Mind Confusion: Good for you?

dance_school-1280x1024 (2)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.

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Cliff, the perfect cat

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  – Luke 12:6photo_2[2]

I didn’t want to adopt the first pet that came into our household 17 years ago. My daughter Alexandra was two at the time; my son Marshall, four. As a working mother running a household, I was already overcommitted.

On a deeper level, I didn’t want to get attached to a pet and someday have to say good-bye. I spent my life as a cat owner, and each time one of my kitty babies passed, I was beside myself. Instead of getting easier, the sorrow was never diluted.  Single and living alone, when my last cat died in the early eighties, I was so heartbroken that I swore off cats forever. Then in 1997, with my then husband and children by my side, I broke my pledge. When we met Cliff, a Maine Coon, he had an aloof character. Lots of street smarts. After all, he was raised and later discovered in an abandoned car in my Godmother’s yard. Her son Ted had adopted him and his sister Judy and took them to his house. Ted owned other cats and asked me if I would open our household to him.

“He’s a good cat. He has all his shots,” Ted said, trying to persuade me since the rest of the family was already sold on Cliff. “It would be nice if you could take Judy too,” he added.

Cliff’s eyes glowed and gazed into us like we were the only four people in the universe.

“Okay,” I finally agreed as the room filled with cheers and happy tears, but, I announced, “we’ll only take Cliff. We can’t take two cats.”

“You won’t regret it!” we heard Ted’s exclamation behind us as we left his home with Cliff.

The first week at home when Cliff burrowed himself behind the washing machine, I thought perhaps the choice had been wrong.

By the end of the week, while I was working in the kitchen, Marshall came up to me with Cliff in his arms.

“How did you ever get him out?” I asked stunned.

“He just came out for me,” my young son proclaimed.

From then on, Marsh had a special bond with Cliff and never once did we regret adopting Cliff into our household that would over the years transform into somewhat of an animal menagerie. In fact, it was Marshall who discovered that Cliff was a Main Coon Cat. A Mainer to a tee, he loved the cold. He loved to hunt. We called him the cool cat. No matter what new animal inhabitants were joining our home front, he never flinched.  When Blossom, whom we adopted a few years after Cliff, had kittens and, crazed mamma bear that she was, attacked me while I held Cliff in my arms, he looked at me as if saying sarcastically, ‘Ah, these new mothers and their hormones.’

Cool, never losing his aloofness, he knew about loyalty and love and once when I was surrounded by a pack of mean raccoons outside my backdoor, he stood his ground and chased them away. In essence, he risked his own life for his family.

Cliff had a sense of humor too and loved to be a showman and trickster and rolled over for us whenever we asked him; treats, of course, in our hands. Speaking of treats, he loved to eat just about anything, which included spaghetti that he would slurp up slowly and delectably, always asking for more.

Most memorable was the incident that made him a neighborhood star. My daughter and I had brought Cliff into her class for her kindergarten show-and-tell assignment. Seconds after I took him out of his carrier, he escaped outside through an open window. Despite numerous mad-search parties throughout the neighborhood, Cliff had disappeared. That is, until seven days later, when he showed up at five o’clock in the morning at our door, which was three miles away from the school! He was unstoppable and spread his cheer with every paw print forward.

Last year we marveled when Cliff turned 16.  We planned for him to live until 20, maybe even 21.  Though he grew tired of performing his tricks, he still loved to devour anything that came across his vision, never losing his a special affection for spaghetti.photo_1[1]

Last month, disconcerting it was when he started losing interest in food; suddenly hiding out in the corner of my closet. When we took him to the vet, he was not eating or drinking, throwing up bile and burrowing in my son’s bedroom.  Needless to say, tears overflow in our household, which, three months ago, saw the passing of our darling poodle Crouton.

Marsh fluctuates between being heroic(“Crouton will take him home”) to being in total denial (“I think he’ll live another year.”). A time like this is a call for faith. It is made easier as our family bonds tighter, realizing just how vulnerable we are and recognizing our powerlessness.

The days have been touch and go, and when my BF wondered why we did not put him down when I thought it “was time,” I think the text I shot him says it all: “…if he goes into pain, we will put him down. Not a moment sooner. Cliff is so happy to spend a little more time in the house he loved. Remembering all the voices from the people in the past who loved him.  He hears Crouty barking at him and enjoys every moment as deeply and fully as he enjoyed every other moment of his glorious life.”

So, powerless, heartbroken with paw prints imprinted forever on my heart, we are in the shadow of another good-bye.  And I’ll take no refund of pain and sorrow because in return I’d rather have our legacy of joyous Cliff memories that have enriched our lives so fully we can never ask for more.

 Thanks for blessing our house Cliff. Your moniker was “the perfect cat” and never once did you venture from your signature.photo_3[2]

Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!

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And the seasons go round and round….

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 
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.

February032012 012Last week in my mind I scheduled an appointment on Thursday for my beloved French poodle Crouton to be euthanized. His tumor bled. He did not eat. He threw up. I was distraught.  Loving him so deeply for the last 10 years of his life, Crouton’s eventual demise was a poisonous thought that I allowed into my mind on very limited occasions.

The week was full of lots of emotional unrest; I realized that this was a first for me. Thirteen years ago, my dad died in my arms after a long battle of emphysema at the hospital, then a couple of years later I lost my brother to a stroke, but I never had to deal with a pet’s death before. The last time I lost a pet was an old cat Rocky about 26 years ago. During my earlier years, I was spared by my father who had the task at hand to put down my cats.

‘I’d take it a second at a time. I’d take it as it unfolded,” I told myself while daunting images of Crouton’s sad eyes magnifying into my heart as if to ask ‘why mommy, why are you forsaking me?’ shot through my consciousness like inescapable darts.

Through thick and thin, through lots of comings and goings and lots of changes, over these last ten years, Crouton never changed. Not in appearance and not in companionship. At the end stretch of my marriage, on one of the last nights that my then husband and I would share the same house, my then husband brought Crouton into the bedroom, and handed him to me.

“Why don’t you take him to bed with you tonight?”

“I will,” I replied, knowing that the sad truth was, I preferred Crouton’s company above his; and, admittedly, Crouton was my preferred companion over many other people in my life and sometimes, yes, even over the kids on a few difficult occasions. Everyone did wrong; I would joke, but never Crouton. When my world rotated off the axis, Crouton symbolized my safety net.

He was my Velcro. Ever mindful of falling over him, he was like my third shoe. He knew me more intimately than any human. He never abandoned me the times I spent bawling behind closed doors in my office or bedroom. Through good and bad and the rainbow of life in between, he was my stronghold. I always thought, if I took him on a boat and threw myself overboard, he would wait until I reappeared…or die waiting. As far as I am concerned, a human can’t hold a candle to a dog’s loyalty.

On the other side of the dog bone, I mean coin, to Crouton, I represented his pork chop as I sometimes joked about his love towards me. He was totally dependent on me for his livelihood. Feeding, walking, trips to the vet and the salon, coordinating alternative travel arrangements when I hit the road, nuisances these responsibilities were sometimes, but the motivation behind these acts was one hundred percent unconditional love; and, in return, I got so much more.

Whether a long day or a short hour, whenever I came home, it was a bang of a celebration. Crouton maintained his usual welcome: jubilant, barking, and twisting around me. He puffed up my ego bigger than Alaska and California, bigger than outer space, because every day in Crouton’s eyes, I could do no wrong in his world either. I was his prized pork chop, and as far as he was concerned, that was the only Academy Award to achieve that mattered. To grieve so intensely last week made sense.

Oddly enough, right after my dearest friend Pat said, “He’s a tough dog,” while she was dog sitting Crouton last week, he rallied. He ate! He took a short walk! And, thankfully, in my mind I nixed the vet’s Thursday appointment. It was a miracle I announced to my friend Anne at church this past Sunday, a miracle! Crouton would live, and everything would be back to normal.

Here we are a week later; Crouton has again stopped eating. He throws up and has withered away so suddenly. His breathing is labored. He has given up, as if saying, “It’s time, mommy.  We can do this, peacefully.”

Somehow those miracle days of him rallying grounded me. I am able to exhale normally again. And between not accepting Crouton’s impending death, fighting and resisting, I am at the stage of acceptance. Earlier tonight with no one home, we had our alone time. I cradled him in my arms and just wept, begging, crying, “Please don’t go. Please don’t go.”

Then I realized, Crouton, while we forged ahead, the dog that we used to call the “dancing dog” had lost his bop, hop and boogie spirit very, very slowly. Since August 16, 2013 when the doctor diagnosed his tumor, he faded like summer’s end into fall.  I know in total faith his season has arrived.

My tears diminished. The dog that lay in my arms was just a coat, emptied, worn down of each beautiful fiber.  The moment marked a span of forty seasons that began when we rescued a poodle, and he rescued us by dancing into our lives, making each step worth the effort.

“It’s time, Crouton. We can do this, peacefully,” I whispered.

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Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!

Watching Crouton earn his new set of wings

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 
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.

MOM 004[1] (2)Crouton&ME1“You understand, your family is the worst possible choice for Crouton to go home with, you understand, don’t you?”

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.stoplights 018 stoplights 0111

“I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around,

Yeah, I’m going to Jackson,

Look out Jackson town.”stoplights 012

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.stairway_heaven

We rescued Crouty and he rescued us!

Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!

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Expressing sympathy to a pet lover

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“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Matthew 5:4

I had some disconcerting news about my beloved apricot poodle Crouton a couple of weeks ago. Fast forward to last week, and I found out there is some hope in his stage 3 cancer diagnosis. The operation will tell all. I am not looking forward to the recovery period for my 12-year-old angel either…but one step at a time. At the moment, I am mulling over how I will obtain $1,200—if I go that route—with everything else going on.

Anyway, the first onset (24-48 hours) of news, I had a lot of reactions from people…in my mind, I started penning a letter with well-meaning friends in mind. And here is an open letter to anyone who cares….10217244-stack-old-book-and-candle-education

Dear Friend:

When you find out that your friend/acquaintance/neighbor or whoever is facing the passing of a pet, please do not compare the pet to a child or human being. This is a shocking comparison and one that should be avoided at all costs. It is tasteless to pit a child against a dog or other animal. I know your motives are pure and you are trying to ease the pain, but pain is pain. We are entitled to our own personal pain. Each type of pain is worthy to run its own course the way the griever sees fit. Please make room in your world for my pain. By telling me not to feel the pain, you are deleting something that is natural and normal. Please don’t strip me down because you can’t handle pain; by doing this you will multiply the pain…what you resist persists.

Even if you are not an animal lover, please do not, under any circumstances say, “It is just an animal.” My little “baby” is just that to me. Please don’t try and suffocate my love for something because you cannot empathize. I do not need empathy or even understanding, I just need “to be.” Please, in other words, let me grieve without having to stuff it, or minimize it or tweak it or fake it or…fill in the bank it. I am a mature gal. I have grieved my dad’s passing; my brother’s passing; my son’s best friend’s passing. I have grieved nine friends/people I’ve known who’ve committed suicide. I have grieved my friend Jane’s passing at 17 years old. I do not need a grieving coach. I just need someone who says something like “I hear you.” “You are entitled to your pain.”

Do not ask me if I need anything. I am a big girl. I know how to ask for help. But you can come for a friendly visit with some comfort food we can share. Maybe a phone call to set up a coffee date would be nice. A date where we can just sit and “be” and “be with” and “live” while we are alive, since living, I think, is plum important…living and grieving and feeling…feeling…feeling. I do not want to act like I do not feel. I am at my best when I feel my feelings. I’ve spent thousands of dollars sitting with therapists/coaches identifying my feelings and learning they are okay to have. If you are uncomfortable with that, please don’t come around, that is the best thing you can do for someone who is upset and grieving. In fact, it is far more than “just” grieving about a pet. It is about letting go. That’s a tough hurdle. We live working so hard to accumulate, but even if we never ever have a death to moan or possessions to forfeit, we will at some point have to let go of our last breaths. So, for Pete’s sakes, don’t rattle my journey. I keep the day-tripping adventure real because it is fueled by faith.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

Stacy

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Until next time…faith forward!

A break for freedom

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1freedom

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!thCAHCR5FDfreedom2

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.thCAFTUKWWfeedom3

Until next time….Faith forward!

Angel Strong

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. –Ephesians 2:8-9

Believe in GodWhen things hit the fan, most of the people who had been around for years bailed out. I do not blame them. For the sake of survival, in the case of  the “fright and flight” response, many times the “fright” switch goes off in the strongest of human beings because we really are “only human.” Vulnerability threads us together.

My fright and flight switch toggled but, thank God, I was in for the fight. A sense of love kept me grounded during some crucial moments. Whenever my faith plummeted, angels flew into my life to let me know that no matter how deserted I felt, I was not abandoned. Sure, from the start, there are a couple of “pins” that still remain intact. My dearest friend Pat, for whom I am eternally grateful, literally saved me from a couple of gun-in-the-mouth moments. A lot of people said they’d “be there.” Pat said she would “be there,” but really was there. Broken down vehicles, car accidents, illnesses, we knew who to call to get a last-minute lift, pick up a prescription and the like… .She never seemed inconvenienced, irritated or angry at taking the time out of her super busy life to “be there.”

Then there was my angel banker. He took hours of time out of his busy schedule. There was a very critical time (or two!) when I really thought he was going to have a complete meltdown with one of the supervisors by fighting on my behalf. I’d go into his foxhole any day.

The first significant sign, in fact, came right when everything went tumbling down. It came in form of a fellow elevator passenger. I did not know this woman nor have I ever seen her again, but I can hear her voice often.

“The world in spinning right now for everyone, darling. We all want to get off, but we have to hang on.”

Don’t ask me how she knew my world was spinning; actually thrown completely out of orbit, her words conveyed what I needed to hear at that time, which was “You are not alone.” She the first angel in a long list that kept me holding on; sometimes with bruised and bloody fingers, but grasping to survive another moment in the hopes that it would lead me to a new day unveiled with a glorious sunset…and when the clouds, rain and bad weather met the dawn, the angels that “miraculously” appeared gave me a healthy dose of Vitamin D.

Going thru a lot of angst and disappointment, I would be a liar if I said I had hope. At least in the sense that I used to have it, but I do believe that I can cruise forward, hang on even when all I have to grip is the tippy-tip of an angel’s wing.

Until next time….Faith forward!1195425090647322028PeterM_Angel_wings_5_svg_med

My name is Stacy, and I am an Analysis Paralysis Junkie

“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

486700646_5a6c7cb706I 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:

Prayer…

Positive People

Actually…four, Patience.

I am currently in remission. Things are looking up. I hope.  I’m thinking…oops, that’s one of my downfalls.

Change is the order of the day

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

Malachi 3:6

Change is inevitable. Throw crisis in and you got upheaval. Upheaval adds the blow to change’s slap. Dictionary.com goes so far as to define upheaval as a strong or violent change or disturbance. I look at it this way: crisis takes the choppy waters of change and transforms them into a tsunami.

article-1088342-028B2F8F000005DC-93_634x464And what is the natural response to a tsunami—fleeing!

Fleeing, of course, is a healthy response to a life-threatening condition, such as a tsunami, but is it an appropriate reaction to a crisis in life?

When it comes to living through crisis, I find very few cut and dry solutions. Sometimes a knee-jerk reaction to a catastrophe is escape. In terms of emotional detachment, even denial, this could be very necessary and healthy. When my world first began to unravel, more like disintegrate, denial was the first step in the ladder to reach the platform of acceptance. In a tsunami, individuals are advised to flee and find safe shelter.

Is that not what the human condition aches for? Safe shelter, whether physical, mental or emotional?  Thirteen years ago, when my dad was dying, I broke from the hospital’s ICU unit and fled out of town to a spa for a weekend. When I came back home, I was able to approach the crisis with a renewed spirit and accept the passing of my father.

This go-around, I could not physically leave. My children needed me. Whether a crisis or tsunami, are not children a mama bear’s priority? So, in the denial stage, I broke off from reality and landed in a Twilight Zone of thinking that separated me from the pain of betrayal and loss. This is what I term the sitting-in-front-of-the-TV-watching-reruns-of-Green-Acres-and-eating-Twizzlers stage.

Denial was a lifesaver and softened the blow; after a couple of weeks, the only way for me to move on and forward was to accept that nearly everything that I had found familiar, constant and stable had vanished. So why was it so hard to stop wanting to turn the clock back?

Let me again refer to Russell Bishop, an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, California, and his excellent blog that Huffington posted.

“When your life circumstances change, as they inevitably will, you get a choice — your self-talk and physical eyes will want to cling to what was, which can lead to a form of decay, while your Soul-Talk and Soul-Centered eyes will tend to embrace the change and look for ways to move into another period of growth.”

I like what Mr. Bishop says about how clinging to the past can lead to its own form of decay. Irony is, we creatures of habit are threatened by change. We view it as decay…but, in essence, by not accepting what is, we invite double decay into our worlds—the change itself and our resistance to the actual change.

I’ve always told my writing workshop students, “What you resist persists,” and this is the gist of what my point. Once we “embrace” the change, which means accepting it, we can move into another realm of growth. Perhaps, not better; perhaps, not worst; but certainly different.

Our first mistake is when we think stability is synonymous with safety. Safety, of course, is good. Safety, on the other hand, can be plain stupid. There is safety and then there is the dead mode. It can place blinders on us that make us see only the black and white world in front of us and never allow us to see the entire panoramic scene. Today, after letting go, I have redefined my entire life. I have a new confidence. A sense of freedom that I never knew existed.  In my fifth decade of life, I feel the most carefree and the youngest I’ve ever felt. A couple of friends are still hanging in with me; a lot more have fell off the radar. I have new friends. Most of all, I have unwavering hope.

For me, it is going from the “why?” to the “why not?” stage—from total unacceptance to total surrender.

Mr. Bishop talks about how stability is a myth; how everything is ever changing. To me this means that even my redefined world will change yet again at some future point.

He says, “…if you are busy trying to hold on to what was, you are playing a losing game. In my own experience over the past six months, an entire universe of blessings has opened to me, hidden within the guise of rapidly changing or even deteriorating circumstances.”

“Change is the order of the day.”

That is what Mr. Bishop says and that is my new mantra that I say without resistance and with total bliss and a sense of carefree wonder.

The process of acceptance and letting go is a leap of faith. It’s not for the meek. It’s not for the frightened it’s not for the woman or man who wakes up every morning looking behind their shoulder, worried about when the next shoe will drop. It’s for the man or women who awakens, sees his or her scaredy-cat reflection in the mirror for what it is, flexes his or her perceived muscles and whispers, “I’m vulnerable. I’m afraid,” only to roar, “Bring it on!”

1229122034um6SztFaith without courage is dead. Courageous people, who meet great adversity in the ring eye-to-eye, are strong in their faith.  They embrace the challenges with strong arms that muscle everything because they have their own personal trainer, their own personal God; an anchor that extends beyond the flesh to the soul.

Until next time, faith forward!