Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dandelions in the Winter


Every stride on the gray pavement gets harder with the weight of the worry I carry on my shoulders.  I began my run to clear my mind from the burden of my thoughts, but instead it is having the opposite affect.  Instead, with my quickening pace another item on my to-do list I didn’t finish pops up.  I run further and regret comes at me like the neighbor’s barking dog, over some choice I made that I wish I had done differently.  Unfortunately for me, most times, my mind isn’t my best friend.  More often than not, it is my worst enemy.  Reminding me not only of today’s unfinished business, but plaguing me with all my past faults and failures.
The evening was chilly, but I was hoping that would help numb some of the parts of my brain I wanted to ignore. The uplifting beats blaring through my headphones weren’t drowning out the thoughts that were consuming me.  My life was becoming too hard.  I couldn’t breathe but not because of the energy I was exerting with my run, but because the pressure of it all was making it difficult to breathe.  The pain in my side from running uphill was nothing compared to the one I felt deep within the walls of my heart. It all became too much and I had to stop and catch my breath.  I turned off the music, and bent down focusing on my breathing, and holding back the tears.   It took every ounce of energy left in me not to crumple to the floor.
Although spring was right around the corner, the grass wasn’t quite awake and the flowers weren’t brave enough to make their appearance.  The path I ran wasn’t much to look at during these winter months, but a patch of gold caught my eye.  One little flower embraced the cold, February evening.  Some might argue that this little solider is neither a flower nor a thing of beauty but instead a nuisance.  It looked like hope to me.  This brilliant example of life was so bold to withstand the cold and uncertain Texas weather.  What made this tenacious little flower pop up over and over again, after being overlooked, unappreciated, even poisoned and crushed? Most people wanted to get rid of them by any means necessary.  Yet there it was.  Lone and beautiful.  Unaffected by the negative attention it got.  I looked around me and saw many more patches of brown, lifeless grass, and in the midst of it all, bright, yellow dandelions shown as inviting as the sun. Standing tall, taking whatever life threw at them.  Dandelions adapt to their environment and the weather, and therefore, continue to present their golden smile when most fragile flowers simply fade away.  I wanted to be more like this strong, insistent little flower.  I would adapt, and I would overcome the storms in my life.  I stood up, standing a little taller.  Turning on my upbeat music, I began my rhythmic strides again.  The fears and doubts still not completely disappearing, but I would survive. I would come out of this season of my life, with the grace and elegance of a little flower, at times overlooked, unappreciated, but pushing through. I continued the last part of my run, a little lighter, with less on my shoulders and lot more hope.  
~E

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dreams by Carolyn

I am fascinated by dreams, especially my own (a little egocentric, I admit). I have heard many theories about what dreams represent. Some say they are bits and pieces of thoughts that are in your brain, just put together in different ways. Others say they are flashes of your past, recalled by your subconscious mind. Still others theorize that dreams are portents of things to come. Or are dreams are messages from a source outside yourself? I'm not sure what to believe about the origin of dreams. I just know that I dream. A lot. I'm not sure if other people have patterns of recurring dreams, but I do. For better or worse, I repeatedly have the same dream scenarios over and over. The situations, surroundings, and people in my dreams change, but the gist remains constant.

One of my most frequent "dream themes" is this one:
I am in charge of a large group of children. I mean a really, really large group of children. I am teaching a lesson, giving directions - that sort of thing. No matter what I say, the children will not obey. They heckle me. They absolutely will not follow my directions. They take a perverse delight in mocking me. They are totally recalcitrant.

The teachers among you may consider this more of a nightmare than a dream. Let me say that it is quite unsettling. My frustration during this kind of dream reverberates through my dream persona. I can feel my dream self practically vibrating with irritation (and - dare I say it - anger). Let me also say that I have never really had this happen in real life, although I have been "in charge" of large groups of children for thirty-some-odd years now. I am very thankful that this kind of dream has not become a reality. It would completely do me in to go through this in real life!

So what does that dream mean? It seems fairly obvious to me that this dream speaks to my deep-seated fear of being unable to control my life, my surroundings, the situations I find myself in (or maybe just children). Maybe that explanation is too simplistic. Alternate explanations, anyone?

Another common "dream theme" for me is this:
I am out and about, maybe shopping, or going to some sort of event, or whatever - just going about daily life. I am with people and surrounded by people. Everything seems normal. . . then I realize that I am devoid of clothing of any kind. Naked as a jaybird! (Well, once I had on a transparent raincoat, but I don't really think it helped cover up much.) For the rest of the dream (which seems to go on forever), I unsuccessfully attempt to cover my nakedness with a variety of materials - newspapers, tablecloths, scarves, totebags, other people's clothing - whatever I can find in my state of acute and painful embarrassment.

Trust me - this is not a pretty picture. This kind of dream is always disturbing to me, and the excruciating embarrassment I experience lingers in my mind even after I have awakened. And, as above, I have never actually experienced this in real life. Thank God!

So what does that dream mean?  I am not particularly given to exhibitionism, nor am I egotistical about my physical charms. So, I don't think this "dream theme" reveals a deeply buried secret desire to parade through town in my birthday suit! I have postulated that these dreams signify my fear of having my deepest thoughts, my hidden faults, my human foibles, exposed to the penetrating gaze of everyone around me. Does that seem reasonable to you?

And yet another, sort-of-nightmarish type of dream I have more often than I could wish:
I am a young college student. I suddenly come to the realization that, although this is finals week, and very, very important tests are imminent, I have never once, all semester, attended a class. Ever.

I usually wake in a cold sweat from this type of dream. I am pretty good at faking it on tests, but I am very sure I cannot fake my way through a whole semester of missed information! If you know me, you also know that this would NEVER be something I would really do. I was that extremely irritating student who regularly signed up for 8:00 classes, and never ditched class. (But you could count on me to have really thorough notes to copy if you needed them!)

Why, then, have I been having this same kind of dream for roughly thirty years? I believe that this dream stems from my great fear, my almost-phobia, of not living up to my responsibilities. Why I worry about this so much, I don't know. I don't make a habit of being irresponsible. I am happy to report, however, that I am beginning to be a little less frantic about it as I get older. Something to look forward to for you youngsters.

On a more pleasant note, my favorite (though far less frequent) dream is this:
I am outside - in a yard, or on a street, even sometimes on the roof of a building - and I feel a desire to travel from that place to another. I lift my arms, and with no apparent means of propulsion, rise into the air. I am flying! I can steer easily by tilting my arms. I can swoop and glide through the sky like a soaring bird. I can control my speed effortlessly. When I wish to land, I gently touch back down on solid ground. What an amazing feeling of freedom! I am reluctant to wake up, to have this beautiful experience end, but I must. . .

Of all the kinds of dreams I have, this is by far my favorite, but alas, it does not happen very often. If I could program my sleeping mind to engage in this type of dream on demand, I would do it every night. And, as in both of the other cases I have mentioned, I have obviously never done this in real life. The sensation of flying without any kind of machine or device is incredible, and no airplane or helicopter or hot-air balloon ride can compare.

So, what do you think that dream means? I believe it represents my yearning for freedom from the constraints of daily life, or of my physical body, or maybe of worry. Or, maybe it presages my life after death. Not sure, but I do know I hope to have that kind of dream again very soon!

-Carolyn






Thursday, March 13, 2014

“You gotta serve if you want to heal."



That is my friend Tara’s favorite saying.  And there is so much truth to it.  Last month I attended the funeral of my mother’s cousin.  Beautiful lady, with a beautiful smile that bore the scars of multiple tragedies with dignity and radiance.  She lost two sons to accidents within one year.  Her husband and younger brother died much too soon.  But she continued to bear these tragedies by dedicating whatever she had to serve others around her. 

There are two ways I see that service can heal us.  One is by distraction.  Taking time to serve others while we are in pain, serves to refocus our thoughts and energies on something other than ourselves.  Sometimes this change in focus helps us see our problems in a new light.  It may offer us new solutions or it may not.  But at least we have spent a few hours less dwelling on them. By taking time to do something for someone else, we temporarily forget our own woes.  Often we realize that our problems are not as big as we thought they were when we compare them to those of others around us.  Our problems don’t disappear, but they are put in a more proper perspective.

Service can also heal us from self-righteousness, arrogance and prejudice, spiritual diseases that can afflict all of us at one time or other.  When we serve people very different from ourselves we get to know their stories, walk in their shoes for a little while and see the world from their perspective.  It is likely that we come away from the experience with a lot more empathy and understanding. 

One of my goals is to collect stories of healing through service.  If you have a personal experience that confirms this hypothesis, would you share it with me?  I want to start a new blog called Service Therapy, where these stories can be of help to others.  You can email me your story to susanbenhansen@yahoo.com.
-Susan

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Write about... by Andrea

I write about my faith because it is the love and grace of God that are at the essence of my existence.  Without faith, I simply would not be. I have known years without a faith that is living and active. I know how dark life can be when there is no hope of redemption.  I write about faith because in doing so, I stave off forces that would challenge me to lose mine.  And maybe I will help others to find theirs.

I write about dreams and goals because they give a backdrop to the minutiae.  I can keep moving forward when I have an idea of where I am going.  The future is a scary place to travel because I do not know what’s there. Dreams and goals shine a little light ahead as I walk along the path to the great unknown.

I write about the past because it is my teacher.  I find out who I have been and who I might be by looking back. I do not linger there too long, just enough time to glean insight for the present and hope for the future.

I write about fear because it cannot thrive in the light.  Fear grows in darkness, hidden away as a secret shame.  So I write to expose it to the full light of humanity and God.  The antidote to fear is openness and vulnerability.  These two super-charged, high voltage lamps guide me toward faith. And faith renders fear powerless over my life.

I write about my joys because in them I find strength for today- to tackle the next hard thing with tenacity and a good attitude.  Simple joys, recognized with gratitude, fill my cup. 

I write about my family because they make life meaningful.  I cannot imagine going through this fractal, my life, without them by my side.  They are my cheerleaders and role models, truth-tellers and confidantes, my backbone and my funny- bone.   They are my bliss.

I write about life because it is all I’ve got.  I have never been any good at fiction.  Like all writers, professional and practicing, I write about what I know about, what I care about and what I love.  And all of these are found in the pages of my every day, ordinary life.  

I write about writing, well, because this is a writing blog.  Really, it is good for me to collect my thoughts and understanding on a tool that has shaped every era of humankind since the beginning of recorded time.  It is the means through which we have recorded time, right?  If I wish to record my time on this planet, I have to spend some of it reflecting on this craft: who, what, when, and most importantly, why.  

I write in the hopes that I will see the beasts and the beauty of my days.
And in doing so, writing and sharing, maybe you will see and write about the blessings in yours, too. 

For the love of writing,

Andrea