Cause to stumble?

This post is written with a sincere heart, but I realize it may be objectionable or even offensive to some.  For that, I apologize, but I did not have it in me to “self-censor” these thoughts.  The Bible is filled with warnings to Christians to be mindful of their actions so as not to cause another to stumble or fall in the faith. If at any point this post becomes too much, please stop reading and carry on with your life.  I will understand.  Since I started writing this, I have heard that a few Christian community leaders are speaking out against the Administration’s Family Separation policy for asylum seekers.   I am grateful, but it’s not enough, not yet.

Jesus wept over Jerusalem.

I sat at my computer several times over the last few days trying to write about what is heavy on my soul.   Each time I sat down to think about a way to start, an image presented in my brain.  It is the image from the Gospel according to Luke chapter 19 at verse 41.  Jesus wept over Jerusalem.

Luke 19:41 Good News Translation (GNT)                                                                                        41 He came closer to the city, and when he saw it, he wept over it,

This verse talks about Jesus as he is approaching near to the city of Jerusalem.  He stopped to take it all in and then he cried.

Over the years I’ve heard different preachers give sermons about this verse.  Different people chose to interpret the chapter as they saw it in their hearts. Based on a cross-reference of verses, some people said that he was crying for the future of Jerusalem, others expressed that Jesus was crying because he knew what was waiting for him in Jerusalem; others explained that Jesus cried because he knew the people of Jerusalem had hardened hearts.  I believe all three are correct, but given the circumstances of our own country today I feel that our leaders have hardened their hearts to the pain of humanity.  

Matthew 23:37 Good News Translation (GNT)                                                                                37  “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and stone the messengers God has sent you! How many times I wanted to put my arms around all your people, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me!”

To love, then, is to obey the whole Law 

I was in a bit of shock the other day.  In response to critics on the Administration’s implementation of the immigration policy, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions got to the podium and “for our church friends” explained that the reason for coldhearted treatment of persons seeking asylum was because the Bible said so. Sessions, with a smirk, went on to read such scripture to support his claim.  He read from the book of Romans 13, the first verse, which as a side note was also used by the slave owners in their attempt to justify keeping slaves during President Lincoln’s time.

Romans 13:1 Good News Translation (GNT)                                                                                    13 “Everyone must obey state authorities because no authority exists without God’s permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God.”

Even Steven Colbert pointed out that Sessions should have kept reading because verses 8-10 could have proved fascinating to hear.  

    8 “Be under obligation to no one—the only obligation you have is to love one another. Whoever does this has obeyed the Law. 9 The commandments ‘Do not commit adultery; do not commit murder; do not steal; do not desire what belongs to someone else’—all these, and any others besides, are summed up in the one command, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ 10 If you love others, you will never do them wrong; to love, then, is to obey the whole Law.”

God’s kingdom is a spiritual realm

What has shocked me the most is that Jeff Sessions and later Sarah Huckabee Sanders, had the audacity to use the Bible to give credence to the current Administration’s policies and interpretation of the law.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but the United States of America is not a theocracy.   When the Founding Fathers wrote the constitution, they wrote: We the People.  They had come here to get away from a government-sponsored religion.  I understand that we have grown accustomed to the fact that everything in this administration is “unprecedented,” but we cannot be fooled to think God ordains this.  God’s kingdom is a spiritual realm.  We need to stop using religion to excuse bad policy or bad behavior.   

John 18 Good News Translation (GNT)                                                                                              33 Pilate went back into the palace and called Jesus. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.   36 Jesus said, “My kingdom does not belong to this world; if my kingdom belonged to this world, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. No, my kingdom does not belong here!” 

Is God good enough?

I have often said that some Christians seem to create a God in their image.  If we take the Bible as a starting point, the Bible says that God created us in His image.  Where is the disconnect?  Is it faith?  I’ve noticed that the “conservative” movement feels it’s their responsibility to get God’s work done one way or another.  They think they can use the government to move God’s timeline.  When Trump moved the embassy to Jerusalem, many Christians were posting on social media “even so, come Lord Jesus.”  I saw people posting things like “ok it’s done, we are ready for you to come.” Did they think that their God could not figure out a way to get things done? Did they think they had to elect Trump to do God’s work; to get things done? God wasn’t good enough to do it on his own? 

When Evangelicals support Trump, it seems to me that they are re-creating the story of the Passion of Christ when the High Priest in Jesus time, instigated the crowds to demand Barabbas be released.  If you have read the story of the Passion, you may remember that the crowds yelled and screamed asking Pilate for the release of Barabbas and to crucify Jesus.  The High Priests didn’t want someone who was going to take away their power and bring the people closer to God; they wanted someone who was going to get them out from under Roman rule. They wanted self-government which gave them the power and control over the people.

In my experience, whenever someone quotes the Bible for a political purpose, very rarely have I heard anyone quote something that Jesus actually said.  Trump’s entourage of evangelical advisors often quote the Old Testament histories or they bring up one of the letters that the Apostle Paul wrote to one church of a specific place and time.  They don’t however, bother to explain the historical context.  If I’ve missed it, please do comment here, it is not my intention to spread wrong information.  There are many examples of Jesus teaching using parables.  One the most well-known perhaps is the story of The Good Samaritan from the Gospel of Luke chapter 10 verses 25-36. This parable teaches that spiritually is not bound by race, ethnicity or nation of origin but rather by a love of God and His creation.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan                                                                                                25 A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?  ”26 Jesus answered him, “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?”  27 The man answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with your entire mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’”  28 “You are right,” Jesus replied; “do this and you will live.”  29 But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”  30 Jesus answered, “There was once a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him, stripped him, and beat him up, leaving him half dead.  31 It so happened that a priest was going down that road; but when he saw the man, he walked on by on the other side.  32 In the same way a Levite also came there, went over and looked at the man, and then walked on by on the other side.  33 But a Samaritan who was traveling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity.  34 He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them; then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.  35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he told the innkeeper, ‘and when I come back this way, I will pay you whatever else you spend on him.’”   36 And Jesus concluded, “In your opinion, which one of these three acted like a neighbor toward the man attacked by the robbers?”  37 The teacher of the Law answered, “The one who was kind to him.”  Jesus replied, “You go, then, and do the same.”

To get the full meaning of this parable, one must understand that the Jews and the Samaritans did not get along; similar to racial and ethnic differences and tensions in our country.  According to the parable, while a priest and a Levite, saw the injured traveler, neither one stopped nor did anything to help (in a nutshell, a Levite was an assistant to the priests and caretaker of the temple). The Samaritan, however, was filled with pity and took action.  How does this passage compare to our current day issues? As Christians, how do we compare? Do we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan from the pulpits in this country?  The Samaritan used his own money to take care of someone in need; even though they were strangers.

The reason I bring these things up is not that I want to point fingers at anyone but to bring up one of the teachings I am most respectful of.  Throughout the New Testament, we noticed that new believers are compared to children; children in the faith. 

Matthew 18 Good News Translation (GNT)                                                                                   18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, asking, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”  2 So Jesus called a child to come and stand in front of them,  3 and said, “I assure you that unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.  4 The greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is the one who humbles himself and becomes like this child.  5 And whoever welcomes in my name one such child as this, welcomes me.  6 “If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose his faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the deep sea.  7 How terrible for the world that there are things that make people lose their faith! Such things will always happen—but how terrible for the one who causes them!

There is nothing more for me to add to this. There are plenty of verses admonishing seasoned Christians to take care of those struggling to believe, struggling to keep the faith. I hear it all the time, Christians who want nothing to do with organized religion because the image of Christianity projected in our society is not Christ-like.  I ask fellow Christians to do an honest self-exam.  I know there are true believers out there doing their best.  They are my friends, they are my family.  They radiate the love of God in their lives.  Is that you?  Are you careful not to cause your brother or sister to stumble, to lose faith?  Only you and God know if your life is demonstrating all the love of Christ. That love that makes people realize that God is real and a peaceful spirit can be found in Him. 

John 13:35 Good News Translation (GNT)                                                                                      35 If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

Peace be with you. Blog Jesuslove-1221444_960_720

A book that opened eyes

The previous assignment was quite a challenge for me.  It was to recreate a single day with no backstory, flashbacks, or foreshadowing.   Imagining what may be ahead is part of my nature. To look beyond what I see in front of me is part of my writing style. Everyone has a backstory; sure some may call it baggage, but regardless it does affect our actions and who we are in present day. I was feeling boxed in by staying within the confinement of the day. Every time my mind wandered to the past or the future, I had to reign myself in. 

Today’s #everydayinspiration option: Tell us about a book that opened your eyes when you were young, or younger in my case.   I chose this option because I knew exactly which book I can effortlessly talk about.  It is “The Four Agreements” by Dr. Miguel Ruiz.  I have referenced this book in part in my previous posts, and today I decided to take the opportunity to tell you a little more. 

I was given this book many years ago by a new neighbor.  Her name was Nora; we had spoken a few times, and one day as I was checking my mail, she stopped me and said: “I think you’ll like this.”  She handed me the book and walked back to her apartment.   I took it upstairs, read the cover, rolled my eyes and put it down.  It read, A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, The Four Agreements,  A Toltec Wisdom Book. 

After a couple of days, curiosity got the best of me, and I picked up the book and started reading.  After all, how many times had I heard that you couldn’t judge a book by its cover?  I read a few chapters that night, but quite frankly, I was not in the mood for the mumbo-jumbo about dreams and energy of the light and the stars, the earth and humans.  I put it away.  When Nora asked, I told her I had started to read it but got too busy with work and classes and family. 

Fast forward to a year or so later, and I was between flights at an airport looking for something to read because I had forgotten my book.  On display out front of the store I saw, From The New York Times Bestselling Author, Don Miguel Ruiz – Wisdom from The Mastery Of Love.   Bestseller? Well, whadda ya’ know?  I picked up a copy and started reading.  The four-hour flight was enough to get me hooked.  This seemed an easier read, or maybe I was ready to understand it.  When I finished, I dug out the other book and read it too.  It all made sense now.   I’ve read each book a few times, and when the author and son teamed up to explain the Fifth Agreement, I read that too. 

The “Wisdom” is not magic or beliefs of rituals with supernatural powers.  It’s actually common sense insights that we have heard before from our parents, teachers, and preachers or in this case, from Toltec healers.   The simple way the message is delivered is part of the charm.  This wisdom is broken down into an uncomplicated formula- The Four Agreements.  I will share my impression of what I’ve read.

  1. Be Impeccable with Your Word: I take great care to make sure that when I speak, I speak with integrity. I think I show immense strength when I am honest in sharing my thoughts, and I try to be clear for others to understand me.  If I disagree, I am mindful not to attack the person but to address the behavior.  I think when one is conscious of how words are used, and the effect they can have on another person,  one demonstrates respect for the power of the word. 
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally: This agreement is one I find is particularly liberating for me.  You may have noticed that on my blog I often bring up the idea that each person is living his or her own story. Each one is dealing with issues that may be foreign to the next person.  The basic premise is that nothing the other person does is because of you.  They are wrapped up in their reality; each one is the “star” if you will, of their movie.  Sometimes we are hurt by someone because of their belief system.  Once we learn that their opinion does not define us, we are free.   
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions: You probably have heard the saying that starts – When you ass-u-me you make… .  The truth is when we assume; our imagination goes beyond the reality which can lead us to distress. Clear communication is such an essential part of our lives to avoid misunderstanding, sadness, and drama.  When we make assumptions, our preconceived ideas make it almost impossible to move toward a solution.  Learn to ask the right questions that will get you the answer you seek. 
  4. Always Do Your Best: Our best changes from day to day or even from each moment.  Our best is different when we are in good health or when we are ill.  The important thing is to put in all your effort.  Don’t judge or abuse yourself in any way just because your approach is different from the mainstream.  When you do your best – whatever that means to you, be proud that you did it to the greatest of your ability –no regrets.
  5. Be Skeptical but learn to listen: This is another great truth that you’ve heard before.  Just because a leader sad so, doesn’t mean you have to jump off the bridge.  I have also written about listening to different opinions but in the end, research to confirm the truth.  Just because you are trying to be “impeccable with your word,” doesn’t mean everyone else is.  I remember a colleague used to say.  “There are two sides to every story, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle.” 

Revisiting these agreements at different times has helped me take another look at situations in my life.  I have found that they blend well with my belief system and at times I have felt “enlightened” when I am moved to practice them.  There was a time when I was giving this pair of books to family, friends, and colleagues.  I know some people were able to take it to heart and expressed gratitude.  Some even said it had changed their life by taking another look at some simple truths.

Day Fifteen: Take a Cue from Your Reader  #everydayinspiration   

This post is not a paid endorsement; just a response to an assignment as stated above.   I hope it was helpful.  Thanks for stopping by.

Book cover
The Four Agreements by Dr. Miguel Ruiz courtesy of Barnes and Nobles

My life while writing – what life?

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Brown Pelicans fishing -Wordpress

I admit that it seems that since I started writing a couple of months ago, I’ve done nothing else. I’ve taken courses at Blogging U and joined a twenty-six-day writing challenge, all with the sole purpose to get me to write every day. Between writing, editing and reading other blogs, this has become my life. I do get out to socialize a bit or to club meetings, and of course to spend time with family but I have been extremely pre-occupied; afraid to fall off the writing wagon again.

Over the past few days, I have been giving thought to structuring my days differently to make room for things I enjoy. I know daily posting is not something I can sustain indefinitely. I have great sensory awareness; I write best when I am directly affected by life around me. I need to get out to experience different things first hand. I need the smells, the visuals, the sounds to transport me to another time and place when I write. I like to feel a connection to a story.

I know I need to get back to the walks on the beach in the early morning where I can stop to watch the pelicans fishing. Getting back to yoga and the gym would be nice for health reasons. I also want to laugh with friends at karaoke or a comedy club or a movie. I’d like to people watch at outdoor festivals while listening to a cover band. I like to dance like no one is watching, think Elaine Benes on Seinfeld. I am aware that I need to live to write about life. A personal challenge for me in a new city is to get out there, “just do it.”

P. S.- Please remember that I need I ideas from my readers for my Day Fifteen assignment. Please let me know what you think I should write about. What type of post would you like to see me write; poem, an essay? Is there a particular topic you would like me to address? Please share your ideas in the comment section of this post, or you can go to my Contact Me page. https://rosalind.life/contact-me/

I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for your help.

Day Nine: Writing and Not Writing     #everydayinspiration

I write because…

I have stories to tell. I write because I want to make a difference in someone’s life. My head is full of ideas. Some are reality-based; they are the stories of people I’ve met who touched my life in some way. Some stories are what-ifs that swim around in my brain. I see something or someone that catches my eye and that sparks my curiosity. I wonder what’s beyond or why does it happen that way. Sometimes I see things and am overwhelmed with emotion, and I need to stop and sort it out.

I believe we all share a human experience and we learn from those who’ve gone before and even those who are coming up after us.  If we choose to learn, age teaches us but does not give us all the answers. Everyone who crosses our path affects our life in some way. They leave something behind – either a gift or a lesson.

I have worked with people in different aspects of my life in various roles, and I have learned a lot about the human experience. If something I write helps one person take another look at a problem in their life, I will have served a purpose.
#everydayinspiration

Another work group to improve my writing.  Please bear with me.

Mental Health stories of courage and resilience Part 4

Y is for the true You inside

This post is the last of the Mental Health stories that I will share in honor Mental Health Awareness Month.  As I’ve written earlier, these are memories I carry with me from past experiences. I hope that in reading these snapshots, you can get a glimpse of the struggles for a  person who lives with chronic and persistent symptoms of mental illness and from that glimpse, gain understanding and empathy.  This mini-series resulted from the letter “Y” in April 2018 A to Z writing Challenge. If you’d like, you can go back to Part 1 and start at the beginning.  

I met Margaret as I did many of my clients, in a state-run psychiatric hospital to be a part of discharge planning.  As I had mentioned in my last post, Margaret was on the younger end of middle age. She had been married once and had a child, a boy named Shaun. The boy’s father had full custody.  Margaret had not seen her son, now a teenager, for many years.mother-daughter-love-sunset-51953.jpeg

Margaret carried a dual diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder with manic episodes along with Alcohol Abuse and Dependency.  Hospital records indicated that there was a family history of substance abuse by both parents and siblings. Margaret had lost contact with her family. She had lived “on the streets” or in psychiatric facilities for most of her adult life.

One of the first things that Margaret wanted me to know was that she “was not like the other homeless drunks.”  She wanted me to know she had lived in a big white house overlooking the Bay in a small posh town known as a summer retreat for famous people.  As she stuck out her arm in front of herself, she fanned her hand and wiggled spread fingers to make a point,  “and, I had di-ah-mends…”   

Whenever she was having a hard time, she would repeat the story to me with the same gestures and intonations.  She wanted me to remember. It was her dream to get back to that point in her life.  It was my goal to help her get as close as possible.  She was discharged to a women’s transitional residential program with seven other women and plenty of support.  The structure proved too much for Margaret.  There were curfews, chores and according to Margaret “the staff was pushy and some of the other girls were too young or too sick.” 

We started looking for safe alternative housing.  It was the 1990s. Margaret’s only income was Supplemental Security Income and the minimum allowance of food stamps. Today she would probably get a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs for that amount.  Without a housing subsidy, it was impossible for Margaret to afford even a room in one of the many rundown boarding room houses in the city.  We applied for a rental assistance allowance through a special grant designed for downsizing the state hospitals.  While we waited, Margaret’s boyfriend, Jean found a small attic apartment in an old triple decker. 

Jean was supportive of Margaret’s treatment and personal goals. We were able to adjust the subsidy request to use at that apartment.  With a place of her own, the primary thing on her mind was to see her son Shaun again. Margaret was able to open communication with Shaun and his father.  Now she could tell his dad that she had a safe place for him to visit.  Jean was able to borrow a car to meet her son for lunch near his home. It was the first time they had seen each other since he was a small boy.   She was so excited.  She bought a stylish blouse and slacks at the Salvation Army.  For Shaun, she purchased a gift from a local department store, precursors to Target or Walmart.   They tell me she looked fabulous.  It was very stressful, but she managed to get through it without hospitalization or too much disruption in her life.

It was a year later when Shaun got his driver’s license and a car, that he was able to visit Margaret.   From the moment she got the apartment, everything she did was with Shaun in mind.  Now, her little boy was coming for Christmas!  

Margaret and I would shop for her groceries and personal items at the beginning of each month when her Representative Payee would give her spending allowance according to her budget.  Margaret had planned and budgeted for Shaun’s Christmas visit for months.  She wanted to make sure she had enough for a Christmas tree.  She was extra careful shopping because she also wanted some ingredients for a special dinner.  After we secured her monthly staples, we were done, but with very little left for a Christmas tree. 

Margaret wanted a real tree for Shaun.  She didn’t want a dusty beat-up artificial one from a thrift store.  We searched high and low on that cold New England winter day.  Finally, in the back of a tree lot, Margaret spotted the perfect one.   It was short and lopsided, but not too scraggly and at least one hundred times better than Charlie Brown’s.  To Margaret, it looked like the one at Rockefeller Center. She negotiated and got it for eight dollars.  She cried silent tears as we drove home.

At my next visit, I saw the lopsided little evergreen sitting in the corner glowing brightly pexels-photo-264988.jpegfrom the lights and ornaments that Margaret had collected from around town – donation boxes, thrift stores, and friends.  The little Christmas tree did look like it belonged in a big white house by the Bay with strings of “di-ah-mends” to light it up.  Margaret had poured years of bottled up love for her son into decorating the tiny apartment for that visit. It was Margaret’s first Christmas in a long time as well, and sometimes she would become flooded with so many emotions. It was good to hear they had a lovely time.    

Margaret was a loving mother who also happened to struggle with distressing symptoms of a major mental illness.  I tip my hat to her this Mother’s Day wherever she may be.   

Each one of us has our own evolution of life, and each one of us goes through different tests which are unique and challenging. But certain things are common. And we do learn things from each other’s experience. On a spiritual journey, we all have the same destination. A. R. Rahman  (from BrainQuotes.com)

Please check out the links below for additional information for family supports as well.  Many times family and friends want to help but don’t know how. There is also information about Peer support groups and peer mentoring programs.  No one has to do this alone.

SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration) at  https://www.samhsa.gov/

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness (a grassroots organization run by families and consumers) https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI

Mental Health Stories of courage and resilience Part 1

A to Z challenge and the letter Y

A few days ago I wrote a whimsical post about the fun side of living on the edge of reality. As I wrote that post, I made a promise to myself and to the ghosts of past clients, that I would tell their stories of courage, resilience, and survival. I knew just where to put it. I was working on the April 2018 A to Z Challenge and I worked on the story while waiting for the letter “Y” because Y is for The You Inside and I haven’t forgotten. Because these are the stories of real people, I wanted to take time and be true to them. I will post each story as a different part this week.  I also decided to hold the post a few days because, since 1949, May has been Mental Health Awareness Month. This year Mental Health Awareness Week is May 14-20, 2018.

Case Manager Vs. Life Coach

In a previous life, I was hired by the Department of Mental Health to join an army of professionals and para-professionals. We were tasked with providing community services for persons with recurring and persistent mental illness as the push for deinstitutionalization continued from the previous decade. New medications were addressing the symptoms of their illness and we were going to help them return to their communities to find a “life worth living”. I was a Case Manager. Actually, I considered myself more of a Life Coach; I was ahead of my time. I can fill my days simply writing the stories of the men and women I’ve met. Instead, I will tell you of the snapshots that jump from my memory when I see the news or hear the debate about affordable healthcare.

For some reason, she wanted to die.

Time and again, I remember the day one of “the new girls” ran to our apartment crying and looking for my mother. They needed help because their mother had just eaten some rat poison. For some reason, she wanted to die. Days later, I accompanied my mother to visit the neighbor in the psychiatric ward. I didn’t remember seeing her before that day; she looked like death warmed over. We caught a glimpse of others on the ward; they looked the same, pale gray figures, walking in circles. It was scary. I was a just beginning my teens, it was the late 1960s.

Anne

I met Anne when she was in her late thirties. She had been a clerk for IRS when she had her first major “break down”. She had become angry and the police took her away. She was a tall, woman with a large build. Her short blonde hair was starting to turn gray and she glared at me with powder blue eyes. She explained that she had been angry because no one believed her story that the Mayor had raped her when she was a child playing with his daughter. We worked together for several years after that meeting and I learned her perpetual glare was more a sign of fear than defiance. She lived in fear, never knowing when “the cops would show up and haul her away for no reason.”

It was the mid-1980s. She had a long history of psychiatric hospitalizations precipitated by psychotic thinking and consequent irrational, uncontrollable anger; this was common jargon in hospital records back then. Her mother couldn’t confirm her rape story. No one bothered to corroborate it because it was considered a symptom of her illness. She carried the diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia. She told me she had stopped her meds often because she didn’t like how they made her feel; she felt no need to elaborate. Anne had been discharged on an injectable medication to assure compliance. She agreed to move into a group home to increase her independent living skills. It was my job to get her an apartment in the community and provide support to get her out of the revolving door that kept her in and out of hospitals. Needless to say that it all sounded so much better on paper.

In our society, social drinking of alcohol is quite acceptable. Some people say it takes the edge off and they can relax. They feel more social. Unfortunately, we all know folks who are better off when they don’t drink at all. One particular year, things were going well for Anne. She had her own apartment in a nice part of town and had made friends with some neighbors who were not associated with her life as an ex-patient.  Sometimes, they would all go out to listen to a band and have a good time.

Y is for the true You inside

Anne and I would talk about how to stay safe in the city and about the risks associated with mixing alcohol and meds especially an injectable medication. Part of my job, of course, was to point out all she had achieved while on the prescribed medication. I don’t remember the exact conversation or the words I used but I do remember something I said caused her to stand up and stared down at me with her powder blue eyes, holding back her tears “you don’t understand do you? You never will. Those medications take away my YOU. THAT’s who I really am. Who I’ve been from the day I was born. It’s my dreams, who I want to be. It’s MY reality. The one on the medications, that’s not me. The one everyone says is doing soo well”, she added with a touch of sarcasm, “She is a product of the meds.”

Irrational thinking starting to sound rational

She went on to ask questions like who determines what’s irrational. Who determines what right and wrong, what is true or not? And then she started telling me that no one knows that Bill Clinton comes to visit her and loves her. She explained that they had to let Hillary stand next to Bill in her place in the news because she looks better for the TV cameras. A part of me could rationally understand what she was saying about her dreams and her meds.  I can’t begin to explain, however, what it feels like to watch someone lose their grasp on reality, know where it’s heading and feel powerless to stop it. It was her right to drink socially as it was her right to refuse medication and treatment. I’ll try to touch on the laws surrounding this in one of my other posts.
It was months before she ended up in the hospital again. Yes, the police were involved.

It was another few months before she was ready to go home again. Fortunately, we were able to save her apartment and she didn’t have to start at the beginning again, even so, it wasn’t easy to return to that place. Eventually, we found another apartment and she found another group of friends. I don’t know if she ever made peace with her You and her medications, but she certainly gave me an education that I could never repay.

Resources

You can find many more stories, resources to find services or general information for consumers and their families at the following sites:
SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration) at https://www.samhsa.gov/
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness (a grassroots organization run by families and consumers) https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI

Please look out for my other posts related to this topic.

Upside Down – A to Z challenge letter U

 

What happens when your world is upside down, and you feel like you are holding on to the edge with your fingertips? How do you manage to get back on top or at least get a better grip?

The other day I received a message from a young man who I hadn’t spoken to in about 30 years. The last time I saw him, he was 16 or 17, and I was his Youth Leader in church. Some of you may be doing the math and maybe don’t consider this a young man, but time and memory are funny that way. Your memory keeps those snapshots of the way it was, and in this situation, we both found ourselves the way we were.

He was never your typical Choir Boy or Boy Scout. In truth, he was the proverbial black sheep of his family, but he had a good heart, and one could tell he just couldn’t get out of his own way. Although his mother was a leader in our church, her son was out of reach to her and his immediate family. The rest of us tried to bridge that gap during those turbulent years and so when he reached out, I was there for him- his youth leader again.

He got straight to the point. Since I had last seen him, he had continued with his self-reported “craziness” for several years but when he met someone with “good sense”; he fell in love, and his life began to turn around. They’ve been married for twenty plus years; have three lovely children-already finishing college. He went back to church for a while, bought the house with the picket fence, the furnishings, the cars and the dog. A few months ago, without warning, his wife announced that she needed space and wanted to separate for an indefinite period. He felt he couldn’t go on without her; everything he’d accomplished had been for her. I reminded him that this was what he had always wanted and he achieved it. Not just for her, but for himself.

I listened carefully with my third ear, trying to hear what was actually going on. I don’t make assumptions, I don’t know his wife, and although I believe our core stays the same, the chances are that so much time has passed, that I don’t truly know who this young man has become. In my experience, things never come out of the blue.

When he was done, I asked a few questions. Some he wasn’t ready to answer, but he listened.  He was briefly able to step back and recognize some of the things I was talking about. Naturally, when it was too painful, he deflected, and we moved on. Put in on the back burner, I told him, and I shared some of what has helped me in times of trouble or distress.  The trick to survival is using your tools.

• Take care of yourself. Stay healthy. Get out and move – exercise. Keep your mind clear and grounded with mediation or prayer or both. If you know substances like alcohol or drugs are a trigger, don’t reach for that as your life saver. The chances are that you’ll go under to the dark side quicker.
• Be open to self-reflection but don’t beat yourself up. We all make mistakes, just be honest with yourself. Are you doing the best you can? Is this your best self?
• Try to walk in the shoes of the other person but don’t judge. Don’t take it personally. Each one of us is dealing with our own issues, battle scars, and fears. Yes, even your life partner may have difficulties communicating some things. Don’t push. Be ready to accept and respect the other person’s decision.
• Remember each day is a clean slate. We can make it what we want. Eleanor Roosevelt, one of my favorites said “With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” from Brainyquote.com

It happens to all of us. How do you get back on top when your world is upside down?

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AtoZ Challenge P is for PRECIOUS

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FROM MY MEMORY BOX

PRECIOUS GEMSTONES
(A Tribute to my mother)

Precious gemstones, sparkling blue-green
Embedded in chiseled ivory
Shimmering reflections of the sea
Vibrant and alive; brave and defiant.

Gold sun flecks, intricate details
Dancing on the waves of life
Hidden secrets of tales untold
Projection of love’s warm, gentle kindness.

Behind the windows darkness lives
Barely a flicker of light-hope
Hear the sounds, smell the smells, hands touch,
If only the window could open wide.

The looking glass is just a blur
Where did that young woman go now?
Long dark tresses, smooth satin skin,
Life of the sea and sunlight in her eyes.

I am here, alive in the dark
Behind the windowpanes of green.
Living life with other senses
Sounds of the sea, warmth of the sun, love’s touch.

This dark place has not smothered me
I am strong and willing to live
My loved ones still have need of me
I direct their paths and provide comfort.

The will was there, but the time had come
A Valley to cross, the River so deep
A choir in need of a new voice
Not my will but Thine be done, I bid farewell.

The dark shades were now lifted
The Saving Grace within her sight
At His gates, she marveled.

AtoZ Challenge- K is for …

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So many choices today! Lots of fun K words that I can play with. K is for Kardashians is one story that I won’t address because it would prompt me to create a sarcastic, judgmental blog. Sorry, there is something about DIY royals that makes me want to shut off the TV. Their only claim to fame is money, outrageous behavior and in some cases, good looks. How people eat that up, I’ll never understand.

I was not a fan of the Free Willy movies either, but I could talk about those elegant black and white giants gracefully dancing in the open sea with a Tchaikovsky ballet playing in the background. However, I don’t like to think about when they get hungry and stop frolicking to grab a snack of penguin or baby seal. There is a reason they nicknamed Orcas “KILLER Whales.”

I prefer to tell you stories of when a group of us got together every Thursday for KARAOKE. Only about 3 of our friends really stepped up to the mike to pour their hearts out each week to remember the songs that helped them transition to adulthood. I’m more of a wind-beneath-your -wings kind of a person so that every now and then I would sing “back-up” for one of our soloists. As stories go, a younger generation started coming around wanting to join in on the good times. They complained however that the DJ only played old songs. Someone with a different sound soon replaced him, and we moved on. Another club, another DJ but the energy dwindled. We moved on to other things, but I was fun while it lasted. We still remember those days with fondness.

What about KARMA? This idea that has become part of our “everyday vernacular” as my English teacher would say. It’s a religious belief that our actions determine our future state – in this life or the next. People like to say “KARMA is a B*+*% “ but don’t really know why. Every day we see those bad things happen to good people and vice versa. I remember when things were not going well at work I would tell my colleagues, “I can feel my KARMA fraying around the edges. We need to figure this out because I’m not going anywhere with frazzled Karma! “. Totally inappropriate use and yet they understood. Go figure.

KARMA brings me to K is for KINDNESS. Another favorite truism of mine is some variation of “be kind to everyone you meet for the other person may be fighting a battle you know nothing of.” A universal truth is that no one knows what is going on in our heads or our hearts – except ourselves. To paraphrase Dr. Miguel Ruiz’s Toltec Wisdom, each one of us is the star of our own movie, and we struggle to act our parts the best we can. I have worked and personally know many people who put on a mask to hide the pain of their struggle or fears. I’m one of those that believes that no one enjoys being miserable there is usually an underlying stressor. I recognize that I can’t save the world but one act of kindness one person at a time goes a long way. I have witnessed that.

I know I am a shameless dreamer and do-gooder, like KERMIT the Frog – which also happens to start with K.

What are your thoughts about KARMA and KINDNESS?

AtoZ Challenge – JOURNEY

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“Life is about the JOURNEY, not the destination.” I consider this quote one of my favorite expressions which continually renews the way I look at life. Whenever I’m with someone who is planning a wedding or a great vacation, I always remind them to enjoy everything leading up to the big event because it’s all over so quickly. People today spend countless hours and dollars planning for that special day, but then they are too busy or tired to enjoy it. I love to look at old photos of fun times, but I also warn people about trying to capture too many moments with the phone, you may be missing the opportunity for adventure or special moments that you can’t rewind. Laugh about the stressors and mishaps for someday they’ll be great stories to tell the grandchildren or reminders for yourself before you put your head down to sleep.

I often remember people that I’ve met on my JOURNEY and I acknowledge that whether it was for a moment or a season, a blessing or a lesson; those who’ve crossed my path have touched my life and added a bit to who I am today. One friend was especially attentive to enjoy the JOURNEY and life’s offerings. “Why stress about where it’s going tomorrow if it’s wonderful now?” Over the years, I’ve come to understand the importance and adapt that philosophy to my life and my JOURNEY.

To give proper credit, I went searching for the author of the quote that has become such a part of our everyday language (and of course memes). I found that Ralph Waldo Emerson is often credited with “Life is a journey, not a destination” but in fact, several ministers and Bible teachers of the time used similar language in journals or teachings. https://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/08/31/life-journey/

It makes sense to me that such a quote would also have religious connotations. I’m glad some preachers and teachers have tried to redirect their communities. If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you may have guessed that my JOURNEY has been via a road with twists and turns. For part of my life, I was teaching that the most important thing in life was the final destination on the other side of those Pearly Gates. For that, I’ve apologized.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped to take a break and look around me. I noticed that some people were too focused getting to the Promised Land, the mansions, walking on the Streets of Gold that they lost the purpose of their JOURNEY and forgot the words of Jesus Christ. “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me in. I needed clothes, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you looked after me. I was in prison, and you came to visit me.” … ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’Matthew 25:35-40.

After a while, I took up my satchel and changed direction –  same JOURNEY, different route. Rather than waiting to see all the wonders “over yonder,” I’ve decided to enjoy JOURNEY, and make the most of the blessings in my simple life.