I had hit bottom for the final of the final of the final time (but really final!) and unchained myself from all addiction, including, one year later, a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit. I don’t want this post to be about my alcohol/drug past, which reared its ugly head in adolescence. I want it to be about freedom. Oddly, without a bit of pre-planning, this topic came to me on Independence Day, but to me, every day is Independence Day. The one thing that no one can ever take away from me is how hard I worked—and spent every last dime—to earn my freedom. It took me ten years—my debt paid in 1994—finally to finish paying my rehab center in New Hampshire. I also feel proudest of the fact that no one ever paid a dime towards my years, and I mean, years of therapy. Sad people view therapy as a taboo. (I have discovered that the more someone equates therapy with a dirty word, he or she is the one who needs it the most!) Anyway, much like a recommended yearly physical on the body, I think people should have a regularly scheduled look-see on the mind too. At this point in mid-life, I can say, no one, absolutely no one, knows themselves better than I do. I owe this not only to hours of therapy, but also support groups, retreats, seminars and everything, including the kitchen sink stuff that I have done to peel every stinkin’ layer (ouch!) off me and uncover myself. ME.
As a young child, the real ME never emerged. Like many, I was polluted by adults who tried to carve me in their own image. Their paddles of shame bludgeoned my God-given spirit and left me flat. Thus, I had an instant love affair with anything outside myself that lifted me up and allowed me to be my authentic self–or so I thought. Of course, these outside things ended up, ironically, enslaving me until I broke free.
Freedom comes not from fancy cars and good-smelling perfumes, it comes from being who you are and having at least one good friend who will accept you on the days you look like you rolled around a dumpster!
Three years ago I experienced crisis in my life. I held onto my house with bloody fingernails. I attempted to hold onto my marriage. I held onto everything that I thought defined me, but the truth is, I was holding onto a world that enslaved me. Crisis stripped me of so much again, but, paradoxically, gave me back myself. I am far greater than a house. Far greater than the car I drive or the job I do. Sure, a lot of “friends” who opted out of a stressful situation, dropped me cold, but I have a total of two friends today that have been my glue; a wonderful boyfriend who accepts me as I am. I have been gifted by co-workers who sometimes prove to be my lifeline. I have my children who know me perhaps too well and whose presence has allowed me never to have a bucket list to meet, because the unconditional act of mothering, to me, supersedes everything else in life.
Bondage, whether to money, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, people, places or memories scares me and robs my faith. Lately, with a birthday looming over my head, I’ve had a hard time fighting the bondage of aging too. I’m afraid that my body will fail me.
God willing, if my body does not fail me, I may end up pushing around a shopping cart with my belongings on the streets one day when I am seventy, but I’ll tell you one thing, I’ll be free of mental anguish, which you can have regardless of what you do or where you live. It all started so many years ago in New Hampshire, walking down a very long hospital corridor towards the exit door, fearful of the life I knew I had to go back to and revisit so many demons outside those walls. Of course the official motto in New Hampshire is “Live free or die” and to me that means peeling off the chains, inching forward, breathing, first shallow, then with practice down to your diaphragm in a place where every last tad of you, down to the wart hidden in the nape of your neck, has found a peaceful home.
Until next time….Faith forward!
Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. I am born of God and I overcome the world. This is the victory that overcomes the world, even my faith. —1 John 5:4
Last weekend, there was a glitch in my computer, and I was unable to get the desktop program up on the screen. Typically, I am an obsessive nut when it comes to troubleshooting computers, but by 1 a.m. on Sunday morning, I called it quits on trying to figure out what was wrong with the computer. I shut the office door to the mega pile of computer-related work that layered my desk.
Immediately, a peace came over me. I knew it would be okay. As much as I wanted to skip church and, instead, seek a computer expert, I fast-forwarded my reel of life, and I visualized the computer functioning later that day when I needed it to get caught up on paperwork! Then I thought in tactical terms. How much fear did I have? (For me, any struggle—large or small—in my life, boils down to the fear factor.)
I calculated the situation as follows on a one to ten scale. The hard drive on my computer could have crashed; on a one to ten scale, ten being the most fear, this came out a TEN! I doubted, however, that this was the case, because I did see some of my software in place. This lowered the fear factor to a six. Then I thought of possible computer people/companies that could help me solve the problem and get my computer up pronto. That comforting thought wheedled the fear factor down by one. I summed up my fear factor at about a five. Tactically, I had to get a five or higher of faith to buffer and/or override the fear factor. I closed my eyes and visualized again the computer functioning and asked God to guide and direct me.
In church, I noticed a man who was an IT specialist. He had to be the answer. After church, the IT expert basically brushed me off! My fear factor went back up a notch. I countered it with turning the Faith-O-Meter up a notch…”God help me.”
Later, driving home on my road, I saw my neighbor and after chatting with him awhile and sharing my computer woes, he said, “Well, you are in luck. This is my son’s last day here before he moves out of town later today!”
He was referring to his son, another IT specialist, a recent college grad, who had found out-of-town employment in his field. Well, fast-forward to a couple of hours later, and my earlier affirmation had come true to life. My computer was up and running.
Two days later, back to crisis mode. After a rough three-year road, we may lose our house after all. In a nutshell, my –ex won’t sign some papers. That’s it. Fear factor? About a “3” today. Sure, when I initially received the news, the fear factor was about to bullet off the scale, but then, miraculously, I kept thinking about this blog post, which I had been in the process of writing. “Come on WTF? Where’s the Faith-O-Meter?” That’s all I could think of. I’ve had a couple of fantastic friends by my side (you know who you are!) Thank you! Thank you!
Hurt people hurt. That’s all I have to say. I am the victor not the victim.
So, here’s my Fast-forward “reel life.”
Under the watchful, caring eye of the Great One, I am lounging somewhere on one of the Hawaiian Islands with my soul mate…mango juice in hand. My kids are playing sand volleyball with a ball that looks strangely familiar to a pineapple. The rest of the family and friends are doing the hula. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” followed by White Sandy Beach and then What a Wonderful World by my all-time favorite artist IZ (Israel Kamakawiwo’ole) wafts through the scene. No slice of life can get better than in affirmation time.
Until next time….Faith forward!
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.
“I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” —Mark 11.22-24
I have another confession. I am an Analysis Paralysis junkie.
It is not so much a defense mechanism I use in order to procrastinate on things as it is to throw myself into a whirling dervish.
Go-to source Wikipedia provides a comprehensive description of the state.
A couple of weeks ago the state threw me into the throes of this zany mindset.
My thoughts fell loosely into the Personal Analysis category in which Wikipedia defines, “Casual analysis paralysis can occur during the process of trying to make personal decisions if the decision-maker overanalyzes the circumstance with which they are faced. When this happens, the sheer volume of analysis overwhelms the decision-maker, weighing him or her down so much they feel overwhelmed with the task and is thus unable to come to a rational conclusion.”
The only difference was that there was no decision to be made. I began over-analyzing a current state of affairs. Before you know it, I was in the “What if my job phases out?” “What if I lose the people I really care about?” stage.
Granted, a part of this obsessive, unhealthy thinking may stem from the fact that I am still teetering from some major setbacks. Another part is because I am afraid. Afraid to lose what I have worked so hard to get/hold onto. Afraid that I’ll never shift out of crisis mode. You know, that old adage about “waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
To make matters dire, someone reminded me that my thoughts manifest into my behavior that creates the reality around me. Although there is a lot of pop psych about this brand of positive thinking, it can be traced back to the bible as quoted above,” Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
So, back to a couple of weeks ago: I’m a whirling dervish, over analyzing, feeding on my Analysis Paralysis addiction and making myself and anyone with a listening ear CRAZED. The outcome amounted to nothing—nothing earth shattering happened. I still have a roof over my head. Food. Friends. A pretty nice Jersey Strong to lean on.
The thing I did lose, however, by allowing Analysis Paralysis to overtake my week was my physical and mental well-being. I was tired, drained; thus, I could not accomplish some of my routine chores, and I was by no means present to the ones I love in the manner I like to be. The result was that I had to cancel some pleasure time in order to play weekend catch-up.
The problem with Analysis Paralysis for me is that it kicks me to the abyss of a swampland. There I spend idyll time stuck, going under, sinking while the rest of the world moves on.
To have faith is to trust in the process of the good. Unlike a swamp-like, sinking environment, it is a positive forward movement, which nourishes our needs.
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
This is a positive affirmation if I ever heard one. We don’t say things like “have a little faith” and mean that the barrel of a gun awaits!”
Of course when I pick up my Analysis Paralysis addiction, I pick up my imaginary gun; it may not be real, but it is still a hazard.
The best defense for me is a three-P approach:
I am currently in remission. Things are looking up. I hope. I’m thinking…oops, that’s one of my downfalls.
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
So, this week, I really want to say, “Thank you spotters!”
You see, life to me is a trampoline; up and down, sometimes more up, sometimes really, really down. When things get topsy-turvy, I know I have support. I always visualize my “spotters” as those who stand around my trampoline of life, ready to catch me when I fall.
This metaphor has been a very comforting visual to me through these turbulent years. Along the way, I’ve lost a few spotters, gained others, but most times had someone who would catch me.
Human nature what it is, more times than not, I focus on the grief, struggle and hardship from my out-of-control trampoline and not on my selfless spotters. Likewise, I need to set my attention not on falling, but on being caught.
The most difficult challenge has been letting go of spotters. I have spent hours figuring out why they vanish. Bottom line is, who is meant to spot at that moment, is the one meant to be there. That’s faith in a nutshell.
My spotters are “God behind skin.” They are my faithful supporters, my guides; they let me know that faith is not always blind, but sometimes is delivered in three-dimensional form. And, here’s another face of faith. During those times when I felt like I was close to taking a final plunge off the trampoline of life, I did not do it. You see, spotting is a two-way job. I have to be available to exchange roles. Spotting is good for me since it peels me away from my tiny pin-holed view of a trampoline and affords me a more sweeping look at the bigger picture, which makes life feel so much more manageable.
Now in a trailblazing life such as mine, the falls have never and will never be unavoidable. Instead, it is the way in which I fall. When I am confident that at least one pair of strong arms will catch me, I take the leap of faith. I let go. Give up the reins. Lean in and go with the flow. I have traveled both ways—holding on and letting go—and one thing I am certain of: Grace cannot pour forth when hands with an iron grip suffocate it. On the trampoline of life, no matter how high the ups go and low the downs go, a little trust, and I have something to fall into.
Until next time….Faith forward!