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Archive for June, 2008

I’m always amazed by how just a little encouragement can change everything. Like magic, someone’s willingness to come alongside makes all the difference.

I spent 2 hours yesterday with someone who has the gift of encouraging others. Two hours with this new friend was like seeing myself as Cinderella at the ball, instead of Cinderella on her hands and knees, covered with soot.

One way that’s MY WAY is being wired an extrovert. Not so much in the gregarious, life of the party, people person – I can actually be quite shy sometimes – but because of the way I orient to reality. Little makes sense until I hear it or see it reflected in the people around me. I can come up with a zillion theories in my head, but never know how ridiculous they may be, or how brilliant they may be, until they’re bounced off someone else.

This leaves me in need of community.

Which is great if you have it.

Sucks if you don’t.

And in our increasingly isolated, disjointed world, community is hard to come by. Which leaves most of us in community with the committee in our heads. And we know how encouraging THEY can be

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p.s. to yesterday’s post. I can’t believe I didn’t put her first on my list of people keeping me sane. Kathy is the number one, first in line, go-to woman when I need a good dose of how it really is. What would I ever do without you, girl?

cat

The other thing? Trying a little zen practice – minus the statue. What does it mean, be the bliss?

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Sometimes the “cure” of psychotherapy is worse than whatever disease you might be in therapy for. This is certainly true of this psychotherapist – yes, moi. I’ve been hyper-thinking lately and, to answer Dr. Phil, no it’s not really working for me. Introspection, journaling, getting in touch with my feelings, and increasing self-awareness – logical tools in the heady realm of self-analysis – sometimes go awry.

I’ve been awry lately. Very very awry. And my handy therapist’s toolbox is making it worse.

Here’s what’s been saving my sanity lately:

Venting at the top of my lungs on Judi’s answering machine

The F word

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert

Santana

Guitar Hero on Wii

My new church – AMC Fellowship – did I mention movies are $5 before noon on Sunday?

A night of packing books, eating nachos, drinking daquiri’s, and playing – you guessed it – Guitar Hero at Caren’s

Friday night open grill on the patio at our place

My new bike

…these are good for what ails me

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My Way?

My first mentor, Ray, had a saying about two kinds of people. I’m a sucker for that one. There are two kinds of people in the world – blank and blank. Fill in the blanks.

Ray was my boss, the person who convinced me I would be a good counselor. He said, “there are two kinds of people in the world, boundary invaders and boundary evaders.” Boundary invaders are those who thrust themselves upon the world, declare I’M ME -DEAL WITH IT! Boundary evaders are those who defer to the boundaries of others and who need to be invited into the world. Each type has it’s upside, each type it’s downside.

I’m generally a boundary evader. I wait to be invited.

At one time I thought that’s the way a person ought to be. The appropriate way, the healthy way, the spiritual way, the mature way, the nice way. I had a faith system that seemed to support me in my belief. A good Christian is this way, I thought. So I worked harder at being the right way.

I sometimes don’t like that I’m a boundary evader, so I work on becoming different. After all, healthy people are assertive, strong, positive, and non-apologetic, showing up in the world without asking permission. I’ve spent a lot of time and money trying to become this other way.

Sometimes I just say F-it, and dance the shadow side, make-believe I’m Aretha Franklin, Queen Latifa, Uma Thurmon, and a host of other kick-ass ladies, who, I guarantee you, do not ask permission.

Sometimes in an effort to be a different kind of person, I unleash myself on those who don’t deserve the dose of me I’m dishing out at the moment.

Today all this introspection just makes me tired. So I’m sifting through, and working to accept, those things that constitute “my way.” I invite you to do the same.

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Giving Notice

The Committee returned from hiatus in Florida this week – with a vengeance. It seems they read about themselves while they were gone, decided they’d been duped, and loaded up with vitriol to take up the cause. They took me down for awhile. Luckily I called my friend Judi to see if she could help me find my sanity, and she rallied the Anti-Committee Insurgents with a quote from one of my favorite books.

Describing her mind as a harbor (place of refuge, port of entry); and her “Self” as an island, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, writes the following:

This island has been through some wars, it is true, but it is now committed to peace, under a new leader (me) who has instituted new policies to protect the place. And now – let the word go out across the seven seas – there are much, much stricter laws on the books about who may enter this harbor.

You may not come here anymore with your hard and abusive thoughts, with your plague ships of thoughts, with your slave ships of thoughts, with your warships of thoughts, that are filled with angry or starving exiles, with malcontents and pamphleteers, mutineers and violent assassins, desperate prostitutes, pimps and seditious stowaways – you may not come here anymore, either. Cannibalistic thoughts, for obvious reasons, will no longer be received. Even missionaries will be screened carefully, for sincerity. This is a peaceful harbor, the entryway to a fine and proud island that is only now beginning to cultivate tranquility. If you can abide by these new laws, my dear thoughts, then you are welcome in my mind – otherwise, I shall turn you all back toward the sea from whence you came.

That is my mission, and it will never end.

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Often I find it difficult to be the author of a blog like this, to dance around the line of propriety when it comes to matters of my own personal musings and struggles. The soul is a sometimes cloudy place. Mine has been overcast for several months now.

Hope is a topic that has been the center of some struggle for me, and I’m not sure I’m any closer to settling the issue in my heart. But this morning I’m ready to move on.

Some final thoughts on hope:

1. Hope cannot be reduced to either a wish or a feeling.

2. Rather, hope is a capacity, an ability of the soul/spirit.

3. It’s the capacity to be energized by possibility.

4. This creates a kind of buoyancy that enables a person to move with power into the particulars of life.

This is what I know so far.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Here’s a sardonic parting shot:

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Hope-go-round

You need money to make money.

To get a good job, you need experience. To get experience, you need a job.

Good things will come to those who have hope. If you lose hope then nothing good will happen.

Can anyone explain this to me?

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If hope is not wishing, then what is it?

I’m searching for the ontology and the phenomenology of this thing called hope. Faith and trust as well, while I’m at it. These are juicy human necessities of the soul, substances I could use right now, if I could just settle them into my heart.

Religion/faith systems/communities of worship are built around mining and manufacturing these soul commodities for the health and consumption of their members. This is the highest measure of their value. But if we take the religion out of it, what do we have left?

Ontology is the essence of the thing at the level of being. What is the essence of hope? Is it an attitude? A substance? A spirit? An illusion?

Phenomenology is the experience of something. What does hope feel like? What is it like to ride on a wave of the stuff?

All my references to hope are biblical ones. Not a bad place to start:

But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:24&25

Hope concerns the future, certainly. But the thing we hope for in the future is not itself hope. Hope is the juice we have inside us while we look forward to the thing – that’s what I’m wondering about.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13.

Hope is something on the order of faith and love. Love I think I get better than the other two. Hope is a little harder to get my arms around. The Apostle Paul seems to state that hope is more than just a wish that things in the future will turn out well. It’s something that remains. Something that fuels the universe, something that enables life maybe.

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope… I Peter 1:3

This is the most mysterious phrase of all – new birth into a living hope. Living hope. What could that mean?

Here are some things I suspect:

1. Hope, at its essence, can be more than a wish for something good.

2. Hope is imbued with a kind of spiritual substance – power maybe?

3. Hope is alive somehow, and feeds the soul.

We often get confused about what to put our hope in. That’s when hope disappoints.

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Hope Lesson 2: There’s a difference between hope and magical thinking.

I just don’t know what it is. I have a pink magic wand at the office. I bring it out when I need to make a point. It flashes and lights up, and it’s fun to swing around, but so far it’s not produced a single desired outcome. Magical thinking – wishing – is easy to spot. Hope is a little more subtle.

If wishes were horses then beggars would ride.

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I have a love-hate relationship with hope. Is that too weird to admit?

I’m thinking about this because I find myself in the vulnerable position of hoping big – of letting my hope stir on a national scale.

Like a pack of weaned puppies – Irish Setters, Labradors, or Golden Retrievers – I just had to let them out of their cage, give them a sniff of wild rabbit. Open the door on a fine summer’s day. What was I thinking?

I let the dogs out. I’m hoping against hope that something good will happen in politics this year. That some good and lasting change can occur.

In politics.

Whhhaaaaattt? Why couldn’t I practice on something smaller, and more sure, like I hope summer will come this year. Chances are good I won’t be disappointed on that one. But no, I have to hope big. I have to hope unlikely. Let’s face it, I’m hoping impossible. Damn.

The committee, and my own good sense, are having a fit.

I can’t think about this rationally or calmly. I can’t listen to the news without having an outburst. I’m disturbed when people don’t share my belief in my candidate. (I’m sooooo disappointed in you, South Dakota – my home state!) I can’t listen to differing opinion without instantly being reduced to the maturity level of a…well, of a racist West Virginian, or a kid on the playground shouting, “my daddy can beat up your daddy!” It’s embarrassing.

And I think it’s tied to this thing called hope. My dysfunctional relationship with it, that is.

Welcome to my neurosis, and to a possibly lengthy exploration of this phenomenon. Ready?

LESSON 1: HOPE AGAINST HOPE

We have soul-laws about hope, beginning with the old standard, NEVER GIVE UP HOPE! Movies and novels, speeches, biographies and news articles confirm the rock-solid surety of this law. WE MUST HOPE.

Hope is necessary ingredient for life. Nothing good happens without hope, we’re told.

Great stories of hope inspire us and feed our souls.

But no one ever talks about how dangerous hope can be.

My mother was the great guardian of hope in our family. The guardian against hope, that is. While she never talked about it, never outright squashed our hopes, she always moved to protect us from hope, from dreaming big. She knew a lot about the pain of disappointment. She thought she knew what was necessary for some dreams to come true, and she knew she couldn’t give us the goods, so she tried to buffer us against hoping, against the great wound of disillusionment.

When she did the postmortem on disappointment, she identified hope as the culprit.

Don’t get your hopes up became the rule. We’ll see was another coded message, along with maybe someday…

I love her for trying, for loving us the best way she knew. But I couldn’t stop the dreaming. I was a dreamer. I am a dreamer.

Screwed from the get-go, I say.

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