Surviving Elementary School

“Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.”           ~Susan Taylor

I don’t typically watch the news.  I have a computer and a T.V. without cable, or even basic access.  I stick to Netflix, and I get my teeny bit of “news” from Philip Defranco, on YouTube.  That’s about as much as I can take.  In 2009, I had a therapist tell me to stop watching the news.  I took her advice.  I had, at the time, become overwhelmed, baffled, and distraught over the Shaniya Davis story.

I couldn’t understand how, someone could do that to their daughter.  I couldn’t understand how someone could do those things to a 5 year old.  I was starting to drown in a sea of headlines and news reports of just how evil this world is.

And it is true.  This world can be a very evil place.

I have spent a good chunk of the past few years overwhelmed by an issue that the rest of the world seems underwhelmed about: sexual violence.  Such violence is beyond an epidemic in our world, and repeatedly, our response is victim blaming, and sweeping it under the rug.  It makes me cringe to know that 1 our of 4 girls, and 1 out of 6 boys will be the victims of sexual abuse by the age of 18.  How do people walk around in their own little bubbles, oblivious of something so heinous?

I don’t know, they just do.

In some of the work I have done, I have teamed with people who had similar experience and ambition, wanting to do something on the matter.  What have I found?  That there are victims out there working toward solving a problem, without even having dealt with the issue in their own lives.  It is like someone with a still gaping and bloody bullet wound trying to fight for gun control.

First, you need to address your own trauma.

The hard part is, no one else is stepping forward to solve the issue.  All of those people who’ve never had to suffer through the trauma have no interest in dealing with something so dark and ugly.

This is just what I have found.

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I look around me, and I see people becoming passionately driven about the issue of guns and asking themselves, “what could of we have done to prevent the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012?”

I would never venture to claim that this question is not important, pertinent, or should not be asked.  I do, however, think that it is too soon to be torn apart by these issues.  Our hearts are still breaking from what happened, and the details that continue to unfold.  Our stomachs are still twisted by what the children of Sandy Hook must’ve witnessed that day.  Chills are still shooting down our spines to imagine what evil it takes to commit such an act.

How have we allowed this to lead to a divide?  What the survivors need right now, is a community to come together in support around them.  They certainly have a long, tough road ahead of them.

Repeatedly, through the past several years we have witnessed tragedy and allowed it to, even for a short time, bring us together in mourning and solidarity.  For the first time in my life, I have witnessed the opposite happen.  That is what breaks my heart now.

I think ALL of us will agree that something has to be done to attempt to prevent these massacres from happening again, no matter what side you’re on.  What that “something” looks like will start to materialize as we work on the matter.  I trust that.

At this point, I don’t care what that “something” is just yet.  I am still far too stricken with grief to start thinking strategy.  Am I alone in this?

U

I look at the faces of the victims, and my throat starts to tense.  I hear their stories, and my eyes are filled with tears.  I cannot look at December 14th with a hard heart.  I find peace in my belief that these children are safe and happy now.  I find strength in the stories of heroism in the adults that fought for these kids with their very lives.

I remember too, those who survived, and I give them this message: you can overcome your trauma and live a fulfilling life.  This may be a struggle, but it does not have to defeat you.  This dark moment in your lives can become a place of strength, and a place of motivation.  You are in the thoughts and prayers of so many, and we will still have your hands when the heavy realization hits you of just how blessed you are to have faced and survived a trial that many will never even have to face.

To the rest of us, I say: stand down.  This is not a fight.  We are worn and we are weary.  We have faced far too much as a country this year.  Yes, we must address this issue, but please, for God’s sake, can we take a moment to grieve first?

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To all of us, I plead:  Do not let this destroy us.  We will march forward and we will advocate for the changes necessary to prevent such tragedy in the future, but first allow yourselves to grieve.  Before you stand up to fight, address your own trauma.  Make sure that when your time comes, when your voice rises, that you are in a place where you are strong enough to argue your side.  So many times, I have seen angels fall short here, and lose the drive to carry on.  We can heal.  We can overcome.  But first, we must grieve.

A heart must finish breaking before you can begin to mend it.

It is true that this world can be an evil place, but what is also true is that each of us has the ability to contribute to the good.  If you are going to pour fervently into this world, be sure that what you are pouring is positive.

mended heart

Resources:

Post Traumatic Growth

NY Times PTSD Article

The Power to Change the World is Already in Your Hands

I’ve had an incredible year, and for the first time in a looonnnnggggg time (if ever), I hate to see the year go.  But I do know that a new year brings new beginnings, and I’m so excited to see what God has in store for me, because I know it will be good.

Yesterday, for the maybe 5th time, I watched the documentary, “I Am,” an incredible film that has changed my life.  It got me thinking about how my part in this world can change everything.  It made me realize that I don’t need power, or money, or my own non-profit organization to change the world.  We are all interconnected, and my very mood has an affect on something else going on in this world.  All I want to do is pour positivity and love into this world.  Knowing that my heart’s signals set off a butterfly effect on this planet, makes me want to keep a smile always on my face.

When I was miserable, I thought I was the only one suffering.  When I consider that my life changes, might’ve changed some vibration in this world for the better, it makes me appreciate my new happiness that much more.  Someone else’s life might’ve changed for the better with mine.  Beautiful.

“There are risks and costs to action.  But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”  ~John F. Kennedy

In that respect, I made a decision for my New Year’s resolution.  I don’t often make resolutions, and when I do, they do not look like weight loss or habit-changing.  I want to contribute goodness to this world.  I want to do my part to set a positive chain of events in motion, every. single. day.  I made the decision to go out of my way to practice a random act of kindness every day for the year 2013.

My prayer, is that God presents me daily with an opportunity to help someone, and that in doing so, I start to make a shift for the greater good.

I will be writing about this experiment/resolution here, but I will not specifically name who I helped or how.  I’m not doing this to receive kudos.  I’m doing this to show those around me that even the little things can change the world.  And to suggest that maybe others try this as well.  I will be writing about it to discuss how this venture helps transform my life and perspectives in the process.

i am the documentary

A Little Old Lady With A Walker Once Taught Me…

One afternoon, I was sitting with my mother on a bench at the front of one of those cafeteria restaurants.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one of those, but the elderly seem to frequent them.  The food is awesome and affordable, and the only downside is having to wait in a (sometimes very long) line for your food.

Anyway, as we were sitting there, a little old lady with a walker started walking into the restaurant.  Right behind her, a woman was pushing an elderly relative in a wheelchair.  She must’ve been unable to see how far away the lady with the walker was, because she accidentally hit the little old lady in the back of her ankles.  As the lady stumbled, I watched with horror, unable to figure out what I could do, and afraid that she was about to fall to the ground.  Though the lady stumbled, she did not fall.  She was startled, but caught her breath, and walked on.

As she was stumbling, something stood out to me.  Not knowing whether or not she was bound to impact against that floor, every step she took, she said “Thank you, Jesus!  Thank you, Jesus!”  That struck me as bizarre.  I remember leaning over to my mom and whispering, “If she almost fell, why would she be thanking Jesus?”  My mom’s answer was simple, but powerful, “I guess because she didn’t fall.”

At the time, I thought, wow that’s really stupid.  I mean she almost just fell, I would be pissed at that lady who almost knocked me over!!!

My, how time changes us.  When I look back now at that powerful, teachable moment I’m amazed by that woman’s response.  I almost envy it now.  I think wow, what a positive perspective to look at something like that and see the good in it.

I think we could all learn a lesson from that little old lady with a walker.

All I used to look at was the negative.  Something small wouldn’t turn out my way, and my whole LIFE was OVER!  Such drama.  All I could see around me were the things that were going wrong.  All I could have seen, had I been in that old lady’s shoes, was the fact that some reckless lady who doesn’t know how to push a wheelchair almost plowed me over.  I’m a defenseless old lady, I would think.  How could she?! 

angry old lady

How often we look at something and lament over what didn’t go well.

How little we look at a stumble, and rejoice in the fact that we didn’t fall.

It is my prayer for myself and for all of us, that we become a little more like that old lady.

Tonight, on my way home from the gym, I stopped at a red light.  Suddenly, there was chaos right in front of me.  Two cars almost hit each other, and then neither one could decide who should drive away first.  In a fury of frustration and anger, the driver in one of the cars threw up his hands, beat his steering wheel, and spit furiously what I can only assume were violent expletives.  There were two cars who almost hit each other, and the drivers were enraged by the series of events.  Two cars that almost hit each other, almost.

Safe, with both cars still in tact, they drove away cursing the universe for the negative thing that just happened, never seeing the pain from which they had just been spared.

How can we let one small unpleasant event dictate our days, or even our lives?

How can we overlook all of the little successes and blessings, thinking nothing of them?

That little stuff we’re overlooking… that’s the powerful stuff.

I look back on that small event at a cafeteria restaurant in North Carolina with gratitude.  At the time, it seemed like nothing, but it stayed lodged in my memory through a lot.  I am grateful that I can look back at that moment now and understand what that lady was thinking when she thanked Jesus repeatedly as she stumbled.

Wow!  Thank God I didn’t fall!  I may have stumbled, but I didn’t fall!

always-be-grateful

I Stand Amazed

Driving home from a meeting tonight, I listened to my favorite group.  They’re called All Sons & Daughters.  This song came on: (close your eyes and listen)  

This song brings me to tears.

Part of it is the way the describe the heart ache of watching Jesus on the cross, and the way the promise of His return is the only thing that kept them holding on.  I totally understand this.  It automatically sends me to a place where I think about that sacrifice that He made for me.  For me!  How totally absurd is that?  I’m not even a smudge on the pages of history.  I’m just one of billions of people walking this planet.  But wow, He had me in mind while making that sacrifice.  He wanted to set ME free.  Of course, He wanted to set all of us free, but  we weren’t just faces in a crowd to Him.  We weren’t just another number among the billions.  He had each of us in mind on that day.  And there was this pain.  Can you imagine what it was like to watch Him die?  How it would make your heart ache to see someone you love go through that?  But they held on, believing He would return.  And here I am today, holding on with the same promise in mind.  I never used to understand why people would look forward to the return of Christ, but I get it now.  I would be so happy to get to be near Him.

By the time the song is over, I’m so aware of that sacrifice and what it meant for me.  I am so humbled by Him making the choice to make such a sacrifice to set me free.  I know that everything I have, I have because of God.  All of it.  All I want is to be the best person I can be, for God.  I can never be worthy of what He did for me, but I want to be as close as I can possibly be.  I want nothing more than to be a good person for the sake of trying with everything I have in me to repay this debt.  I know I cannot repay, and He wouldn’t even want me to.  He didn’t do it with our compensation in mind.  He did it knowing that our freedom was the reward.  Can you imagine how joyous it is to see someone you love set free from the bondage of this dark world?

I give you all the glory, God.  I can never repay You, but I pray you see my heart and know how grateful I am to my very core.  I’m nothing without You.  Everything I have, I have because of You.  Everything I have accomplished, is because of You alone. I want nothing more than to know You more and live a life that gives You glory.  I want nothing more than to serve You.  I am forever indebted to You, and forever grateful for You.  I love You with everything I have, every fiber of my being.  I am Yours.

I have this ache within me, knowing that I can never repay God for all that God has done for me.  What a humbling feeling.

The Difference With God

The argument I hear a lot from people who get offended by my spiritual beliefs is, “What kind of God lets . . . happen?”

Now, let me start by saying this, I don’t argue about my spiritual beliefs, though I often find that people want to argue with me.  I don’t have a problem with people believing or not believing whatever they please.  I’m not here to change anyone’s mind.

I do however, argue with myself.  I pose these questions to myself, and to God, and give them serious thought.  I’ve thought about the question a lot.  Since I’ve been reading The Shack, I’ve had an opportunity to really think about the answer to that question.

This is a bit of a SPOILER ALERT, but the book takes an opportunity to teach us that, due to free will, bad things often happen because people make bad choices.  After a year spent in treatment, healing, and acceptance, I finally do accept that as an answer for some of the bad stuff.  Certainly, life would be meaninglessly dull were it not for free will.  We would all be the same, doing exactly the right things, the same things.  We’d be drones.  The relationship between us and God would be more of a dictatorship.

The truth is that people only come into a relationship with God through a choice, often made in a moment of desperation.  When I chose to know God, I was in a place where I had nothing else to lose.  Well, maybe one thing could’ve been lost; my life.  I knew that I had had glimpses of life, or happiness, and I wanted those more than I wanted to die.  And even though I had NO IDEA what a relationship with God would mean, I walked into the uncertainty knowing it was my only hope.  For the first time in my life, I made a commitment.

We come into this relationship, because we make a choice between what was and what could be.

I don’t want to be a puppet.  My relationship with God means so much more, since it was I who wanted in.  It was never forced on me.  We all, at some point, have that moment, that way in.  We all make this decision.

That being said, free will is both a blessing and a curse.  Because we are not forced into goodness, or perfection, we also have opportunities to choose darkness.  Because of that choice, people can be hurt or lost, for seemingly no reason at all.  Someone chose to hurt me as a child, and I was left to clean up the wreckage because of their choice.  This is common.

I kn0w that in the midst of pain, it is hard to accept this answer, but after a long examination of my beliefs, I do agree.

In my head, I’m still left to make sense of the things that aren’t caused by a bad person or a bad choice:  An illness.  A miscarriage.  A natural disaster.  The list could go on; a list of all the things that cannot be explained away by free will, and the nagging question: why?

What repeatedly arises is the difference, for me, between a life without God and a life with God.

I used to blame God for everything.  Why I even believed in God is still baffling to me, because I was angry at him, and blamed him for everything that went wrong.  Oh the moments I spent actually cursing at God with a grimace on my face and an angry finger pointed to the sky!  I do not understand why I believed in a God that was so horrible to me.  Why not just NOT believe in him at all?

But I did, and I gladly took every chance that arose to hate him.

At this time in my life, I looked at every bad thing as a punishment, or simply an act of a spiteful God.  Because I’ve had a chance to work through healing, I see things differently now.

I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore.  I used to start cursing at God if I dropped my books.  No big deal, but there I was having words with this hateful God of mine.  Those things don’t get to me anymore.  A pause.  A deep breath.  And there I am, picking those books back up.  No. Big. Whoop.  That changes a lot.

I see the value in free will, and I understand that there are people who use that to accomplish negative, and even evil acts.

Most importantly, I see the error of my own ways.  Working the twelve steps certainly gives me some perspective on the destruction I have left in the wake of my bad decisions.  I see now that I can’t control what others have done to me.  Wounds are left behind by sick people.  I was sick once too.  I hurt people too.  My job now isn’t to dwell on fixing what others have done to me, it is make amends for the things that I have done to others.  They call it “keeping your side of the street clean.”  I do my part in making the world a better place, making up for the hurts that I have caused, and doing things differently now.

Yes, I see things very differently now.  And when I think about the things that cannot be explained away by free will, I know that these are life’s experiences that make us who we are.  We have to struggle.  We have to face hard stuff.  Who would we be without these hardships?  These tragedies?  Just as we would be without free will: drones.  We would have nothing to bring us together, or make us unique.  We would be weakly little things, incapable of facing anything.

When I think about how strong I am because what I have faced, I know I wouldn’t trade a single experience.  I have the ability to say that I am a survivor.  I have a faced adversity, and come out on the other side of things; stronger because of it.  I also know, because of my past, that you can’t put anything before me that I won’t be able to conquer.

Is Time on My Side?

“Lose not yourself in a far off time, seize the moment that is thine.”  ~Friedrich Schiller

I heard a song recently that brought up a lot of new emotions for me.  Some of you may remember it “Graduation (Friends Forever)” by Vitamin C.  Don’t judge.  I don’t know why I download this crap, but I do.  It started playing, and at first I wanted to turn it to the next song, but I didn’t.  As I listened, it wasn’t far into the song that I burst into tears.  I don’t know, blame it on hormones.  It is a pretty awful song, but as I listened to it, it suddenly hit me how old the song was, and how old I am.  I started thinking about how life was when I was in high school, and how it felt like every single day was going to last forever.  Days go by so quickly now, that years are over before a blink or a breath have the opportunity to complete themselves.

“The clock talked loud. I threw it away, it scared me what it talked.”  ~Tillie Olsen

 

I have been struggling a lot lately with this, as I do twelve step work.  I suddenly feel like all the time I spent “living it up” was time wasted.  All the years that actually last for a minute, are gone, and I barely remember them.  Now time flies so quickly that I see people around me getting married, having kids, having second and third kids, doctorates being earned, marriages ending in divorce, and/or lives ending, period; and I’m left with my head spinning, still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life.

There’s this sinking feeling in my gut, like everyone who was ahead of me by a small head start has now nearly completed their lives, and my proverbial clock is ticking.  Not even my reproduction clock!  I can’t even support myself at this point.  It is my death clock.  My death clock is now ticking, people.  This is serious.

“Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.”  ~Dion Boucicault

I get that my life hasn’t been a waste.  It took a lot of ups and downs to land me in the spot where I am now standing, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have the growth, perspective, and relationship with God that I now have.  My relationships with everyone around me have improved.  How could they not?  We’re maturing.

I know myself well enough to know that this is what it took to get me here, and nothing short of it would have sufficed.  I am stubborn and hard-headed and feverishly determined.  It is just that this is the first time I have started to put those qualities to use toward something productive.

“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” ~Abraham Lincoln

Look, I matured an unnatural amount with in an incredibly short period of time.  In the time between last August and now, I have learned so much, and evolved so much.  I love who I am, and the opportunities I have had are such an incredible blessing that nothing I could ever do would be enough to thank God and my loved ones for the support it took to have them.  I also realize what a privilege it is to have had the kind of treatment it takes to overcome the things I have struggled with.  I never forgot that while I was in treatment.  I was pained to see what a small portion of the population has access to that kind of healing, and I had to keep pushing forward because I knew if I wanted to be a part of any positive change in this world, I had to start with a positive change in me.  It took a lot to accept such a huge gift.

So now, in the interest of candor, I will tell you what I face.

As soon as Vitmain C’s song ended, Eminem came on.  “Lose Yourself.”  I know this was a God wink.  😉

 

It is like God was saying: you used to have your whole life ahead of you, but time has passed, and before you even know it, your whole life will be behind you.  Time to jump in with both feet.  This is not the time to hold back or freeze up.

I gave you this life, LIVE IT!  This is your chance, USE IT!

“Let him who would enjoy a good future waste none of his present.” ~Roger Babson

Failure and Success

Here is an important message for those around me, and that I also need reminding of constantly:

Failure and success are not determined by whether or not we fall.  Falls are inevitable in any journey.  Failure and success are determined by whether we stay down for the count, or get back up and keep moving forward.  Falling isn’t supposed to cripple or kill us, it is supposed to teach us how to be stronger as we navigate the  path ahead.