Seeking Serenity

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Maryland, photo by April E. Sutton on her Samsung tablet

It was a six-hour drive to Maryland  for my grandson’s musical, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.

The beginning of the trip was through a deluge.  Nearer my destination, the sun came out, and I took note of the early spring life.  The underbrush was dressed in early spring green, but the Red-bud Trees I knew to be along the route were not in bloom.  I hoped the Red-bud trees would be in bloom on my return trip.   At my son’s home, I noticed cherry trees and other flowering trees in bloom.

It was a long trip for a play, but my grandson’s delight made the trip worth while.  I did not see much of my grandson, because the play, the cast party, and striking the set took most of his waking hours.

On the way home, am happy to report, the Red-bud trees were in bloom.   I hope they are hearty enough to retain their blooms through the spring snow we have on the way.

I hope I was tired, but more likely I was in a downward spiral, when I got home.   (Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.) Hubby was on top of everything, so I should have been happy.  He put an ad for our mobile home in the newspaper, and got calls from a couple of interested parties.  He had a nice dinner ready for me when I got home. The neighbor got rid of most of the trash, leaving only the trimmings from his evergreen tree.   Hubby vacuumed and mowed getting us ready for the appointment with the house hunters.

After a second good night’s sleep in my own bed, I was feeling better.  I went to the YMCA for some water aerobics and out to lunch with the girls.  Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in other people’s problems, whether problems of family or friends, or problems of Syrian children in need of a champion that make my liberal heart bleed.

These are times when the Serenity Prayer is needed.

Calligraphy Complete Serenity Prayer

Listen to Your Center

At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want. - Lao Tzu

To someone struggling to figure out what their purpose in life is, the suggestion that, somewhere inside of you, you know is exasperating.  Everyone, at one time or another, asks the questions of:  Who am I?  What do I want?  These questions are often about finding passion, purpose, or happiness.  How do you find your center?

 

 

Proceed by sitting quietly, away from the distraction of television and radio, electronic media of all kinds, and conversation with others.  Enjoy a sunset, gaze into the flames of a fire, watch clouds drift by, listen to the rustle of the leaves and see where your mind goes.

Write upon waking.  Write three pages, by hand of anything that comes into your mind, without censorship.  After several weeks, go back and see what you have written.  Those thoughts that flit through you brain onto the page that you have forgotten as soon as you went on to the next thought, will show you what you are tolerating, what you choose to ignore, what you are struggling with, and what your deepest desires are.

Yes, the answer is at the center of your being.  Be still, and listen.

Heart Break

When my husband was so clingy and wanted to kiss all the time, I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  Was this a part of getting accustomed to retirement?  I was busy with the final details of our move into our completely renovated house.  There were several trips to the house with smaller item.

The first time I realized there was really something serious going on was when my husband asked me if the family knew me while on our way to a family reunion.  I assured him that the family had known me for several years.  That was reassuring enough.  As we talked, I realized he thought I was just a driver.

When we got home, we went to the doctor.  I had never heard of Capgras syndrome, a form of dementia that includes delusions of those you love being replaced with identical copies.  My instructions?  Don’t try to argue him out of the delusions, it will only upset him.

My husband has told my copies how much he loves and misses me.  He is upset that after working a lifetime to give us a good life, and now being retired, that I am now gone all the time.  We are supposed to be traveling together, and enjoying the good life.  He expresses concern that I don’t trust him enough to let him help me with whatever is causing me to go away.

I have assured him I will make sure there is always someone here to help him out when I can’t be with him.  He is worried about all the strangers in the house, and wonders why we moved here. Worried about others in the house using his towel, he always gets a fresh one out of the linen closet before he showers.  At dinner, he wonders where the others are.

My husband will call me, when my copy is with him.  He got very upset when my phone rang at home during one of these calls, so now I turn the ringer down.  He also send text messages so I can call him back.

There is hope.  There are drugs and behavioral approaches to treat this syndrom.  The main goal is to make him as happy as I can, for as long as I can.

Note:  This is a fictionalized account.  I do have a friend who was recently dianosed with Capgrass.  I had never hear of this condition.  

 

 

The Maddening Way

It is just infuriating!  It doesn’t matter what else happens, the judgement is made, the conclusion is reached, the outcome ordained.  Spending time on trying to figure out why is futile.  At some time in the past, a conclusion was made, and fate was set.

The really maddening thing, is that the conclusions reached may actually have little to do with objective reality.  Each judgement is entirely subjective, and may be based more upon a preconception, a bias, or a prejudice, than anything verifiable.  Conclusions often have more to do with what is happening in a person’s head, than in any actual actions.

People have a unique ability to create whatever story suits them, and ignore whatever doesn’t fit, and are constantly on the lookout for anything that supports their viewpoint, true or not.  Even knowing this, believing this, is not enough to change a mind.

When this type of thinking is directed at yourself, the only choice is a suspension of believe.  Rather than believe the victimizing story you have been telling yourself, you need to stop judging yourself, and act like you really are the person you want to be.  The way to good mental health is to challenge your fears, and assumptions.  Believe other people when they say good things about you.

When this type of thinking is directed at you from others, you may never be able to change their minds, but you do not have to accept negative judgments.  Stop wasting time analyzing and worrying about the judgments of others.  Instead of wasting your time worrying about what others think about you, use your time to live your life the way you want to, to accomplish what you want to do.

Tragedy Strikes on the heal of Thanksgiving

Outside a Mosque in Huntington, West Virginia the morning after the Presidential Election.

Freedom of religion doesn’t exist in every country.  Most Americans take their religious freedom for granted.   If Americans participate in a religion, it is their business.  If they want to drape snakes across their shoulders while they pray, or kneel before a cross or not before taking their seat in their chosen house of worship no-one really cares.

There is a very small minority of Americans who see it as an attack of their religious freedom to be forced to tolerate a Christmas tree, and a Menorah side by side in a public display, but even worse is to be denied these displays of faith.  (I know of no Islamic High Holy days that occur near the time of Christmas or Hanukkah.)

American freedom of religion is the bedrock of our American culture.  The first school lessons on our history, is of people coming to the Americas for religious freedom, and joining in prayer with the native population in Thanksgiving.

A country may not be able to prevent its citizens from quietly following their religion under the radar of authorities.  Most American residents can’t imagine living in a country where they can’t freely and openly worship in a manner of their choosing, and would be outraged at such treatment.

We have just been through a very divisive political season.  Muslims, a religion, not a country, was named as the enemy.  Harassment of Muslims has reached an all time high.  What difficulties Ohio State attacker Abdul Razak Ali Artan may have had is not the point.  He lives in a country where religious freedom is promised, and Artan felt he could not pray without fear.  Eleven people were injured, and the country is frightened.

Deportation and confinement of Muslims are methods of control that have been promised. The candidate that wanted to partner with Muslims in America has lost the election.  President Elect Trump has asked for the violence against Muslims to be stopped the news reports, but many more tweets are coming from President Elect Trump regarding the voter fraud that has resulted in his loss of the popular vote.

Obviously Artan was a very disturbed young man, but does not meet the definition of a warrior.  My friends and I watched the news of the Ohio State University tragedy with sorrow while having lunch.  Thank God it wasn’t worse.

ISIS is taking credit for this tragedy, but I don’t think they had anything to do with it.  How about you?

 

Now is Sanctuary

It has been a week!  A wonderful, noisy, busy, wild week.  Grandchildren were here.   We sewed, cooked, and played.  Nobody slept enough.  We were just working things out and establishing a routine when the week ended.  Each of the three children had their own sanctuary from separation and homesickness.  My grandson found sanctuary in his electronic devices.  Little sister found sanctuary in drawing and coloring.  Older sister found sanctuary doing the hair of her Americn Girl doll (practice for her own hair).

Oma (me) found sanctuary in being surrounded by people I  love.  Instead of dwelling on the frustrations of life, I focused only on them.  I focused on each moment present with them.

Live fully in the present moment, appreciate the feel of fabrics and surfaces, focus on the people and emotions of the present.  In my experience, living in the present moment is the best way to release stress and anxiety.    Maybe some examples would help illustrate.

Going into a job interview?  Put on your best smile, it’s show time.  Instead of borrowing trouble over how you will be judged wanting, spend your time really focusing on your surroundings and the interviewer.  You say you aren’t prepared. That is the past.  Focus on making that connection when you meet.  Focus on the interviewer.  Listen to each comment and question.  Save your analysis for later.

Confronted with a phobia?  Spiders?  Notice the spider’s color, its pattern, how it weaves its web, what may have been snared.  You may become so fascinated that you forget your fear.

The present moment can be your sanctuary, if you banish the mistakes and hurts of the past, and refuse to fret over the future.

(Picture  of the grandchildren playing Fantasia on Xbox.   Included with permission of Mom.)

Nightmare

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Living Nightmare

I had a dream last night.  First I was at a party, talking to another guest about how working in her shop must be fun, next thing I knew my friend, our hostess, was called about me not showing up for work on a Saturday.  The next Saturday I was walking with my friend while moving into a new house, when she got another call from the shopkeeper.  Again I had apparently not shown up for my shift, on yet another Saturday.  My dogs were pulling at their leaches like sled dogs, and I mentioned that sometimes I worry they are going to choke themselves.  Once at the new house, I put my dogs out on their leashes outside so I could unpack.  Suddenly my friend called the shopkeeper, because I lied to her about my worry that my dogs would choke themselves.  Yes, it was past time to wake up.

I guess as nightmares go, it wasn’t such a bad dream.   It is not really known why we dream.  It is believed that dreams help us to process information, incorporate memories, even solve problems.  Throughout human history we have searched for meaning in our dreams, and yet some scientists believe they are only random firing of synapse that have no meaning in and of themselves.  Maybe the firing of synapse has no meaning, except that the brain is working, but humans have searched their dreams for meaning, inspiration, and prophecy throughout time.  Maybe the stories we tell ourselves about these random firing of synapse are the meaning, and a guide to our mental health.

There are many books and websites that are devoted to unraveling the mysteries contained in our dreams.  I have read so many of them that I thought I should hang out a shingle, “Dream Interpretation.”  I mentioned this to a family member, who made it quite clear that she would be ashamed of me running such a scam.   But if I believe dreams have meaning, is it really a scam?  A place where you can talk a little about your dreams, what’s going on in your life, in the world, and what it could mean for you.  That isn’t fortune-telling or even astrology. Hanging out my shingle for “Dream Interpretation” is closer to unlicensed psychotherapy, and that is something you can get from any well-meaning friend.

So what do I make of my dream?  I think about a paying job, but don’t want the schedule, as in working Saturdays.  I am a year out in my prep for a move, so it is on my mind. My dogs act like they are going to choke themselves on leash, but I have no fear of putting them out on their own, as long as I’m near.  And I worry about how I come across to others.  My social anxiety extends to:  my friends, my family, ….

Sweet dreams.

 

 

Hate Kills

 

Photo from MarketWatch

I first heard about the shootings in Orlando, Florida during prayer in church on Sunday morning.  I spent my weekend watching home improvement shows, watching movies, and puttering around the house and garden.

As information became public about the shooter in the worst case of gun violence in our history we learned he claimed association with ISIS.  We learned the shooter may have had issues with his own sexuality, visiting the bar several times.  For any person of faith, Christian or Muslim, questions about sexual orientation are difficult. We also learned his behavior became unpredictable over the last year, perhaps due to mental health issues.

His wife, co-workers, and friends contacted the authorities about the erratic behavior  which resulted in the shooter being added to watch lists, and investigation by the FBI.  The FBI found no association with terrorists nor sympathetic organizations.  The FBI did find him “an angry young man.”  We also learned the shooter purchased his weapon during this period.

In the months before the Orlando shootings this “angry young man” listened daily to political talk about building a wall, closing boarders, domestic surveillance and/or deportation of anyone of his faith.

Also during the months leading up to the shootings was the passage of bathroom and other laws which can be viewed as state sanctioned discrimination against members of the LGBT community.  Members of the LGBT community have been portrayed as a danger to women and children.

“An angry young man” full of hate killed 49 people in the most deadly mass shooting on record.  Our political language, as well as our personal language has an impact.  There is a war going on not only against ISIL, but against hate.  It is a war defending the American experience and values.  The values of inclusiveness, and giving everyone a chance.

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Are You All Right?

Am I alright?  Do I feel okay? Am I having trouble remembering things?  How am I feeling today?  These are the things Hubby asks me from day-to-day, and sometimes repeatedly throughout a day.  These questions got me thinking, am I all right?  Are you all right?

Today there is a break in the weather, with sun shining and temperatures headed for the 50’s.  This is a very nice break from the recent week of cold, bleak days with clouds crawling across my sinuses.    Seasonal Affective Disorder can plague many when the sun disappears for days.   You don’t need a full-blown case of SAD for the long dark days of winter to leave you heading for  warm blankets, and a book, to wait for the sun.

These dark days are perfect for dreaming and thinking about the future.  Spring will come in a few short weeks.  Gardeners are planning their gardens.  We plan our Summer travels.  Many are thinking about life transitions with weddings, babies, new homes, graduations, and new jobs on the horizon.  These transitions bring mixed feelings, excitement and fears.  Our personal worlds are full of joy, questions, fears, and we keep moving forward, with hope that we are making the right choices.  In most cases there is no one correct answer to our life choice questions.  Any choice we make is a good choice or bad, depending upon how we look at it.

Others in our world aren’t as lucky as you and I.  There is war, and conflict throughout the world.  Personal tragedies colored by racial prejudice and injustice cause concern for all of us.  There are so many problems in our world.  How do we respond to the many problems.  I am no expert, and have no solutions to the world’s problems, yet as a blogger and a human, I can’t help but think about my personal feelings and understanding of what is going on in the world, and feel concern for those innocents caught in the crossfire.

Am I alright?  I am thinking.  I am trying to figure out what is going on in this world, and is there anything I can say to make it better.  I don’t have solutions, except I know communication and understanding has a better chance of bringing a resolution to conflict than hate.  But I must acknowledge, there are horrible things happening, and I would like nothing more in life than to wipe the people who are the source of these atrocities from the face of the earth, and send them to their just reward.

So, again I ask:  Are you alright?

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