False Expectations Appearing Real

False Expectations Appearing Real

The monster first appeared about 13 years ago in the dark of the night while I slept alone, going through my divorce, in my home in Asheville. After its first appearance, it began to show up so consistently that I was often reluctant to fall asleep.

On his horrifying visits in the shadowy night, he would stomp up the creaky stairs with heavy footsteps, pause at the double-locked bedroom door, giving my a touch of hope that he would go away, while I sat up in bed wide awake, grabbing the sheets and praying that he would leave, and he then penetrate the locked door as easily as if he were cutting through grape Jell-O with a chainsaw.

I watched him there at the foot of the bed looking like a huge, overgrown ape. Dark, sinister and shadowy he was. He glared soundlessly and stood ominously beside the nightlight at the foot of my bed and appeared every bit as big as an overgrown ape. In time he would simply sit down on the corner of the bed like a great Samurai while I crouched in terror on the opposite side of the bed, literally – literally – gasping for air.

He never did anything but sit. I realized he was completely unafraid of me that he knew me in every way, and although he was separate from me, somehow he was me.

After He was finally gone from my bedroom, I steeled my nerves, picked up the flashlight from the nightstand and bravely checked every single room, under every single bed, behind each shower curtain, throwing open and shedding light in each closet and even venturing as far as checking out the storage closet in the basement. I wanted him gone…but yet, what I really needed was for him to visit periodically to ensure that I persisted, that I lived my life – with as much courage as possible.

Throughout the years, I have come to recognize what I knew all along. That this monster was real. He was composed of the frightful thoughts and my own personal fear. I manifested the thunderous thumping of my heart in my chest, the cold icy chill that ran down my backbone and permeated my soul with anxiety and worry. I have realized that no worldly thing can scare us as badly as we scare ourselves.

That barred door was never a barrier to his entry. My own vulnerability brought him in. That is what fear can do because it is our own dreadful thoughts, our own lack of control of what might come, our own version of a fairytale gone dreadfully wrong with no possibility in our minds of a happy ending and it is terrifying.

There is only one person that can stop that kind of fear and it is we ourselves. Your faith, your family, your counselor and your friends can help. But we must ultimately regain the power to become triumphant over it. And to recognize it simply as FEAR – False Expectations Appearing Real, as my counselor used to say.

One day I realized that I could stop the monster at the door. That slight pause was my opportunity.

But is was not easy. I had to find my own peace and my own points of light in the dark time of my life. The hardest part was realizing that I was the monster. It has been years since he has shown up again, but still I know, I could allow fearful thoughts of daily life to whirl together and I could bring him back to life again but I don’t want that monster to show up ever again. I want a life filled with hope and love and joy.   And a little scared will always be mixed in. Because that is life you know. That is life.

But fear does not have to rule. We have a choice.

Nurturing Our Little Girl

Nurturing our Little Girl

A number of years ago, I dreamt I was on a solitary walk in a park filled with beautiful trees and long walking trails.

A mother and her small daughter were out walking, too. Upon seeing me, the daughter left her mother and ran up to me asking if I would play with her. I said no, and when she persisted, I said no very firmly and wondered why the mother would not call the daughter away from me. Finally, the daughter pleaded with me tearfully and pulled at my arm. “Please,” she cajoled me, “Please play with me.” In my dream, I looked down at her without compassion and said, “I will not let you dominate my life anymore,” whereupon the young girl returned sadly to her mother’s side.

I have often thought about that dream. It has spoken to me throughout the years about the inner craving we, as women, have to be nurtured ourselves. As grown and mature women, we often concentrate more on caring for others and yet somehow we must find a way not to overlook that worthy little girl who resides inside us even today.

Our little girl has something to teach us – if only that we need to remember who we really are – who we were before the world came in and told us whom we are. And we need to remember that the child inside us has gifts yet to be opened that are both of value in the world and needed by the world today.

We can only revere her when we take the time to mother her, to nurture her and to hear her voice.

We all need a mother who is kind, considerate and who loves us unconditionally. Someone with whom we feel safe, sheltered, warm and cozy. Someone who will play with us, have fun with us and be there for us when we need them. Sometimes we have to take the time to be our own mother.

In our very adult worlds with so many responsibilities, deadlines and commitments, the easiest thing to do is to ignore our little girl selves and keep our eye on the “more important things” of our tightly wound lives.

But sometimes the little girl, as in the dream, will not go away. She is there persistently tempting us to love ourselves enough to indulge ourselves. Take me to the zoo, she begs. You know how I love to look at the orangutans, especially how the mommy plays peek-a-boo under a blanket with her baby. “Are you kidding?” I respond. “I have important work, a household to run, groceries to buy, meals to prepare.

Okay, but maybe we just play in your makeup a little bit? Maybe try on some different shades of lipstick or you could put some eye shadow on me…please, she begs and again I turn her down to do the things I “must” accomplish that day.

And the strange yet, always predictable, thing is, at the end of the day, I can barely remember why it was that I did not have time to take try on a different eye shadow. And by the end of the week, I have no idea why I am so exhausted.

I believe at times, we must focus on saving the little girl who something to say, even beyond just wanting to play.

She wants me to feel loved – valued – cherished in a way that only I can provide to myself.

Today, my little girl wants to go for a walk, color in her meditative coloring books and read a novel. And it is Sunday. And, yes, I could do any number of household responsibilities and I may or may not get around to it. This little girl has been busy too long, has worried too much, has not slowed down in a while and is a little burnt out. So now I will indulge her, love her, adore her. In the end, she has the power to help me feel well and stable. She has the insight to open doors to new ways of living life.

God bless my little girl, today and always. And yours, too. She is a pretty smart little cookie.

A Leader Who Could Speak in Love

photoThe political season exasperates me like no other.  Words are said publicly that often bristle with malice, hubris and personal attack.  They are generally the very first words we hear when we turn on the morning news.

Could we do this all differently?  Without 24 months of an attempt to tear down another person (who has the courage to run for President) as the way to way to win a nomination?

I’m not an astute political person. And I should be better informed and study everyone in the Presidential race more carefully.  But I try to stay current as much as I can with a complicated and highly populated field of hopefuls on all sides.

This has caused me to consider the importance of the words we speak and how each of us view the problems that exist.

Recently, while with close friends, we happened upon a lovely wine and cheese shop while spending time together on vacation.  After the wine tasting, we settled on a bottle, combined a lunch of bread, cheeses, grapes and chocolate, and became involved in conversation with the vineyard owner whose political views were impacted by her upbringing in another Country.

We listened to her ideas that mirrored a childhood in her native, sometimes-considered “socialistic” country.  We talked with ease, a sense of openness and with no intention to change the mind of anyone.  Not that we could.

But the important thing was that we all listened.  I learned a lot from that lovely woman who makes her home and her living in the beautiful Northeast.  I  agreed with some of what she thought and, although all our beliefs were slightly different, we conversed together.

Each of us came to the table from very different backgrounds – two from the midwest, two from the deep South and one grew up in another country. Our lives had taken us down disparate roads which influenced our personal understandings of the issues. But for a few minutes, our journeys converged into one.

No one “won or lost” that conversation or necessarily changed our minds about anything in particular.    But we all agreed that our World has issues that are hard and are growing more complex all the time; that since the beginning of time, the world has burned with undisputed controversy and somehow we must work together to make it a better place.

Personally, I’d like a future leader whose words and actions encourage open and earnest dialogue that leads to a win/win for us all instead of a win/lose that keep us divided.

So am I too idealistic?  Okay, I have been called so before.  And would I be brave enough to even consider putting myself out there in such a public way?  No way.

But still I wish for a candidate that would arise above the political diatribe, consider that “the Truth” is not held by a single person and be willing to speak with a new voice that actually helps us dialogue and work collectively to take the best of our differences and create a better Country.

Is that dream possible? I have no idea.  But still I remember the words of a great man who once said, “I have a dream.”   Maybe one day.

contact-form][contact-field label="Name" type="name" required="1"/][contact-field label="Email" type="email" required="1"/][contact-field label="Website" type="url"/][contact-field label="Comment" type="textarea" required="1"/][/contact-form]

Saying Yes

Barn’s burnt down – now

I can see the moon. – Mizuta Masahide

When we are in Asheville, North Carolina, my husband, Trey and I blend into the crowd of “Jubilants” who come together joyfully on Sunday mornings at Jubilee!, a unique Community of Faith. With no particular denominational backgrounds, these folks assemble together – open, creative, and ready for the Spirit to call them to Life! This purpose is printed in the bulletin and, happily, we join them.

Music and dancing and hugs abound among strangers and friends alike, along with an atmosphere of joy, laughter, Sacredness, acceptance and love. The minister, every Sunday, looks around at the large and diverse circle of folks gathered and asks us to look at each other – to see the faces of the Spirit and to remember we are Spirit’s hands and feet in the world.

A few years ago, the minister spoke on meeting challenges head on – straight forward – looking them straight in the eye – embracing them – breakups, life’s transitions, divorce, illness, job loss, death, whatever life brings us and accepting it all as an adventurer and not a tourist.

My mind shifted to my early 40’s when all Hell rained down at once in my life. Divorce, job change, an emergency surgery that was serious and necessitated a significant recovery time, and leaving the town of Asheville where I had lived for so long for someplace new.

I remembered how I wanted to escape it so badly but instead I had no choice but to live through the chaos. Years later, I wish I had been able instead to accept (and not fight) what I could not change and embrace the strugglephoto with courage and curiosity. Just to say “Yes!” with an acceptance of the fact that the barn, my life, had burnt down and now, after such a long period of darkness, I could see the moon. 

For months, I struggled. But slowly, because no other choice existed, I realized Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade had provided a pretty good example of how to handle the situation. When he came to the deep divide and had to get to the other side, he did it by believing a bridge would materialize to facilitate the crossing. With extraordinary courage, he stepped into thin air with an assurance that what was not there, would materialize. And it did. Step by step.

And of course, that is what happened to me. Surrounded by loving friends, family and a wonderful counselor, I began to see the possibilities that existed now that the barn that was my life was destroyed. Slowly, I recognized a new freedom in the life that awaited.

A lot was lost in the firestorm of that time. Lost in the cleaning, refining fire. Making space for a new life, a life is filled with a new love, home and the most fulfilling job I have ever had. Perfect, no, but beautiful and happy, yes.

In the midst of the inferno, I found a strength that I did not know I had. These days that strength helps guide me when the challenges come, but more importantly, it has laden me with sensitivity and compassion anew for those in their own struggles. The barn burns down and we have to step outside and see what is next.