Beauty, Courage, Discipline, Sacrifice

the best ppl

For me, beauty comes in many forms: poetry, prose, fiction, photographs, mixed-media art, sculpture, the smell of old books and mysterious attics, a memory of reading Nancy Drew books while perched in trees, the mystery of the perfect smell of my mom’s pasta sauce, the groove in that runs down the bark of an old tree (perpendicular to the ground), watching my nieces and nephews running around my parents yard in search of plastic Easter eggs filled with jellybeans or loose change. It’s something neither delicate or indelicate.

Courage? Boldness, taking risks, staying committed, being countercultural, sticking to my beliefs while having the flexibility to let God change my mind about something (or somebody), doing something that could cause a scar but gives a rush, holding back from running after my children during their first time on a two-wheeled bicycle, having a willingness to see – and change – my stubbornness or anything else that holds me back from embracing the universe.

The Discipline to tell the Truth? That one is more difficult; some people find that truth is just saying whatever comes to mind – which can engender cruelty; some people feel that truth is too ephemeral to say anything whatsoever; others don’t think that truth even exists. I feel that God’s truth is eternal, Man’s truth is fleeting and amorphous, and my truth is dependent on how I feel that day. So my truth can never actually be depended upon totally, unless tried over time and discerned over days, if not weeks. Discovering this has begun to turn me from an impulsive person who was capable of using my words to wound, to someone who makes attempts to pick carefully so as to avoid harm; but someone who still believes that there are things that are always inherently harmful – racism, sexism, suicide, genocide, disunity caused by selfishness, and hate. When in doubt – I compare it against how Jesus operated in the New Testament – from love – love for God and his fellow humans.

Capacity for Sacrifice? There are states in life that are supposed to be self-sacrificial, but which certainly people fail at. There is somehow nothing more disappointing than a mom who always chooses herself over her children; the damage that is left is self-evident and heartbreaking. It is also alarming to see a father choose his own selfish, sexual needs in order to pursue a girlfriend, over his own wife and children. It is horrible to watch a husband and father denigrate, dominate and abuse a family. It is a failure of epic proportions for a member of the clergy to engage in sinful pursuits, instead of denying his flesh and being spiritually pure. The implication? The Truth? That certain states or statuses afford a higher responsibility in self-sacrifice, and when that is failed, there is a circumference of damage that extends past the self.

May you pursue excellence in these four areas, this day and always.

(Do I find it ironic that the very person who birthed the quote, failed at every single one of these? Yes – but not surprising. Not surprising at all. Because there were moments in which Ernest Hemingway succeeded at them, too, and so he knew how to compare the two states – success and failure.)

God Grant You

Serenity prayer

Did you know that anxiety affects 18% of the population of the United States? (http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics) And treatment of anxiety is estimated to contribute about one-third of the total $148,000,000,000 annual mental health treatment “bill” in our country.

So much of our lives today involves decisions, people, and circumstances that are completely out of our control. We can devote so much time, energy, and love to our children and at the end of the day, there are still things that can happen that can change the course of their lives forever. We can pour our hearts into our marriages, and the other person could still choose to turn their backs on us. We could put all of our intellect and devotion into our vocation, job, or career, and we could still be cut by corporate layoffs or bad management decisions.

And still – it is part of our personal path to find our “happy place”, to seek peace despite our circumstances. Part of that process is finding support, especially if you experience anxiety. Sometimes you can get help by having a therapist explore new coping skills, but sometimes medicine is necessary in order to help balance out what your brain can’t do on its own. It may be necessary to use both tools in order to get totally well, and that’s okay; it is better to accept help and to be functioning, than to hide your pain, stress and anxiety. That approach can lead to all sorts of relational and functional problems, and can ruin your life.

It is also necessary, if you are experiencing long-term anxiety, to establish patterns of thought choices that enhance your life instead of diminishing it. For example, if you have negative internal thought patterns, you will have to train yourself to replace those negative thoughts with neutral or positive thoughts. This approach will take some time, but is an empowering method of self esteem rehabilitation and can also improve your physical health (Google “negativity and physical health” for info on how anxiety and negativity can make you sick).

The Serenity Prayer (pictured above) is a good start. Realizing that we are not in control of everything in this life, but that what we ARE in control of, we can take the reins of that and set the tone for – that is a very empowering thing. It is not a moment, per se, but an Attitude Adjustment that requires practice and gentle reminders. It may help you to copy the Serenity Prayer and post it somewhere noticeable – your dashboard, your mirror, your work desk, your fridge. Feeling helpful and powerful – instead of helpless – is a very good start onto the path of wellness.

If there is some event, some person, something that started you on the path to anxiety, personal uncertainty, or physical illness – let it go. Hand it back to the universe! If that means you have to write a letter and burn it in the backyard – do it. If that means you have to take all of the reminders around your house and throw them in the trash – do it. If that means you have to go to a therapist – JUST DO IT.

There is no time like Right Now, to start to get well!

Peace to you today.

Take Courage! (and know when to ask for help)

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“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”
Maya Angelou
 
     Self-reliance is one of the character traits most often touted by writers, philosophers, and self-help book publishers.  But is courage the SAME as self-reliance, or are they completely separate character traits?
     As someone who has had to ask for help from others recently – which in itself, is a humbling experience – I would argue that courage is separate from self-reliance. 
     Maya Angelou, a world-renown poet and civil rights figure, has some things in common with me – an organic, down-to-earth relationship with God; a “rising-up” after a “falling-down” from a childhood trauma; a gritty, no-nonsense understanding of love and compatibility; a belief that you should “make sure that what you say is the truth, but don’t tell everything you know.”  I have always loved the courage of Maya’s poetry, her refusal to follow a rote, predictable, poem style; and her ability to speak of the hard things, the grime and the wonder of life, and the way that she surrounded herself with a small circle of beloved and trusted folks but left her heart vulnerable to the pains and the beauties of this world. 

Self-reliance is “I can do all things, on my own, under my own steam, and I don’t need nobody’s help to get there.”
Courage is “I can do all things, through Christ who strengthens me; and when I am not able, I can – and will – ask for those who are around me, to reach a warm hand out to me and come alongside me.” Courage is recognizing the value of strong people in your life, who can and will help. Courage is seeing that a sense of compassion should extend to your self. Courage is knowing that you can – and will – reach a hand out – or down, as soon as you have recovered your self; but when in need, won’t be afraid to say, “I am not able to do this alone.”
There’s nothing more frightening, in a way, than a self-reliant person to reach out and say YES, I will let you help me. There’s nothing less familiar to a strong mother. There’s nothing more humanizing than being on the other side of the outstretched hand.
I think Ms. Angelou would approve.