Blog-tember Challenge Day 2: My Goals

Friday, Sept. 2: Share a list of your current goals.

I have had an ugly lifelong lie going on in my head: I am a girl with a lot of problems. Yep, I sometimes wear it like a badge. The other day I saw my spiritual director and I was going on and on about this idea. I am a bundle of problems, they are all intertwined and never-ending. The problems never end because of my thoughts about the choices that I make. How do I decide what is right or wrong? Good or bad? Is this from God or the Devil? Is this healthy or bad for me? Obviously I already know from years of therapy (including dialectic therapy-DBT) and mindfulness training that this black-and-white thinking is not good for me. But telling myself that doesn’t help.

The cool thing is, I only have one problem, my spiritual director said. Don’t worry if it’s right, wrong, from God or the Devil. The only “Devil” we know of for sure is the incessant negative self-judgement. In my mind, nothing is ever right because everything I ever do is wrong, according to myself, he said. The only thing I have to do is say no to this judgment. Be mindful of the rest.

Wow, that was a relief and made life seem so much easier to handle. This has now been my number one goal. As soon as my thoughts spiral (I must be a bad wife, I can’t believe I feel sick again, I feel so guilty because I’d rather read my novel than the Bible, I’m so stupid for choosing to be a MS teacher, what must ____ think?! etc etc), I become mindful and think. Oh yeah-that’s judging. Grace is the power to say no to that.

So that is my number one goal in life right now. I will try and accomplish my goals but I won’t beat myself if I don’t reach them 100%. I am proud to attempt to reach them. And, in saying that, I am reaching my first and top goal-saying “STOP!” to judgement!! (I organized these by type but they kinda overlap):

Look at myself the way Jesus does (at least try to every day for a minute or so)
Believe my husband means what he says and act accordingly
Love and treat others the way Jesus does (especially my middle school students)
Do more random acts of kindness for people (my husband, coworkers, students)
Focus on the 5 senses when I start to worry
Continue to wear no or little makeup and feel relaxed about it
Invite people over more, realizing what really matters is the company not the way my house looks

Continue on my elimination diet as best as I can
No caffeine, it hurts me; so why do it?
Meditation 5 minutes a day or yoga 10-15 minutes before bed every day
Get to the gym 2-3 times a week
Just say no! (to temptation) It will help other women like you.
No judgments about sleeping pills to help you sleep. Just be mindful.

Get outside into nature every day-even for 2 minutes.
Read the Bible when you feel like it. No pressure.
Pray continuously no matter how dumb or short.
Pray for my husband every day

Leave by 3:30 4 out of 5 days a week.
Pray for my students instead of agonizing about them or sending them internal death threats
Really look at them when they talk to you and try to see them through Jesus’ eyes.
Focus more on loving on kids then getting through the lesson plan.




What is love?

I am on a new journey. For the first time in my life, I have been discovering how to live not based on feelings. I am on the 3rd week of this class called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) which I had felt the Holy Spirit leading me towards. This week our teacher talked about how we are constantly pushing away the unpleasurable experiences and seeking-hoarding-the pleasurable. This is me. It’s probably most people. I have just begun to realize that I easily jump from one high to the next. The problem is, as with any addiction, the experience lasts maybe a few minutes, then you are left wanting.

So, because of this and health reasons, I have cut out caffeine and am working on lowering my sugar intakes. I have noticed I don’t long for them as much now, which is such an answer to prayer!  But, substances are one thing. What about feelings? My feelings have taught me so much, yet they have also led to a lot of confusing, disturbing and deceitful thoughts.

The one feeling I have been thinking about in light of Valentine’s Day coming up is love. But is love even a feeling? This is what I am trying to figure out. As you’ve probably heard a million times, the English language doesn’t do a very good job with the word “love.” I’m so mixed up because I know I am a loving person. I have a lot of love for God and others, the Earth, animals and a growing love for my self. My question is how do you know when you are “in love?” Or is that just a Hollywood thing, something made up? Does love for a significant other just arrive or does it come over time kind of like it does with platonic relationships? I keep trying to see if my feelings are similar to the lyrics of songs or what I have heard my friends and loved ones say who are in relationships. There it is again: I am searching for some “high” that will never last.

In my journal, I reflected that love for me is felt in a number of ways. The first way is an aching or longing. I have this for God a lot when I want to go to heaven. I have it for a close friend or sibling I haven’t seen in awhile. I have it when I am jealous of my loved one’s affections for or time spent with others and not me. The second is love in the form of compassion. When a loved one, or even a stranger or animal, is expressing hurt I long to help them, hold them, heal them, protect them. The urge is so strong, I sometimes even feel I could die for this person. The third is gratefulness, when I think of what the person or pet has offered to my life and that leads itself to love for God for giving me these gifts of relationships.

I guess all of these are platonic love. But aren’t they also part of romantic love? I guess what I am learning (and being reminded of) in my class is to allow myself to feel what I feel without judging it. Or allow myself to not feel and not judge. Or experience “love” or whatever else the way I experience it and not compare. That’s hard. But it is so refreshing!

I am curious…

What is love like for you? Do you have a meaning for it? Is it a feeling? Or a choice? Or both? Do you experience love in different ways with different people and with your different roles in life? What is the difference between platonic and romantic love? Do you experiences “highs” like they talk about in movies, songs, etc.?

I would love your feedback…Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

Prayer of a moment

Dear God,

There’s so much more to who you are, I believe, than what I’d always thought. It’s too complex for me to put into words, the existence of life, of people, goes so much deeper than most of us realize, how spirituality is so alive in everything. How could you NOT exist? But not only You as the Creator, but You as the one who holds each of our hearts in your own. It’s hard to see that when I look at someone else, that you have the same fierce love for each person as if he/she were your only child. I guess I get jealous and possessive because I can’t fathom your constant presence with me.

No matter the Truth it’s hard to stop and listen for you in the rustling leaves and chirping birds. Something tells me You’re off doing something miraculous like healing someone or stopping a car accident or war or something. How could you take up your time to just sit here with me, not in a sad moment or happy moment, just a pondering moment in which my heart is searching, not wanting to once again stumble upon the realization of deadness, desperation.

Just stay with me in my moment in my nice, sturdy haven of remembrance, solitude. Focusing on the feeling of breeze on bare legs, the wisping of leaves and blades of grass, I try to let nothing from yesterday or tomorrow come to me. While my unsteady breath reminds me I’m not in this moment, but I’m trying to be.

Wishing the sun would come back to me, furthering my thoughts from the reality of chaos that is coming. Somehow I choose chaos for myself. I’ll try not to go there. I give thanks for this moment of surrender.

The red cardinal has come to me on a low branch singing his tune as if just for me. Looking around and singing away because that is his role in life. Louder and louder until he zooms away and his song stops. Now I do feel he was singing before only because he had an audience! Now his song begins again for anyone else who has the ears to listen.

written 8-19-11

Snow, tea and my beloved Josh

I am hanging out with Mom in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I am on Spring Break, but how would you guess because it is a beautifully snowy day. We have gotten about 9 inches of snow. Earlier Dad left for work and Mom and I enjoyed trudging through the fluffy white to wipe off my car and pull it into the cavernous garage. Luckily they live in an apartment, so there is no worry about shoveling.

Right now I want to focus on the moment. Maybe it will help me get out of this funk of irritability. I wanted to hang out and spend time together (with Mom) so I am trying to fight against my anti-social tendencies.

I am enjoying lemon, ginger tea and Josh Groban. And the sound of keys clicking.  I am grateful for the zinginess and tanginess of this tea. Hot (temperature wise) for my frozen fingers (what’s new during the winters of the Midwest), and spicy hot, a hotness none other than ginger can provide. The best of all, it hits my stomach in a comforting way with no added nuisance of heart-stopping, anxiety-inducing caffeine for my sensitive nerves.

I am grateful for Josh Groban’s phenomenally comforting voice. While his older music is as familiar to me as a beloved pair of well-worn socks or as common and delightful as a loved one’s laugh, I am relishing in his newest album my mom just turned on. Each vibrating tone is a new gift to caress my senses. I don’t think there is any other voice in the world quite like his. I wouldn’t be surprised if the angels in heaven sounded like a thousand Josh Grobans all harmonizing sweetly and perfectly; I don’t think there would be anything besides his tenor that could better blind me from the annoying, disturbing and stressful thoughts that constantly crash against each other inside my head. Maybe a hot bath in the dead of icy winter or piece of dark Ghirardelli after a particularly agonizing day at work. But probably not. Josh Groban’s incredibly rich timbre surpasses most things that bring me joy in life.

I hope you are able to find comfort in the smallest things (and biggest things) of life today!

the Sun of my soul

I try to do these nature writings every so often. They are good for the soul. This is one I did from a while back while on a retreat at Villa Maria Retreat Center with the high school students I used to work with.

Putter of a woodpecker far away
Like the sound of an old door opening
Chirp-chirp-chirp-chip-pew-pew: happy bird

Bl-l-l-l-l: faraway queen
Coo-hoo-oh-hoo sad restful mourning dove
The sound of an accordian closing
A ruffly sound of a water bird
Ceep-ceep-eep-eep like a tiny baby animal begging for help
Brr bohaho-oh-a-ee: a really good whistler
Cheee Chee
Fee Fee
Honk-like a dog attack

Sitting on some raffia-like straw
I am trying to capture the sounds
That I never let myself hear
Gnats blurring my view
They huddle together then dart off
invisible if not for the angle of the sun
The fiery warmness holds me here
Although I feel it fading by the second
I don’t want it to go
It’s like I waited this long for it to come and I can barely enjoy it
The sun accentuates everything else
Everything I sense is wrapped in its goodness

Two birds with long beaks just flew by
They sound like animals crying a death cry

And everything I don’t like comes
When the sun sets
I feel the creepy bugs
Something tickling my neck
The gnats might come back
This cold is a little too cold
And the mourning dove’s cry is a little too sad
But the happy bird’s chirp is nearer, keeping me stronger
Come back to me you cheeper of joy and of love
I want to be filled with goodness
I want to forget the badness, the pain, the confusion and the terrors that tomorrow brings

No more happy bird.
Oh no. Your tune makes me forget.
Nothing can compare to its beauty.
I need some warmth
When the sun isn’t enough
It inevitably falls every day
The trees, their branches are
Scraping away my securities
The sun’s rays are slipping away
And I’m left cold-FREEZING-and scared
What can replace the knowledge of being known and cared for
The feelings this puts in you?
Not having to live to please
But just living for His pleasure?
your joy is founded by His joy and
It can never end.
Even when the sunlight stretches down to kiss the ground
And says goodbye until tomorrow
I have to share the sun with the world
But my God I don’t have
To share him with anyone
Because there’s plenty of His love to go around
I need never feel like His sun has left me

But I know the coldness comes
And I wish I could stab it back to its dungeon
Because my safety is where
I keep living
Fully alive
In knowledge of the Truth
That everything good I experience is a gracious gift
And that I can learn from  every difficult experience
And there will be many far too many to name
But the sun still shines-at least in a different part of the world
And the happy bird will fly under you when
You can’t utter more than a broken scream for mercy

The sun streaming into my eyes
Is the joy and serenity I live for
And even if it’s not visible every day…
It will be there when I need it most which is ALWAYS
It is the eternal pleasure that outweighs all of the worthless idols
I throw in its way to please my never-ending desires
I am blinding myself to my Savior, my Sun, the Son.

~written on April 8, 2006

>Is Escaping Wrong?

>It’s been forever since I have written. Frankly, a blank page scares me because that’s when I have to really think deeply. And I am terrified of what I know is there when I look inside myself. Since I am tired I am going to borrow a bit from a journal recently I wrote about what is going on with me.

I am making myself write because I don’t want to. At least I think I don’t. I don’t look forward to confronting the stuff that is happening inside this brain. Lately I’ve been getting by with my addictions, namely my novel reading. I love getting lost in the characters’ problems. I love forgetting myself by going to another world. I know this isn’t wrong to a degree. I’ve been reading Jodi Piccoult, whose books deal with intense, moral and controversial issues. Hard to put down! She covers themes like self-esteem, popularity, dysfunctional families (whose isn’t?), grief, loss, revenge, redemption, betrayal and faith/spirituality. I’ve learned a lot from her books and I look forward to reading them each day.

But I often feel ashamed or guilty because the themes are so heavy and I tend to become rather anti-social when I read a really good novel (or am otherwise immersed in something deep and passionate, like card-making or writing for example). I don’t like coming back to real life because I always know what’s going to happen. Lately, I feel guilty because I am not practicing my mindfulness or “with it” skills. That and I am beating myself up for not reading the Bible or having a “quiet time.” (What does that mean anyway????) Reading these books has kept me “safe.” By that I mean, less bad thoughts, because I am frankly thinking less about my own problems. But it also means, I feel very out of sync. Like I am not even really alive. And that I’ve been treating others in my life poorly.

I tried to take a break in between the last novel I finished and the current one. So for two days I forced myself to read my Creativity/spirituality book and write in my journal. And it just made me mad and anxious.

The reason I am escaping has to do with, as I said, my thoughts. They are not fun.

As a rule, I try to moderate everything that I do. I am always concerned that I am doing everything right (not too much of this, not too little of that.) I know, I hate that about me but I am not about to start judging my judging, so I will accept that my perfectionism makes me ugly at times but try to accept it.

But I will also thank God for his good and wonderful gifts of creative people who write engaging stories…and many other things. And trust that He loves me no less if I happen to be annoyed with Christian judgements going on in my head, so much to the point that I am resentful of He Himself and the Bible itself. (More on this in another entry).

Well, I am going to go to bed now.

>Random Post

>I have been sick for over a week now. So today I decided to take another day off work. (Was in bed all day yesterday.) I didn’t have the energy to try and sub today. I worked last weekend, a long day on Monday, and will be working this weekend too. So I am sitting here trying not to feel guilty for trying to heal myself. I have a bad virus, but a weird one. I remember going to work last year when I felt a TON worse than this. That’s why the guilt is eating away at me. I keep telling myself, now is different. I had two really hard years of teaching, so I try to see my life as a gift right now. Since I have the chance as a sub to simply not answer the phone, which might actually help me in the long run, why not?

I have been working really hard to take care of myself. Got some nice organic herbal tea, been drinking lots of water, and Emergen-C, and trying to rest. But I still hear myself worrying. About money mostly. What’s the point of worrying about money when I don’t even know why I am trying to make money? I don’t want to simply live my life to pay off my loans. That’s what I feel like my point of life is sometimes, though. Since I have no desire to teach (right now) nor anything else.

My passion for a career has suddenly died, but somehow my depression has lessened if that makes any sense. Well, thinking about not knowing what my future holds makes me freak out a bit. Overwhelmed is a good word to describe it. But not totally down to the point of incapacity like I was a little over a month ago (I only shared this with a few close people in my life…maybe hinted a little bit one here).

And another weird thing, my depression usually gets really severe when I am physically ill, like now. But I have stayed overall pretty positive. I think it has to do with the sun being out, longer days, and taking care of myself by eating well and exercising.

Life has been kind of blah, though. Every so often I get excited. Usually it’s when I am at the store and buying all kinds of yummy, healthy things, and then at home when I put together a creative colorful meal, that I know will help me feel better. But that’s about it.

So I am not really up, not really down. I am okay with that for now. What can I say? I am going to try to embrace who I am right now; not try to force anything. Certainly, feeling guilty is not going to help. So plans for today are drink a lot, eat well, and rest much. Maybe do some mindfulness activities through journaling. Just being is enough for today.