Serenity is…

A way of life absorbed slowly and practiced one day at a time.

Perspective.

Becoming aware of and accepting my many characteristics and not judging what’s “bad” or “good” but what’s useful to keep and what to release.

A spiritual journey without a destination.

Letting go.

Honoring my feelings without aiming them at someone else or letting them run my life.

Accepting what is.

A gift I choose to give myself.

Knowing that what works for someone else may not work for me.

Understanding I may be powerless but I’m not helpless.

Realizing my Higher Power does for me what I cannot do for myself.

Minding my own business.

Balance.

Relief from black and white thinking.

Understanding that reacting to life and responding to life are not the same thing.

Feeling at peace with my past.

Having my body and mind in one place at the same time.

Published in: on February 7, 2017 at 8:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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Not my mother, not my father, but it’s me O Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer. *

I’ve always had my mother’s hair–wavy or curly, depending on the humidity, and lots of it. Mom greyed early and never colored her grey.  In the 1960’s people asked who “frosted” her hair; women actually paid money for the grey highlights that Mom grew naturally.

I was afraid to iron my hair so I tried Curl Free for my high school graduation.    It was June, 1970, in Raleigh, NC, and Dorton Arena at the NC State Fairgrounds was not air-conditioned.  I just wanted long, straight hair down the back of my blue graduation gown.   The pictures from that night show beautiful waves that got bigger and bigger in the humidity.  I hated it.

For a lot of years I judged my mother harshly.  I didn’t like the way my dad treated her and I couldn’t understand why she didn’t resist.  When my dad retired early and then went into a nursing home at 63 (the result of drinking, diabetes, and a stroke), she lived alone for the first time.  We moved them from Ohio to Greensboro and helped her buy a one-level 2-bedroom town house close to our neighborhood.  She spent her time reading and watching CNN.  I felt sorry for her.  Her life was disappearing and she hadn’t accomplished anything.

“I think I’m turning into my mother!'”

The same wavy grey hair circles my head.  My chair sits beside the aquarium with the huge catfish in the living room. I read the paper or The Hunger Games and drink my tea. Sometimes I watch MSNBC or Dr. Oz. My cell phone and the home phone are on the table beside me.  I’m ready if one of my daughters or a friend calls.  My body requires rest.

I wish I could tell my mother I understand now.  It’s okay to rest and reflect. She died in 1998.  Maybe she wasn’t depressed.  Maybe her accomplishment was getting to a resting place.

Peace, Mom.

* “Not my mother, not my father, but it’s me O Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer.”  (Click here and then on the title to listen to the hymn by John P. Kee)

Published in: on June 1, 2012 at 8:53 pm  Comments (10)  
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Girl Power

  • Thank you, Suzanne Blievernicht!
  • At a class given at Stanford, the last lecture was on the mind-body connection – the relationship between stress and disease. The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman, whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.
  • At first everyone laughed, but he was serious. Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Physically this quality “girlfriend time” helps us to create more serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well-being. Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities.  They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel about certain things or how their personal lives are going.  Jobs? Yes. Sports? Yes. Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf? Yes.
  • But their feelings? Rarely.
  • Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters/mothers, and evidently that is very good for our health.
    He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym. There’s a tendency to think that when we are “exercising”, we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged—not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking!
  • So every time you hang out to schmooze with a girlfriend, just pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for doing something good for your health!
Published in: on February 21, 2012 at 8:49 pm  Comments (9)  
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The Paper (or Cloth) Bag Story

Take your problems, all of them, from the tiniest annoyances to the most horrific, difficult challenges and put all those problems into a brown paper bag or a politically-correct cloth eco-bag.

Then imagine if everyone else took all of their problems, put them into their own bags and brought them to the center of town.

Think of how many bags there would be, all piled up in one big mountain of brown paper and brightly-colored cloth bags.

If you were told you could pick any bag of problems and take it home with you, do you think you’d want someone else’s problems?

(Story borrowed from The Faith Club, by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner)

“Better the devil you know than the one you don’t.”  The Familiar can be quite comfortable.  It’s predictable, we think.  It’s known.  We’ve practiced dealing with it. We assume we know how things will turn out and we get ready.

My body and I have lived with rheumatoid arthritis for over 20 years.  Pain and discomfort vary.  My pain–physical, emotional, spiritual–is invisible if I choose to disguise it with humor or stoicism.  So is yours.

Remember PacMan?  That’s how I pictured my arthritis in the beginning.  The disease was an enemy force of scary little critters using my blood vessels as a superhighway to randomly chomp on my joints.  I hated them and the medications I was trying were losing a lot of battles against them.

Eventually, I gave up the anger and war images.  I had to make peace with those mean monsters inside me.  If I could be compassionate and forgiving, they might be gentler.  So I prayed for willingness.

Today we are next-door neighbors inside my body, the critters and my Spirit.  Sometimes they are noisy and intrusive, but I can shut my windows and ignore the doorbell.  They are familiar and they could be worse.  I accept them as they are and I deal with them one day at a time.

I know how to do “hard”.  I’ve had practice.  We all have.  I know I can probably handle most any problem that pops up next.

If I could pick one bag from the pile, would I pick my own again?  I’m not sure.

We Share This Universe

Our awesome responsibility to ourselves, to our children, and to the future is to create ourselves in the image of goodness, because the future depends on the nobility of our imaginings.
Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

The world we live in depends on the responsible contributions each of us makes.

And this world is just as good as are the many talents we commit ourselves to developing and offering.

None of us is without obligation to offer our best to our family, friends, or strangers, if our hope is to live in a good world.

The world can only be as good as each of us makes it.

Individually and collectively our power to mold the outer circumstances of our lives is profound.

Our personal responses to one another and our reactions to events that touch us combine with the actions of others to create a changed environment that affects us.

No action, no thought goes unnoticed, unfelt, in this interdependent system of humanity.

We share this universe.

We are the force behind all that the universe offers.

Whether I acknowledge the depth of my contribution is irrelevant.

It is still profound and making an impact every moment and eternally.

 

from the book: The Promise of a New Day

by Karen Casey and Martha Vanceburg

 


Published in: on March 11, 2011 at 11:55 am  Comments (2)  
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Broken Body, Healing Spirit

Have you seen the commercial for a rheumatoid arthritis drug that talks about the life you have and the life you want to live?  It is shrewd marketing.  Inject this powerful drug and you can do anything.

The hidden cost of chronic illness, because pain and fatigue are invisible, is that I pretend to be living the life I want to live rather than being honest about the life I am living.  As Mary C. Earle writes in her book, Broken Body, Healing Spirit, there are sometimes two people living inside me and one is a liar.

What fear or perceived defect do you hide from the world?

Have you had the flu or bad allergies and gone to work anyway?  Do you have back pain?  Grief?  Migraines?  Fatigue?  Paralyzing anxiety?  Fear of what others will think?  Are you in recovery from addiction?  Or unsettled by the signs and symptoms of getting older?

Substitute your secret for “illness” as you read this quote from Broken Body, Healing Spirit (italics mine):

…a body that has been overwhelmed by illness is also a body where life dwells.  Disruptive, distressing, and acutely confusing, illness calls us to a deepening awareness of the wonder of the body, an awareness that we did not bring ourselves into being, and that it is through our embodied life that we encounter the presence of God…

Through illness, the embodied nature of our lives grabs our attention, and forces us to befriend the very flesh we thought betrayed us.  The body that we had taken for granted turns out to be a rich and varied text, full of layers of meaning and symbol.

Always, it comes back to powerlessness vs. control.  And I most want to control what I fear.  Until I have faith and trust, I will be afraid.  And I will miss a lot of fun stuff.

My husband has a big, yellow BMW motorcycle.  He rode it cross-country and back, alone.  He wants me to ride with him.  Once, I said yes; we rode around the neighborhood on quiet residential streets with no real traffic.   I trust my husband.  I know he would never deliberately hurt me.  All I could see from that rear perch was my body shattered into painful pieces.

New experiences are fun and invigorating for me–teaching a class, being in Paris alone for 5 days, going on a week-long silent retreat.  For Mike, riding the motorcycle is a form of meditation.  For me, it is like white-water rafting or parachuting.

I’ve lived with chronic illness for over 20 years.  Rarely have I said “I can’t”.  I can usually find adaptations and compromises that let me do most anything.  I want to be the free spirit that sees a lovely day and says “Let’s ride!”

I think it could be a prayer–“Your will, not mine be done.”

Prayer

Father, Mother, God
Thank you for your presence
during the hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.

Thank you for your presence
during the bright and sunny days,
for then we can share that which we have
with those who have less.

And thank you for your presence
during the Holy Days, for then we are able
to celebrate you and our families
and our friends.

For those who have no voice,
we ask you to speak.

For those who feel unworthy,
we ask you to pour your love out
in waterfalls of tenderness.

For those who live in pain,
we ask you to bathe them
in the river of your healing.

For those who are lonely, we ask
you to keep them company.

For those who are depressed,
we ask you to shower upon them
the light of hope.

Dear Creator, You, the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give to all the
world that which we need most–

Peace.


–Maya Angelou

Copyright (c) 12/2005  Maya Angelou

Published in: on February 16, 2011 at 6:09 pm  Comments (6)  
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Whimsy and Wonder

Where are whimsy and wonder this time of year?

I used to have a very hard time seeing anything but angst and grumpiness and things that made me sad.  Over the years it’s gotten better.

I like to go the mall in December.  Not to shop and not on the weekend! I go to look at the decorations and watch the children visit Santa.  We saw a rough-looking Santa at Crabtree Mall in Raleigh the other day–too many days outside without sunscreen or too many Jack Daniels, I think.  The harried parents get my sympathy.  The excited children feed my soul.

(One of my daughters was afraid of Santa.  The other asked me before she got to kindergarten if Santa was real.  I promised myself when she was born that I’d never lie to her.  I didn’t.  Sigh.)

I like Christmas music.  The classics, of course, but I have 2 country cd’s that make me smile every time I listen to them.  I even like “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer“.  It’s good to laugh and be silly.

Our church has a candlelight service at 11 pm on Christmas Eve.  It’s quiet and peaceful and reverent.  My brother and our grown children won’t stay up late enough to go, but Mike does.  Then we drive through the neighborhood that has these amazing light balls hanging from trees.  (Here’s are some pictures.) It’s magical.

This year we’ll have Adaline. She will be 10 months old on Christmas Day.  I think she’ll like the blinky tree lights.

Does your holiday include any whimsy and wonder?

Have you looked?

Aunt Nadine and Uncle Phil

My uncle is 89 and my aunt is a bit younger.  They live in a small town in Iowa in the house they built before I was born. Last week they drove to Dayton, Ohio, in one day, for my uncle’s World War II Bomber Group reunion.  We haven’t heard many of his stories, but I do know his plane was hit one time and his friend died and Uncle Phil got the plane back to their base.  He doesn’t like to fly anymore.

They are driving today from Dayton to our house in North Carolina, again in one day.  Aunt Nadine tells me they trade off driving every 100 miles.  I try not to think about it when I know they are on the interstate.

Their house always felt more like home to me than any place my family lived (we moved every few years).  We spent Christmas and a week in the summer in Iowa all through my childhood.  All my grandparents were there and my aunts and uncles and cousins.

Aunt Nadine and Uncle Phil’s house was always fun.  My parents were rarely silly or funny at home.  They were at Aunt Nadine and Uncle Phil’s.  My uncle played the Boy Scout march on the piano and my dad used my cousin’s drum major baton to lead us in a parade all through the house.  Once he led us through the bathroom while Grandma was in there.  We all laughed so hard we cried.  Nobody drank too much there.  I think that made a difference.

Uncle Phil was a chiropractor.  They were taking vitamins and eating fresh food when the rest of us were excited by Kraft macaroni and cheese in the blue box.  I remember being fascinated by a honeycomb in a jar of honey on the kitchen table.

I read recently that faith is formed out of great love and great suffering.  Aunt Nadine and Uncle Phil have experienced fear and worry and grief.  And their love for each other is (still!) obvious.  They are Quakers and they have a strong and quiet faith.  They know how to enjoy life.  They carry an aura of peace.

Aunt Nadine and Uncle Phil are my role models for how God wants us all to live.

Please pray for them.  Later this week, they’ll drive from NC to Iowa, in two days.  I do worry when they’re on the interstate.

Published in: on October 4, 2010 at 12:44 pm  Comments (6)  
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Alone and Together

I love my family.  I especially love my granddaughter, Adaline.  I have trouble holding her now–she’s 18 lbs. of wiggle and joy and my arthritis-damaged wrists are only safe for her when we sit quietly and rock.  I’m still good at getting her to go to sleep, if she is willing to miss what’s going on.

We are blessed to have both girls and their families close by.  Our two sons-in-law are very different, but equally entertaining.  All together (including 3 rescued dogs) we make a raucous, raunchy commotion.

The original four of us are 3 introverts and one extrovert.  The introvert daughter married an introvert and their genes combined to create an (apparently) extrovert baby.  The extrovert daughter married an equally driven extrovert and they adopted a big dog that has finally begun to settle down some.

Extroverts are energized by being around people.  Introverts are energized by solitude.  I am an introvert.  My husband is an introvert.  We are all (including our aging dog) tired at the end of a weekend with people, even if we love them.

After the last people-full weekend, I changed the sheets on our bed and started on a pile of laundry.  I wrote and I read.  I went through all the fliers/brochures/emails about classes and workshops available this fall.  Many of them call to me, but I can’t add very much to the rhythm of my days.

I need balance and moderation.  I want it all.

People tell me their sacred stories.  I want to listen to them with presence and serenity. My sponsor says we can only give from our overflow.  I remember HALT (Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired?).

God, help me find my balance, so that I may do your will.  Amen.