Finding True Love – Part 3

“Marry your best friend. Someone who speaks highly of you. Someone you can laugh with. The kind of laughs that make your belly ache, and your nose snort. The embarrassing, earnest, healing kind of laughs. Life is too short not to love someone who lets you be a fool with them. Make sure they are somebody who lets you cry, too. Despair will come. Find someone that you want to be there with you through those times. Most importantly, marry the one that makes passion, love, and madness combine and course through you. A love that will never dilute – even when the waters get deep, and dark.” (Harley-Davidson)

A friend of mine who recently lost her best friend, soul-mate, lover, and husband to cancer, posted the above quote on her Facebook page. My heart goes out to her. She is a beautiful, healthy woman who will survive this greatest of all losses. But she hurts. She’s still a whole individual so she will not dissolve into nothingness from this blow, but her best friend is gone and she will always feel that pain.

I would like to add the following to the above quote my friend so graciously shared: “Someone who is proud of you; someone who admires the person you have become; someone who is honored to introduce you to family and friends; one who makes you feel special by opening doors for you and letting you go first. One who intertwines his fingers with yours and gently puts his hand on the small of your back. You should feel treasured by the way he looks into your eyes and listens with his heart.”

Small gestures speak the loudest; words mean nothing if not backed up by action.

We women need to pay attention to the intent of the heart and expect the best. From someone who’s been there and back, it simply is not worth it to settle for anything less.

Marriage can be God’s greatest gift or Hell’s worse nightmare. Choose wisely. Never let desperation be your guiding principle. Happiness lasts for a time, but regret lasts forever. Don’t gamble with your future. Bet on a sure thing. Watch for the signs and listen to them.

While going through my last divorce, a friend of mine reminded me, “Well, it’s better to be lonely than to be lonely and miserable.” She was right. I was lonely. I missed being a couple. But I was often lonely in my marriage, as well. When we weren’t on the same page, when differences in values, priorities, and goals separated us, I felt alone even though my husband slept next to me.

The act of being married really doesn’t mean a whole lot.  I say this because simply being married doesn’t guarantee you anything – not love, not connection, not security, not joy, nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. I truly believe in the institution of marriage and would very much like to marry again. But the license itself does nothing to guarantee a good marriage. A good relationship, shared values, priorities, goals, and adventures, do. So, in my opinion, a healthy relationship shared by two whole individuals is the key to a good marriage.

For those of you who think that just getting married is the answer to your lonely life, as I did, then please believe me when I say, it’s not marriage itself that will bring you joy, but who you marry and when and why. First things first.

First, get yourself into the healthiest most whole version of yourself.

Secondly, look for a man who has done the same. (I’m primarily writing to women here, but the same principles apply to men.)

Thirdly, recognize desperation for what it is and don’t let it cloud reality.

Fourthly, be choosy. Not in an, “I want a 6-foot-tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed, Nascar driver,” but in an, “I want a man who values what’s important to me; I want someone who makes me laugh; I want a man who encourages me to follow my dreams; I want someone who I feel safe with.”

Add to the above list what’s important to you, then look for a man who can share that kind of relationship with you.

So, where do you find this kind of relationship? I’m still working on that. I do know that the local bar is not a good place to find good husband material. Neither is your bff who’s never had a stable relationship in her life.

My expertise lies primarily in how to avoid the pitfalls of getting into the wrong one, not necessarily in how to get the right one. Sorry. My journey is not yet over so I don’t have all the answers. I just wanted to share my experience with you in case there was common ground you could glean from, and hopefully, help you avoid the same mistakes I’ve made.

 

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Finding True Love – Part 2

This past week my friend said to me, “I just want to make you happy.”

I didn’t know how to respond. I knew what he meant. We mean a lot to each other and it’s important to him that I’m happy. It was a sweet gesture and I appreciated it.

I also knew he couldn’t make me happy. No one can. It’s not his responsibility to make me happy. Only I can do that.

As I see it, this is the definition of a healthy relationship: I ask myself, “What am I passionate about? Where do I find joy? What brings meaning and purpose into my life?” Then I go out and do it. My friend should do the same. He should ask himself, “What am I passionate about? Where do I find joy? What brings meaning and purpose into my life?” And then he should go out and do it. As two fulfilled, joyful people, we could then share our lives with each other and be richer for it.

My therapist once explained a healthy relationship to me in this way. He said, “If two people are each lacking and incomplete, when the winds of adversity blow (and they will), neither one will be able to support their own weight, let alone the others, and they will crumble to the ground. If one person is stronger than the other, the weaker one will lean against the stronger one thus supporting him, but without a counterbalance for the stronger one to lean on, the couple will topple. If, however, two people are individually healthy and whole, then when the gale forces blow, the two leaning up against each other will provide the strength and fortitude necessary to withstand any storm. The two together will be much stronger than either one of them alone.”

A healthy relationship is not built on need, but on fullness.

Last night I watched a movie where the hero and heroine were having this lovely romantic scene and the guy says, “I’m nothing without you.”

I almost laughed. Really?  I thought. Then why would she want to marry youWho wants to be with a nothing? Be something. Be something she wants to marry, you doofus.

Truth is often wrapped in lies and this is never more true than with our society’s beliefs about love and marriage.

We have this idea that we are incomplete; we’re lacking; we aren’t whole; so we embark on a seemingly never ending quest to find that special someone – the missing piece – “the one” who will complete us.

There is truth in this thinking. The Bible says three cords are stronger than one.

But there are inherent flaws with it, too. Yes, we should strive to be whole and complete, but another person will never do that for us; we need to do the work ourselves, for ourselves. Not to please someone else, but to bring joy and satisfaction and self-confidence to ourselves. In other words, to bless ourselves.

We all have an underlying desire to help others. The hero concept is inbedded in our DNA. That’s why so many of us are either trying to rescue others or have others rescue us. We inherently recognize our need to be saved. But we go about it in an ineffective manner.

First of all, God, our creator, the creator of the universe, is the only one who can truly save us. So, He has to be the first one we turn to for guidance.

Secondly, we need to work on fixing ourselves, not others. We can only be a blessing to others after we are a blessing to ourselves. We get the proverbial cart before the horse. We go about doing good things in a backwards manner and then wonder why we experience unfavorable results.

It starts with us. Do we recognize and honor God’s design and favor on us? Do we work with that design? Are we grateful for His favor?

If I was miraculously proposed to this coming week and we planned the wedding for six months from now, would that make me a different person from who I am today? Would being an engaged women make me better? Would being a married woman make all my fears and insecurities flee?

I can honestly say, no, it would not change me. I would still be the same person. I’d still have the same likes and dislikes, the same passions, the same fears, the same insecurities.

Sometimes people expect their circumstances to change before they do. “Once I get engaged, I’ll start working out,” or, “Once I’m married, I’ll stop cussing.” No you won’t. If it’s not important enough today, it won’t be important enough tomorrow.

On the other hand, new information and insight can motivate us to change for the better. “Now that I understand what an impact what I eat has on my health, I am ready to make healthier choices,” or, “Wow. That cuss word coming out of my 3 year old niece’s mouth didn’t sound nearly as cool as when I said it. I think I’ll give up cussing.” These are examples of growth and maturity and that’s what we should be doing all the time. But if we expect to change overnight once our circumstances change, we are deluding ourselves.

Our circumstances change when we do.

If we want changes in our lives, then we need to make them for ourselves. Once we are healthy individuals, then we are ready for that special someone who has also been working on themselves.

We attract what we are. We will never attract someone healthier than we are. Therefore we need to be what we want to have.

We need to be what we want to have.

Finding True Love – Part 1

Yesterday I re-posted this quote on my Facebook page: “When God sends you the man you are called to be with … you will know. This man will speak to not your flesh, but your spirit. You will experience something with him that you have never experienced before. He will love you in ways that other men didn’t. Wait. It will be so worth it when you meet him.” (#NeverSettle)

I received several responses to my post, as I knew I would. This is a touchy subject. Not because we don’t believe true love exists, but because most of us have not experienced it. And we’re left wondering what’s wrong with us. Why do some women find it but we haven’t? Are we doing something wrong? Are there no good men left?

A long time ago I heard someone say, “Instead of asking ourselves, “What kind of man do I want?” we should be asking, “What kind of relationship do I want?'”

Well, I’ve always known what I wanted in a relationship. I had it once with a 16 year old boy in my home town but those days were long gone and after graduation I headed off to college in search of “The One.”

I chose a Christian college in another state and dated anyone who asked me out. I met a lot of really nice young men, but none of them felt right. I began to think that if I wanted to get married (which I really did!), then I was just going to have to pick one of them and hope that love would grow. That’s what was taught in the contemporary Christian circle I was a part of – you don’t fall in love, you grow in love. OK, I told myself. If that’s the way it is, then I’ll choose a good man and learn to grow in love with him.

I married him the summer following my sophomore year. We were good friends and I liked him and I respected him and he treated me well. When I questioned my parents and my friends concerning my doubts, they all pretty much said the same thing. “Well, you could do worse,” and “We don’t always get what we want.” Thanks a lot, I wanted to say.

The clincher was the day I went in and talked to one of my female professors. “I really like him, but I just don’t like him in that way,” I told her. She wholeheartedly agreed. “God just calls some of us women to be single.”

That was it. I was not going to be single! I went straight from her office and told this young man, who I had previously broken up with several times, that I wanted to get back together and get married.

Two enormous red flags jump out at me as I recall this point in my life. One, Why the heck did I go to a single, middle-aged woman to ask her opinion on love and marriage??? Secondly, What makes a man take a girl back who repeatedly breaks up with him because she just isn’t sure???

My third question is, Why are we so quick to ignore red flags? Everyone I talk to who has regrets says the same thing: “I saw the writing on the wall. I saw the red flag flying at full mast. But I wanted it to work out so badly that I chose to ignore the signs.”

I could be the poster child for ignoring red flags.

While I’m not discounting the fact that people can and do grow in love, I’m also not discounting that magical falling in love element, either. I think both brains and emotions need to be considered. I was following my brain to the exclusion of my heart because I was taught you couldn’t trust emotions.

Well, in my experience, you can’t always trust your brain, either. We need to listen to them both. If one or the other is screaming, Halt!, we’d best do so and consider why. When the brain and emotions align, then you’re probably on the right track.

Years after my marriage, my husband and I attended a famous Christian artist’s concert where he told the story of the first day he met his wife. He was walking down a hallway and saw her coming from the opposite direction and he took one look at her, said that’s the girl he was going to marry, and he did. That was years ago and to my knowledge they still have a vibrant marriage.

When he said this, something within my soul yelled out, “I knew it! Everyone discounts love at first sight but I just knew it existed!” Well, for some people, at least. But I knew it was possible, despite all the naysayers. So, why didn’t I listen to my heart? Why didn’t I live according to what I believed was possible?

Because I was desperate. I was needy. I couldn’t imagine doing life on my own and I was so desperate to get married, I settled on what I could get instead of waiting for what could have been.

Please understand what I am saying here. I am not in any way bashing my husband (well, ex-husband now). I didn’t settle in marrying him; I settled in marrying for the wrong reason at the wrong time.

If I would have listened to my heart, which I believe the Holy Spirit speaks to me through, then I wouldn’t have been so afraid of what it was saying. I would have been willing to put off instant gratification in lieu of something much better.

But I was afraid to even listen to my heart because I knew what it was telling me and I didn’t want to hear it. I was 20 years old and I wanted to get married. Now!

After reading the comments to my post last night, I had to take a good hard look at myself. I believe in true love. But after two marriages and two divorces, I have to ask myself some pretty hard questions. How did I get from that 15 year old girl who started out on the right track to the 60 year old woman who still longs for a solid relationship but has so far come up empty handed?

 

 

The Key To Success – Part 3

Maybe the key to success is not focusing on succeeding like we’ve been led to believe, but by simply doing the next right thing.

All of the following quotes are from successful people who were once just like me – a nobody with a passion. They were criticized, told they were stupid, told they didn’t have what it takes; many were penniless and bankrupt in both pocket and spirit. And yet they pressed forward. Why? Because they couldn’t stop themselves. An inner drive kept them going when the world told them to stop.

  • “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” ~ Samuel Beckett
  • “Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.”  ~ Confucius
  • “Great success is built on failure, frustration, even catastrophe.” ~ Sumner Redstone
  • “Failing is one of the greatest arts in the world. One fails toward success.” ~ Charles Kettering
  • “Failure provides the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.” ~ Henry Ford
  • “The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate.” ~ Thomas Watson Sr.
  • “Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly.” ~ Robert F. Kennedy
  • “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot … and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.” ~ Michael Jordan
  • “I never learned a thing from a tournament I won.” ~ Bobby Jones
  • “Our achievements speak for themselves. What we have to keep track of are our failures, discouragements, and doubts. We tend to forget the past difficulties, the many false starts, and the painful groping. We see our past achievements as the end result of a clean forward thrust, and our present difficulties as signs of decline and decay.” ~ Eric Hoffer
  • “Flops are a part of life’s menu and I’ve never been a girl to miss out on any of the courses.” ~ Rosalind Russell
  • “The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” ~ Edwin Land
  • “I don’t believe I have special talents, I have persistence … After the first failure, second failure, third failure, I kept trying.” ~ Carlo Rubbia, Nobel Prize winning  Physicist
  • “Every great cause is born from repeated failures and from imperfect achievements.”  ~ Maria Montessori
  • “No matter how hard you work for success, if your thought is saturated with the fear of failure, it will kill your efforts, neutralize your endeavors and make success impossible.” ~ Baudjuin
  • “Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them.” ~ Washington Irving (The above quotes were taken from But They Did Not Give Up, found at https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html, with many thanks.)

So, once again I ask, what is the key to success? As hard as it is to believe, failure seems to be the common consensus. Or rather, the guts to get back up after failure. Maybe failure is a necessary stepping stone. We step, we slip, we fall. We get back up and try for a better foot hold. We may slip and fall again, but each time we get back up. We rethink and readjust, and step again. Eventually we find ourselves teetering instead of instantly falling. That’s improvement. As we keep at it, we keep our balance a little longer as we build core muscles. And eventually we have the strength and balance to step from stone to stone. First tentatively, then confidently, and eventually effortlessly.

The difficult part of this process for me is that it happens over and over again, in multiple areas of my life, over a lifetime. It’s not a one time event. Every time I dare to dream, those desires take me to a place I’ve never been before which means more tries, more mistakes, more learning, more rethinking, more readjusting.

But, isn’t that life? What is life without a reason to get up in the morning? What inspires us but the challenge to succeed? To create something beautiful? To accomplish something noble? To bend and stretch and dance to our own tune? To hit higher notes and dig deeper and reach farther and see clearer? A cause worth fighting for.

We all have it. Some of us have several.

It’s what makes us tick. It makes us who we are and the reason God put us on this earth. It’s our reason for making a difference and our own unique way of making it happen.

“A ship in harbor is safe – but that is not what ships are for.” (John A. Shedd in Dream Big by Todd Wilson)

“Most people live and die with their music still unplayed. They never dare to try.” (Mary Kay Ash in Dream Big by Todd Wilson)

“Of all the people I have ever known, those who have pursued their dreams and failed have lived a much more fulfilling life than those who have put their dreams on a shelf for fear of failure.” (Author Unknown in Dream Big by Todd Wilson)

“What we really want to do is what we are really meant to do.” (Julia Cameron)

“Failure has a way of liberating you from superficiality.” (from the movie, Coffee Shop, directed by Kevin Sorbo)

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” (George Bernard Shaw in Dream Big by Todd Wilson)

“The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (Frederick Buechner)

Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor whose entire family was killed, including his 24-year-old wife, went on to write A Man’s Search for Meaning. He says, “He who knows the why for his existence…will be able to bear almost any how,” and, “Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life.” Viktor reminds us that there’s no mountain too great when you have a reason to climb. (Viktor Frankl: How Love got Him Through @ Life Stories)

“If you think you’ve blown God’s plan for your life, rest in this: You, my beautiful friend, are not that powerful.” (Lisa Bevere #WithoutRival)

“Life’s challenges are not suppose to paralyze you, they’re suppose to help you discover who you are.” (Bernice Johnson Reagon)

God hardwired us to make a difference. Our contribution matters. Our efforts, even though often unrewarded, matter. So, don’t cheat yourself or the world out of your gift. Shine in the darkness; be the voice of reason in the midst of chaos; be the calm in the eye of the storm.

What is success?

This is my definition: Success is being the best version of me and using my passion to make a difference. When persistence fails, ingenuity finds a way. It’s not so much what I do, but why I do it and how I do it. That’s why I’m writing this blog; not because I have all the answers, but because I will never give up trying to find them.

What is your definition of success? I would love to know!

 

The Key To Success – Part 2

As I was tossing and turning in bed this morning, groaning that the sun dared to peak it’s cheery face into my window at such an ungodly hour, I had an epiphany: Success is relative.

Case in point: Yesterday I failed at finding a solution to my lighting dilemma, but I succeeded in something I wasn’t even trying to do. In my anger and frustration, I wrote another blog post.

That’s usually what happens to me. I don’t wake up one morning full of vigor and inspiration and write a dazzling post that will amaze my readers. I wake up sleep deprived, grouchy as all heck, lost in feelings of failure, wondering why God’s keeping me alive another day, then write something totally illegible in my effort to vent.

After my emotional vomit has splattered onto the page, I go back over it just to make sure I haven’t missed a spot. I further my venting because once is never enough. At the same time, I tweak it a bit. Then I go back over it again because surely I missed a few points I want to further complain about, and I refine it a bit more. It’s like a criminal returning to the scene of a crime, unable to let it go. It’s horrific, yet beautiful at the same time.

After another dozen or so do-overs, I realize what I’m feeling and experiencing is probably common to mankind and probably worth sharing because someone can probably relate. And BAM. Another post is miraculously added to my blog.

Have you noticed God working like this in your life? You set out on a mission. You’ve got this. You know what you’re doing. You’ve done your homework. Stunning results are in the bag. And then life happens.

What the heck? you find yourself asking. What went wrong? Why do things always go wrong for me? What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with the universe? I had this and some undefinable, undetectable, invisible little urchin just stole what should have been mine!

I’m learning to take these events as they come, as part of God’s bigger plan for my life. I don’t know why things have to be so difficult for me when they seem so easy for others. I can’t answer all the whys. All I can do is push through one more time, do what seems right at the time, and trust that God has it all in his capable hands – my mistakes as well as my victories. Especially my mistakes. Have you ever noticed how God seems to like mistakes?

It seems as though He says, “Yes. I was waiting for that, Diane! I saw it coming even though you didn’t and I used special care in crafting a way through it that will bring you closer to me and my design for your life.

“Sweet daughter, you find it so easy to veer from my perfect will for you. I know the temptations you face. But you’re looking at the wrong things and that’s why you stumble. Look up. Focus on me. I’m not daunted by your mistakes. Rather, I like them. They decompose into the manure I use to enrich the garden I’m planting in you.

“Mistakes and failure are your friends so embrace them as the learning tools I intend them to be. Nothing is ever wasted in my economy. I have more than enough. I AM more than enough. You need never look to any other source for love and joy and success than Me.

“I love working miracles just for your benefit. Your tears, and yes, even your screams of frustration, are endearing to me. I would rather see your wrath than your complacency. I adore the life that bubbles from every emotion you feel. I feel it, too. Remember that I came to earth, not only to save your soul from the death that separated us, but to experience all you experience so I can say, “I’ve been there. I hurt, too, you know. I felt pain and loneliness and scorn and rejection and injustice. I got tired and experienced sleepless nights when I had more expected of me than I could humanly deliver. I get it because I’ve been there.

“So, stop beating yourself up. I love you and that’s all that matters. Fear? Failure? Mistakes? Regrets? They’re nothing. But the spunk and tenacity they develop in you? That’s priceless!

“I gave you emotions for a reason. Use them to your advantage and lighten up while you do so. I’d love to hear you say, “Well, that didn’t go as planned. I wonder what God has up his sleeve? Because I know my Heavenly Father has an awesome plan for using all the twists and turns my life has taken. Forget an easy, predictable life. Anyone can do that. I’m up for an amazing road trip with the master of adventure! So, bring it on, God!'”

I admit those were not my thoughts after months of unsuccessfully trying everything I could to solve my lighting issues with the wheel center hub caps. But maybe it should have been. When I woke up yesterday morning and said, “Today I am going to solve this lighting issue,” maybe I should have asked God, “What do you want to accomplish in me and through me today?” Because my plans failed. I’m no closer to a solution than I was yesterday morning. But I successfully wrote two more blog posts. Maybe that was the real agenda all along.

I went to bed feeling like a failure. God watched me go to bed and said, “Yes! She did it! Good for you, girl.”

Somehow I need to get on the same page as God. I’d save myself a lot of anxiety if I did.

 

 

 

 

Do You Believe In Second Chances? (Part 1)

If I take any credit for the way my kids have turned out, it is because I modeled for them a love of lifelong learning. And each of them, by choice, has followed suit. Now as adults if they’re curious about something, they investigate. If they question something, they look into it. If they doubt something, they search for the truth.

They don’t wait around for others to tell them what to think or do. They are self-motivated because they see the direct correlation between cause and effect; action and result; cowardice and regret; wisdom and reward.

They think for themselves and develop their own opinions yet have learned to play nicely with others. Few things are more disturbing than to see people “express” themselves at the expense of someone else or, to “be themselves” in an obnoxious way.

While none of us is perfect and we all learn from our mistakes at our own pace, some of us learn more easily than others. It took my brother, at eight years old, only one time of jumping off a stone wall with an umbrella to learn that cartoons weren’t a reliable source of reality. A broken heel reminded him that, unlike our mouse friend, Jerry, an umbrella would not break his fall. It’s a good thing he learned quickly, otherwise he might have jumped off a cliff like Wile-E-Coyote with drastically different results!

And yet, many of us jump off the proverbial cliff over and over, expecting a time-lapsed float instead of the free-fall that plummets us to earth. We get hurt by a person or situation, and yet we return time and time again.

A friend of mine recently told me she always seemed to choose the wrong men. She ended up with the ones who needed to be rescued and she wondered where all the good men were. It wasn’t hard for me to see why: Her radar was set on men who needed rescuing while emotionally healthy men passed by without her notice. Now well into her third miserable marriage, she recognizes the problem but can’t find the solution.

I’ve made similiar mistakes. Because of my lack of self-identity, or rather, a reluctance of sharing the real me for fear of rejection, I married men who saw potential and thought it was their duty to change me. And later when I resisted, to control me. Two failed marriages later, I see why. Because I was open to the idea that someone else might know what was better for me than I did, I attracted men who were more than willing to take on the job. Except that, it wasn’t their job or their responsibility. It’s only one person’s responsibility to fix me, and that person is me.

Most of us are more comfortable trying to fix others than to work on ourselves. It’s easier to see their problems than to see our own. And we think our problems are their fault. “If only he would treat me with respect ….” Maybe if you respected yourself, he would either follow suit or leave. “If only she wouldn’t spend so much money ….” “If only he wasn’t so lazy ….” “If only she wasn’t so moody… ” “If only …..” The list goes on and on. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we see how the behavior of others trails directly back to us.

“Do I respect myself enough to not allow someone to mistreat me? But how do I do that?” you might ask. “Are you really saying that if he mistreats me, I should remove myself from his presence? Not take his phone calls? Not answer the door when he shows up unexpectedly? Go to safe places and hang out with safe people? But …. but …. but…. You don’t know what you’re asking!”

Yes, I do. I’ve done it. Remember the whole lifelong learning thing? If what you’re doing isn’t working, well, we’ve all heard the definition of insanity coined by Alcoholics Anonymous: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If what you’re doing isn’t working, by all that is good and holy, stop doing it!

In her book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, Julia Cameron discusses the two main hindrances to our recovery from whatever is not working in our lives. Crazymakers are external barriers to an emotionally healthy life, and skepticism is an inner enemy that sabotages our efforts to make improvements. While Ms. Cameron is writing specifically about recovery from blocked creativity, what she says can be applied to all areas, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. In my own life, I apply her insights to my recovery from being stuck in unhealthy patterns of living.

She also refers to the crazymakers as poisonous playmates. Other authors use different words to describe them: Unsafe people, toxic people, narcissists.

You know who these people are in your life. They’re the ones who make you feel like you’re the one going crazy. When you catch them in a lie, they accuse you of not trusting. When you ask them why they are so grouchy, they accuse you of being negative. They put a spin on every situation that makes no logical sense and then somehow turn it around to make you look like the bad guy. They leave with a smug grin that says they won the argument, and you’re left wondering what happened. You had logic on your side and yet they seem to have come out on top once again. Things just don’t add up.

She also refers to skepticism as, the secret doubt. Just when we start seeing some improvement, skepticism jumps in and says, “Whoa. This can’t be true. Nothing ever goes my way. I must be imagining it.” This thought gives us permission to give up without looking bad. After all, we’re just being realistic, right? Getting our heads out of the clouds like we were admonished as children?

The temptation here is to step back, give in to what is, and once again accept things the way they are. “After all, it’s not all bad,” we console ourselves. “It could be worse. I need to be thankful for what I have. No one’s life is perfect. We’re suppose to be content where we are, right?”

Ms. Cameron sums up our struggle with our two main enemies to recovery, crazymakers and skepticism, this way:

“One of the things most worth noting in…recovery is our reluctance to take seriously the possibility that the universe just might be cooperating with our new and expanded plans. We’ve gotten brave enough to try recovery, but we don’t want the universe to really pay attention. We still feel too much like frauds to handle some success. When it comes, we want to go.

“Of course we do! Any little bit of experimenting in self-nurturance is very frightening for most of us. When our little experiment provokes the universe to open a door or two, we start shying away. “Hey! You! Whatever you are! Not so fast!”

“I like to think of the mind as a room. In that room, we keep all of our usual ideas about life, God, what’s possible and what’s not. The room has a door. That door is ever so slightly ajar, and outside we can see a great deal of dazzling light. Out there in the dazzling light are a lot of new ideas that we consider too far-out for us, and so we keep them out there. The ideas we are comfortable with are in the room with us. The other ideas are out, and we keep them out.

“In our ordinary, pre-recovery life, when we would hear something weird or threatening, we’d just grab the door knob and pull the door shut. Fast.

“Inner work triggering outer change? Ridiculous! (Slam the door.) God bothering to help my…recovery? (Slam.) Synchronicity supporting…with serendipitous coincidences? (Slam, slam, slam.)

“Now that we are in…recovery, there is another approach we need to try. To do this, we gently set aside our skepticism – for later use, if we need it – and when a weird idea or coincidence whizzes by, we gently nudge the door a little further open.

“Setting skepticism aside, even briefly, can make for very interesting explorations. In…recovery, it is not necessary that we change any of our beliefs. It is necessary that we examine them.” (pp. 41-51)

Ms. Cameron’s last statement is key: “In recovery, it is not necessary that we change any of our beliefs. It is necessary that we examine them.” (p.51)

Often times we feel trapped; like we’re stuck with no way out. That’s a lie. Reality is, we all have choices and there is always something we can do. It may be a small, seemingly insignificant step in the right direction, or it may be a big one-time move. It doesn’t matter. Figure it out and do something. Stop feeling helpless or victimized, and stop expecting some kind of brownie points for being a martyr. There aren’t any. There’s only more suffering ahead if we choose to do nothing.

Those of us who were raised with a strong sense of right and wrong are often the most plagued with a sense of misplaced duty. Showing unconditional love and being steadfast in the face of adversity are admirable qualities. But when our sense of duty is hurting us and those we love, it would be advisable to step back and evaluate where our true duty lies. Is it in sticking with the crazymaker and letting her have her way, thus sidetracking us from our other responsibilities?

We’ve all heard the old saying that the squeaky wheel gets greased. This is never more true than with crazymakers. They are always squeaking because things are never right and we are never doing enough. Their needs are endless.

Thus, crazymakers eat up an inordinately large portion of our time and energy to the point where we simply cannot take adequate care of ourselves and those we are truly responsibility for. Skepticism, as the evil twin, joins right in and says, “What’s the use of fighting it? She’s my mother so I have to do what she says, even though I’m an adult. She has to come first,” or, “He’s my brother-in-law so I have to keep peace in the family,” or, “I married her so, that’s just the way it is.”

Enough with the excuses. It’s time we get off our fearful hinnies, make some tough decisions, change what isn’t working, and create a life worth living. We’ve wasted enough time and energy on those who don’t appreciate our help. It’s time we looked around and saw what’s been in our faces all along: those who truly deserve our time and attention. It’s like a person petting a stuffed animal while his dog looks up expectantly. We waste our lives on what we can’t change, and make no effort to change what we can.

I love this prayer, often referred to as the Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Neibuhr in the 1940’s: “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” (www.crosswalk.com)

When conflicting thoughts come, and they will, ask a safe person for help. Now is not the time to put on an invincible facade. We’re not fooling anyone other than ourselves when we claim to be OK when it’s obvious we’re not. It’s time to admit what everyone else already knows. We’re human. We’re vulnerable. We’re afraid. Now, let’s do something about it, together.

When all is said and done, we each have a choice. Stay where we are, stuff down the disappointment and frustration, maintain the status-quo, delude ourselves into thinking there’s virtue in suffering, and die unhappily at the end of a miserable life. It’s up to you.

But, if I were you, and I was, I’d do something to get back on the right path. There’s no better time than the present.

The Queen Of Weird

Sometimes I feel like the Queen of Weird. Things that never happen to others inevitably happen to me.

For a few years now, I’ve been receiving text messages from a group of people I don’t know. They are obviously friends with each other, which makes it odd that my phone number made it into their group. Regardless of how it came to be, here I am, a complete stranger, privy to all their closed conversations.

Have you ever eves dropped without intending to? That’s what happens every time my phone chimes indicating that I’ve received a new text. Sometimes this message truly is intended for me, but at other times it’s from someone in this group of strangers.

I must say, they sound like interesting people. Their ongoing conversations go something like this:

“Hey. I have a week off next month. Thinking about flying to Nashville or something. Anyone game?”

“Sure,” comes a reply. “What dates? I’ll check.”

“Nashville? How about Vegas?”

“Been there, done that. Thinking about someplace new.”

“Third week? Works for me.”

“Me, too. I’ll book my flight.”

“Anyone find good rates?”

“This time of year? You’re crazy.”

That’s a typical conversation when they are planning their get-away. Then there are the ones when they start arriving at their destination.

“Just landed. Where are you guys?”

“At the hotel. Traffic is a bear so it may take you awhile to get here.”

“Got it. On our way.”

I disliked receiving these texts for two reasons. Maybe three. First of all, do you have any idea how many texts a group can make trying to arrange a vacation that works for everyone? Not to mention how many it takes for them to find each other once they arrive at their destination? I’m afraid my phone will over heat with all the chiming.

Secondly, they are vacationing in Nashville in March and I’m watching the snow cocoon me in once again here in Michigan. I’m jealous, pure and simple.

Thirdly, it’s creepy. I’m uncomfortable knowing intimate details about people I don’t even know.

So, on one particular snowy spring day when I had just had it with all their merry-making while I was buried under a foot of snow, I decided to put an end to it. Their endless texts to each other and the inevitable chiming on my phone were driving me crazy. So, I texted them. “Hey, guys. You sound like you’re having a lot of fun, but you don’t know me and yet I know where you are and what you’re doing. So, for the comfort of all of us, would you please delete my number from your group?”

Their surprised responses came immediately.

“Who are you?”

“Who’s that?”

“Do I know you?”

“That’s my point,” I wrote back. You don’t know me and I don’t know you so please get me out of your group. I’ve tried from my end with no luck so maybe you can do something from your end.”

One of them said they’d try. Another one invited me to join them in Nashville!

My point is this: This conversation thread had annoyed me for years. But when I finally took action to do something about it, I discovered that they were a very nice group of people and I actually enjoyed the back and forth banter I had become a part of.

We never figured out how my number made it into their group. They did tell me, however, that a friend of theirs, an NFL football quarterback who I knew of because I had met his parents and brother at my church, was always left out of the thread while I was included. He and I both had Jacksonville phone numbers since we lived there around the same time, but other than that we couldn’t figure out the connection. We may never know how it all came to be, but what I did find out is that I actually liked being a part of their group once I started communicating with them.

When someone finally found a way to remove me from the group, or perhaps they just started a new thread, I was sad. I knew an awesome group of people were in Nashville, Tennessee, having a wonderful time together, but I no longer knew what they were doing. I felt left out.

Isn’t that the way it is with much of our lives? What irritates us for years, when given a chance, actually proves to be an opportunity. And once that opportunity is gone, we’re left feeling sad and full of regrets. We don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone.

It also proves something else. I am still the Queen of Weird.

Dorsal Fin Alert

I was treading water off the coast of Honeymoon Island Beach, Florida when two dorsal fins off to the right caught my eye. They were swimming parallel to shore a few yards from me. I froze.

Carefully slipping my air mattress between them and me (yeah, like that’s really going to help), I headed for shore. As a Floridian, I knew better than to frantically swim – churning water excites sharks, reminding them of injured fish ripe for the picking. I also knew enough not to jump on my air mattress and paddle. I would then resemble a turtle and sharks love turtles. Becoming a tasty afternoon snack was exactly what I was trying to avoid!

In the split second I had to decide my best course of action, I knew the safest route would be to slide onto my air mattress and lie absolutely still. I also knew I couldn’t do it.

So, I continued walking toward shore as calmly as possible, trailing my mattress behind me. Noticing me, my two unwanted guests changed direction and headed directly for me. I cried out, “God protect me! God protect me! God protect me!”

Not more than a body’s length from me at that point, I thought, There go my legs. It was nice having them. I’ll miss them.

Then, just as quickly as before, the would be predators changed course and headed north.

As they left me behind, I realized with regret that they weren’t sharks, but dolphins! I had it within my reach to touch them and because of fear, I missed a once in a lifetime experience. How sweet would it have been to touch two dolphins in the wild?

I will never know because fear clouded my vision when I should have stayed still and observed the signs – straight, pointed dorsal fins for sharks, slanted, curved dorsal fins for dolphins; vertical tails swishing back and forth for sharks, horizontal tails flipping up and down for dolphins; gills on sharks (because they are fish), no gills on dolphins (because they are mammals). Granted, some of these signs would not be easily seen while the creatures were under water, but still, a little attention to detail would have been helpful.

So, then I thought, How many times in the circumstances of my life have I seen sharks when God sent dolphins? How many blessings have I missed while blind-sided by fear? I may never know. But, of this I am certain: From now on, I’m looking for dolphins!