Archive | Inspirational, Empowering

Life Crop #1: Gratitude (Always in Season)

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(Picture Credit: Gabriella Fabbri)

Do you know of anybody who has so much to be grateful for, yet is not truly happy?  In varying degrees, we may have our areas of discontent; this helps us strive and grow.  But I’m talking about the kind of person who, if they could hear their discontent from the outside looking in, would see how disconnected they were from Gratitude – the warm-fuzzy part of peace and joy.

I had a friend, we’ll call him “Don,” who strove and was exalted by coworkers and peers for his seeming perfection.  Don was always well-groomed, had an adoring wife and beautiful children, a finely decorated home in a friendly, closely-knit neighborhood, many admiring friends, and even the picket fence.  He was intelligent, popular, and looked good for his age.  His wife supported all his endeavors, kids did well in the myriad of activities they were involved in, the family ate out often and went on numerous vacations yearly, and he and his wife had a good social network as couples.  But Don was unhappy, deep inside.  His marriage was good, but not “perfect”—his wife was simple and not on cue with his emotions.  He had had 2 years-long affairs, chasing this “last perfect brick,” and eventually sought counseling to deal with his issues.

When I think of all that Don has and look at my bare-essentials life, and how, as long as my family is well, happy, and together, I am satiated, I feel immensely fortunate to be able to connect with Gratitude.  Don’t get me wrong – Don has acknowledged that he has a lot and is fortunate, and he would say he was grateful for all he had, but he intellectualized Gratitude – he understood that it made sense for him to be grateful, but he could not truly connect with it in his heart, where it is housed.  This doesn’t mean that he was an ingrate, but that he was missing the point of it.

Gratitude says, “I am happy because of what Is.”  It stops and revels in the glow of that joy.  It feels full and asks for nothing more.   It gives meaning to everything good, and goodness to all in its path.

I have started sharing 1 thing I’m grateful for daily on my personal Facebook page for this month, and I revel in that subject of gratitude of the day.  I don’t think of any pressing concerns that “must be resolved before I can be happy” – Gratitude dissolves any such “musts”.

Granted, there are times that may require a call for action, particularly if there’s certain life or death involved, but most of the time in life, we have all we need to be grateful, where your soul feels the joy and celebrates the truth of the present.  It disregards woes of the past or fears of the future. It asserts, “I am happy now because of what Is.”

When I was growing up, as my father worked hard every day, slowly building up his construction business, we moved often from one low-income home to another.  There was one house in particular that I and my brothers refer to as “The Shack.”  It was a pink, dilapidated shoe-box, built of what appeared to be wood slats.  It was as if there was no insulation in that house as we walked around bundled up in the winter, and could see our breath, and the only heat came from an old, black, metal wood-burning stove in the middle of the living room.  The floors slanted along the back length of the house, and there were what seemed like hundreds of large roaches that would scatter whenever we flicked on the light switch in the bathroom or kitchen at night.   Soon after we moved from it, we learned that it was a condemned building which was immediately torn down.

I was maybe 12 or so when we lived in The Shack, and my brothers and I were happy.  We played in the creek and woods, where we were wild and free, and came home to love, where we were warm and safe.  We lived the unconscious stream of Gratitude – reveling in all the good things we had, and not in what we didn’t.

Between my friend, Don, and myself, our upbringings were quite opposite from each other’s.  I cannot speak for him and what was not filled in childhood that may have affected his ability to fully connect with Gratitude amidst all his life’s treasures, but from my teenage years until not too long ago (20 years time), I’ve lived what many may consider an emotionally and spiritually taxing life myself.  I could justify feeling too angry, bitter, entitled, whatever the excuse, to be grateful.

Gratitude is not just a choice, a chore – you can’t just say, “I am grateful,” and not stop to truly listen, see, understand its beauty.  It would be like a spouse saying, “Sure, I love my wife,” but not taking the time to spend with her, look at her, listen to her, and see her and celebrate the person she is.

Gratitude requires full attention for true connection; only then can you reap the benefits that can salve many wounds and fill hollow spaces.

I started this blogging venture in big part due to Gratitude.  And I am so grateful.  I am here speaking to you about this and many things that I hope will help heal your heart and sharpen your senses, and I am so grateful for it all.

But how to be grateful when something is tugging your heart?

What is tugging your heart?

Is it the past?  If so, be present in the truth of today: You are no longer there where the pain happened.  Rejoice! You made it! You didn’t think you would, but you did! What victory! What a blessing!

If it’s anything else, use this formula:

“I am grateful that I am catching this now, AND* I will [course of action].”   

*(Gratitude does not have space for “but.”   To say, “I am grateful for x, but…” is like saying, “I love you, but…”  – the first point immediately withers.  Gratitude is independent joy.)

And be grateful for your ability to process a solution, or find help, or even have friends or family to talk to.  Be grateful that you can read and research, that you can learn and reach out via so many avenues nowadays.  Be grateful if you are healthy, and grateful if you are able to receive medical attention if you are not healthy, and grateful that you have a mind that is well enough to crave growth and learning – this is part of honoring yourself, those you love, the world – be grateful for these desires and connections.

Nothing can replace being connected to Gratitude for true peace and happiness.  It is not required to be alive, but to feel alive…and worthy –  Gratitude senses an ultimate source of goodness in the world, whether or not one is conscious or acknowledging of such a belief.  Thank God for it.

4

These Babies are Real: The Beauty of Authenticity

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(Photo: Courtesy of Stock.xchng)

While in the midst of my most confusing, turbulent years, a relative casually commented about girls with implants, saying, “I’d rather have fake pretty over real ugly any day.”  The word play sounded convincing, but at the heart of it was the sad sign of the times, where the core message falls into the bloated “WTF” category.

That comment may be an extreme expression of the sentiment, but it was brutally honest about a viewpoint that manifests itself in many areas of our society.   I have a close friend who feels the need to “keep up” with her image to the world, and she has been on that treadmill for so long that she has become accustomed to it, and in her need to present “perfection,” any insinuation of human imperfection has her scurrying to try to validate against it.  It’s both sad and frustrating to witness.   A family member of mine has been in a series of relationships with people so disconnected from the truth of their own beings that any no real progress could take root, neither on personal nor relationship levels.  I see people putting humanity and/or positivity quotes (the “new cool”) all over Facebook, yet defining success as accumulation of material things, among other contradictions to their campaigns.

It seems that this B.S.itis stems from deep insecurities, which is rooted from the lack of understanding oneself.  When I wanted to start a serious blog, one that I could truly identify with and be able to consistently write about, I had no idea what I had to offer that could give value to others.  I was a Jane of All Trades and master of none, simply because my life routed me every which way, so I could not develop any socially marketable skills – I only knew how to survive, and I learned about the funny ways of the world, and the misconception of the misconception of bad people.  But mostly, what came naturally to me was my introspection, and through my “20 lost years,” this understanding deepened.  The one thing that I knew how to do was be real.  And I would learn that it was not a common ability.

I started off believing that I was doing the right thing, being genuine, kind, fair.  The ridiculousness of chance: me, being this kind of person surrounded by completely opposite types of people.  I stood my ground for a long time, but eventually, I started wondering if I was, in fact, wrong.  At one point, I even thought that I should try to be more superficial, care about amassing money, care about what people thought, because, after all, when you worry, you scurry, and maybe I needed to scurry to fit in, because then my life would be easier and happier, right?  Hypothesis FAIL.

The only thing I learned about that experiment was that such people lived a busy, frantic life. It was flashy and noisy, but without substantial joy.  It was distracting enough on the surface to ignore the loneliness deep inside, and you had to keep chasing the chaos so that you don’t ever have to face the truth of how void of meaning there was in this impressive commotion in which you’re partaking.  Although the power of introverts is coming into awareness, the perversion of extroversion is still society’s soup du jour.

All of this masking is really a disservice to us as a society, as well as individuals.  What kind of society do we have if we’re a network of weak links?  As individuals, how do you fix a problem if you are unaware of it, or if you hide it from others?  Imagine if people could come out and be honest about their true selves because they felt safe in the world they lived in.  If everyone in the world could feel unabridged safety, love, acceptance, there would be no need for validation through power as exhibited in its many morale-(and sometimes moral)-crumbling forms – we may have discovered the formula for world peace!

Well, that’s not a guarantee, but there would certainly be peace in the worlds of our individual lives.  And I would imagine that not many people would be opposed to that scenario.

Being authentic, simply put, is being honest, humble, vulnerable, and human in the most edifying, interconnecting way.  (Not to be confused with being an unapologetic jerk, although if true jerks took on this approach to authenticity by saying, “I’m an asshole, accept it,” they actually do us a service – who wouldn’t want such a fair warning?)

Most insecure, fearful people have been rubbed raw by hurts and disappointments, and so they wrap themselves in layer after layer of all kinds of numbing material, some harder than others, some pricklier than others, but all burying the truth.  It’s no way of living, for we born to be alive, and unless life’s hurdles shut us down, we desperately crave living in this state of convergence of who we really are and who we pretend to be:

(“Breaking Bad”: Walter White – “Alive” Scene)

Authenticity removes the muffling layers, catalyzing self discovery, enhancing life experiences, and teaching the world not only tolerance, but celebration of the individual.  I’ll take this real beauty any day.

Related: “Choosing the Red Pill”

2

No Smoke and Daggers Allowed in the Courtroom

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Before we can have a true system for justice, we have to fairly define the parameters of what is okay vs. not-okay to do to others.

How many times have you experienced as or witnessed the victim, the person who had something deliberately and unfairly imposed upon them by another, having to defend him/herself after taking the hit, while the perpetrator went scot free?  Frustrating, isn’t it?  And yet it happens all the time.  Why the eff is that?  Because people are allowing themselves to be distracted by dramatic tones and fancy hand flourishes in the circus court of life.  In the hubbub, a dust storm erupts and the victim is shanked.

Real-Life Case 1:  Precursor Perpetration Accusation

  • A young girl is molested by her uncle, who is then fumingly thrown out of the house by her mother.  The uncle’s brother, the young girl’s other uncle, says in his defense, “The punishment does not fit the crime.”  And rumors circulate that the young girl shouldn’t have been wearing tight tops, etc.  Um,  who’s doing the molesting?

Real-Life Case 2:  Guilt Deflection

  • A couple enable their 30 year old son to live at home, not work, not go to school, do drugs, and verbally and physically abuse his baby’s mother.  The mother seeks consolation from someone.  The mother of the dysfunctional son starts spreading false rumors about the “helper” to isolate the girl and turn the rest of the extended family against the helper.  Who’s doing the enabling? Who’s doing the abusing?

Real-Life Case 3:  Internalized Abuse

  • A young girl is raised seeing abuse from her biological father to her mother.  Unrelated, kids are teasing her in school.  As a teenager, she falls into a sexually abusive relationship.  As a young adult, she covers herself by branding herself with tattoos and piercings because she doesn’t think that she’s pretty, and is ashamed of herself.  Who were the ones saying ugly things? Who are the ones doing hurtful things? 

Real-Life Case 4:  Broken System

  • A teenager is trapped into the sex trafficking ring, subjecting her to abuse by her pimp and rape by 40+ men a day.  She gets caught by the police and booked and treated as a criminal while her pimp walks.  Who is psychologically and physically abusing these girls and women?  Who is selling their bodies to be tortured, their minds to be broken, their lives to be shredded?

I could go on, and I’m sure you could add your endless list alongside mine.  That being so is a quizzical misfortune.

Why do people believe the hype against the victims?  Why don’t they think and act accordingly?

1. People are lazy.   They are emotionally too lazy to put themselves in the victim’s shoes, but if someone yells “Witch!”, they want in on the excitement, and so jump at the chance to chant along.  They are too lazy to think, so they let the also mentally lazy, but in power, think for them, and let’s face it, it’s a lot of work to confront perpetrators.  So much easier to start bopping on the head of a victim who is already subdued.  These forms of laziness are also forms of complacency.  Complacency inhibits individual growth and breeds all sorts of societal disconnect and dysfunction.  (Solution: Care, damnit!)

2. People are scared.  They are afraid of what others might say, or of what might happen to those they care about who are responsible for hurting someone else, over what is just and fair.  (Solution: Grow a fair pair!)

Sadly, the general population is often a goofy herd of individuals that go along with their faces in the arses of their fellow herd members in front of them, not seeing where they’re being led, bleating when they hear a bleat.  And to be fair, sometimes it’s hard to see in the midst of the sea of fluff and noise.  One has to be willing to raise one’s head and look beyond the herd.

How can we be sure we’re not becoming part of the problem in this mis-assignment of accountability?

Let’s use the hot topic of rape as an example for this exercise.  The options given are a sampling of those often grouped together in this case:

          “It is not okay to ______ someone else.”   {dress scantily, seduce, rape}

Let’s plug in our options now:

1. “It is not okay to dress scantily someone else.”   First off, you can’t “dress scantily” someone else (unless you’re the wardrobe manager for a Victoria Secret’s fashion show); “dressing scantily” is not what you do to someone else.  One chooses one’s way of dressing as one pleases – hopefully with respect to children and/or cultural considerations.  In any case, to say that “dressing scantily” is a criminal act against another, or the cause of a criminal act, is invalid.  NEXT.

2. “It is not okay to seduce someone else.”  This is true if you or the other person is in a relationship with someone else, on a moral sense.  However,  seduction implies the seduction target’s willingness to be seduced; otherwise, you’re just trying to seduce.  In any case, along with #1, this also is invalid as a case for criminal violence or instigation, as explained here:

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3. “It is not okay to rape someone else.”  That is all.  The chart below, found circulating online, illustrates this point:

Image(Usable as template for “Causes of Victimizing Acts Imposed from One or More Individuals to Another”)

It is not okay to molest a kid, it is not okay to abuse your baby mama, it is not okay to bully a school mate, it is not okay to physically and psychologically torment someone and sell violations of their bodies.

And, it is not okay to ignore these wronging acts, and worse, put the victim on the stand, behind the bars, or on the gallows.

Be willing to care, to think, to be brave.  And if you already are doing these things, clear the smoke, blow the whistle, shine light in the shadows; make a case for justice, every day.

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Write as Reign: Blogging to Rule the Universe

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I am a new blogger.  I’ve dabbled in writing (mostly spewing with ink) on and off throughout my adult life, but this is the first time I am writing to communicate consistently to an audience.  Why, you ask?

Tony Robbins identifies 6 basic human needs: 1. Certainty, 2. Variety, 3. Significance 4. Connection, 5. Growth, 6. Contribution.  Blogging addresses all of those needs under these 3 C’s:

1. Blogging Creates.  Blogging is, in essence, writing, and writing is a form of creativity.  Creativity does not carbon.  Creativity craves Variety.

2. Blogging Clarifies.  Writing for an audience, particularly an invisible one, fine tunes the sifting and assemblage of the realm that makes up who you are—your thoughts, feelings, experiences, and evaluation of the world—and in the scrutiny of finding the proper pieces to put together and share, we make an efficient molehill out of that mountain.  We sort out the most useful parts – we clarify, we beautify, we fortify.  This is Growth.

3. Blogging Connects.  One remarkable trait of us humans is the desire to share our individual human experiences with our fellow wo/mankind.  This experience can be in the form of ideas, emotions, artistic creations, analyses – anything we can think of.  Even those who are not conversationalists or socialites, or are simply info-hoarders, in some way, desire connection.  Severe connection deprivation instigates unsavory behaviors:  food/drug/sex abuse, affairs, even cannibalism.  Blogging is a better alternative.

Once you put out that manageable, core-carved manuscript, you are saying, “Here is a piece of me. Can you relate?” And when someone does (and someone will) the Connection is complete: they know they are not alone, and you know you are not alone.  This sharing is also Contribution (you pass on your insights, observations, experiences) and satisfies the need for Significance (you’ve created, you’ve contributed, you matter) and a level of Certainty (you can always rely on your blog to be there when you feel the urgency to create, express, clarify, connect, contribute.)

Simply put: Blogging is an easy way of plugging back into humanity via the technology that has disconnected us.  (Don’t you love irony? 🙂 )

Imagine Humanity’s potential if everyone worked on mastering his/her own Universe of Self!  Imagine the potential of your own household if every member of your family took ownership of knowing him/herself, his/her personal growth, and how his/her actions can affect other family members.

You may not be able to inspire change in everyone, but you can explore this discovery for yourself.  Start sifting. Start sharing.

It has been nearly 2 months since I’ve started this blog.  My focus is in an arena that may be completely different from yours, and in my own voice – it is ALL GOOD.  Someone may need to hear what you have to say, in the way that you say it.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you SHOW UP, because that is where all great things begin.

6

Choosing the Red Pill (Why Authenticity Matters)

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“The Matrix” (Scene: Red/Blue Pill)

“The Matrix” poses an interesting dilemma in the red/blue pill choice: Choose a fabricated reality that seems comfortable and safe, or choose to exit from the induced state and into true reality, which is dark and stark and full of extremely uncomfortable challenges.

When I first watched the movie, I thought, I don’t know if I could handle the truth.  If the dream feels completely real, what is wrong with staying in that world?  Isn’t achieving the feeling of happiness and security what it all comes down to anyways?

That was over a decade ago, and in that time, I’ve learned quite a bit about the virtues of being true to oneself and living a life honoring that truth.

Being transparent was never difficult for me, but I had an unfair advantage.  I grew up in a very sheltered home, and was fortunate to have had a loving upbringing where my brothers and I were well provided for and praised lavishly.  I didn’t have today’s cable TV, the internet, or even a social life to confuse my sense of self-worth.  All I knew how to do was be myself, to think and act naturally, comfortably, confidently and without apologies.

The problem was, after my family split apart following my brother’s death, and I had to wander into the great, wide world beyond Ronson Drive, I would learn that when people were nice, they didn’t always mean it, and my naivete and openness were either targeted by the predators of the world, or shunned by the unauthentic.

It took me a good decade of all kinds of heartaches from people I thought were friends, from “outlaws” I thought were family, and even from family that I thought were on my side.  I was forced to take the red pill, a sublingual that slowly but intensely absorbed into my system, and I saw all kinds of ugly.

The bad part was that the ugliness started to make me doubt myself.  Had I been doing it wrong all this time?  Why couldn’t I care to spackle myself up to fit in?  I was too skinny, too smiley, too energetic, too friendly; I spoke too freely about my past, too matter-of-factly about my faults, too enthusiastically about helping.  I couldn’t plan ahead or pack my schedule or join the PTA or keep my house clean or cook well.  I didn’t dress up, wear makeup, get my hair or nails did, care about shoes.  What the eff was wrong with me?

Turns out, nothing, except for my lack of understanding at the time that 1) I was not with the right company, and therefore 2) my gifts and strengths were not being honored, not even by myself.

I eventually learned how flat a perspective people’s judgments could be.  Some people would tell me that I was too sensitive; turns out, these people had upbringings where sharing, showing, or talking about feelings were discouraged.  Others have said things like, “You’re pretty. You should dress up more.”  What?!  This is as logical as telling someone that they’re ugly, so they should just quit trying.

But I bought into the propaganda, and after my third child, I found myself a bit delighted that, for the first time, I could not lose the extra 15 lbs.  I was not heavyset by any means, yet it was noticeable extra weight on me, and people would encourage it, practically high-fiving me on it, even though it made my knees ache and had me short of breath going up a few steps; the extra few pounds on me was not my natural and healthy weight.  But I finally felt accepted, maybe even loved.  So this was what peer pressure felt like.  And this unhealthy glee made me realize that I wanted to fit in, even against my own well-being.  A bit of self-loathing started creeping in at this point.

I started hating my nature of feeling so much, thinking so much, caring so damn much about people, principles, the “unbling.”  I did not fit in – I never quite did.  I felt like “Powder”: I saw things with such vividness and beauty and awe, and it took me a while to learn that many didn’t understand what I had inside, and distrusted, disliked, and in turn, disrespected me for it.  Real life was harsh and such a contrast to my authentic self, where people were as kind as they said and acted to my face, and it was particularly difficult to emotionally adjust to this clarified reality once the red pill took over, and there was no turning back.

I was so angry at the constant meanness and deceit that I started fantasizing about the “good ol’ days,” when I was blissfully ignorant and soft.  Why didn’t I take the blue pill, like all the rest?  They seemed unbothered by their own layers of fakery, sparkling in the New Cool of the day: piety, yoga spirituality, green and organics, “perfect” parenting, the feigning good will to mankind through positive quotes (some stolen and posted as if their own) on Facebook, and other audience-based indicators of their “integrity.”   How the frick could one tell who was authentic anymore?

One might argue that it doesn’t really matter, like Angelina Jolie’s potentially adopting of a myriad of kids to bury her unapologetic home-wrecker reputation – who cares – socially disadvantaged children around the world get a posh new life, and that’s all that matters, right?

Yes, and no.  Yes, these people who buy organics and boast positive quotes as a means to be praised, but then turn around and treat people with saccharin smiles and insincere words do help the small farmers and evoke chipper nods in the process, but in not confronting the truth and embracing who they want to be, not just who they want people to see, they limit the circumference of any positive rippling effect.  Not only that, but this insincerity waters down the potential potency and beauty of this new movement towards things worthy of adopting and universalizing.

When I got over my own shock and the gamut of emotions that came with such a rude awakening, I thought back to “The Matrix.”  In it, only a few people had come out into the real world.  There was so much to be done, and only a handful were in the wakened state that was required to make a change.  Imagine if everyone awoke out of the Matrix and worked together.

Imagine, now, if we all took the red pill of authenticity; even if the reality was ugly – so what?  Being authentic doesn’t make the reality uglier; it gives us, engineers of our lives, an accurate blueprint to begin the difficult, but worthy, task of healing, changing, building up.  And it is in this place of authenticity, of honesty and accuracy, where everything we do becomes tangible, and where our greatest, brightest dreams become truth.

12

Guilt to the Gallows

Gallows2“For goodness, growing to a pleurisy,

Dies in his own too-much.” – Shakespeare (Hamlet)

Guilt is like power: always in the wrong hands, and rarely used with proper moderation or purpose.  Like anger and sadness, guilt has purpose: to guide us and grow us, but anything more than a pinch in the mix can take over the composition of our lives.  Stereotyping truthfully here: Being a girl, being asian, and being Catholic growing up really gave me a triple propensity for feeling guilt. Extreme guilt.  I’ve come to realize that a large portion of my painful experiences in life were attached to some form of it:

– guilt about my brother Dedrick’s death, that maybe my family was too close and so we had to be punished somehow.  This  also led to –

–  guilt for getting pregnant at 19 with an uneducated, illegal alien, and trying to rectify the pain and shame I caused my parents from it by sticking it out with him, even though I was miserable, in hopes that it would turn around and ease my parents’ sorrows

– guilt over the terrible “choice” I’d made to give my sweet, innocent children such an unworthy man to represent as their father

– guilt that I didn’t become the accomplished person that everyone expected of me before Dedrick died

– guilt that I could not save my parents’ marriage after Dedrick’s death

– guilt that I could not save my surviving brother from living in the streets and in gangs to survive

– guilt that I could not keep my children from going through the pain they had to process growing up

– guilt that I could not help my mother, who mentally went wayward and made poor choices therefrom, so I had to cut her out of my life (and guilt from that)

– guilt that I could not provide a comfortable old age for my father, who, in his 70s, after having survived a back riddled with bullets from the Vietnam war; after starting over in a foreign country; after having put in much sweat equity without a single complaint, having built a good life for his family, only to have one son killed, another lost to the streets, and his daughter penned up in an abusive relationship; after all of that, still does heavy manual construction  labor to care for himself

– guilt that all of these things were because I allowed myself to fall into an imprisoning relationship, and that if I hadn’t, I could have been there to save my family.

These are just a few things that I burdened myself with guilt over (the comprehensive list is staggering – I see them floating in the peripheral).  But I don’t know if I could have avoided it – I was a very compassionate person who took ownership of my actions and mistakes, and always wanted to be sure everyone was okay, even above my own well-being.  It was easy for me to accept the guilt that bad things were of my doing, rather than hurt others with accusations.

And in the aftermath of a tragedy that made no sense and rendered my family hopeless, powerless, guilt persuaded, “If you’re to blame, then you can just change, and then these bad things won’t happen anymore.” So I carried that philosophy into my relationship at the time, striking down every instance of my screaming intuition in favor of accepting every cruel thing that Adalberto (his real name; may the truth of him be billboarded to save others) would do/say to me, including that I was a terrible person, and that God punished me for it by killing my brother.  For anybody, that is hurtful, but for a young girl who had recently lost her brother, her loving family, her friends, youth, and dreams; who was so naive that she didn’t understand about stalking or sociopaths, never dated, barely knew about sex; who was isolated from the world to make babies so a manipulative man could have permanent legal rights to stay in her country and continue to torment her; who didn’t even have internet at that time to learn all the things she needed to know in her situation, such a comment was brutal.

The funny thing about guilt, even when you can mentally process the logic of the reality to not be as guilt suggests, it seeps deep down through layers of your being.  I hated the man for his cruelty, and knew he was wrong, yet the guilt stained and stung and would not let me ignore.

But there is a grace to this part of my story.  My son, one of the things that that man hoped to chain me to him, at only 4 looked up at me in one of my crying bouts and said, “Why don’t we just leave him?”  In that instant, the tremendous burden of being obligated to stay was lifted, and soon after, my plans to escape would form and come to fruition.

I would be struggling with great guilt for another decade or so, with different people and arenas.  I had family members telling me daily that I was going to hell for not staying with my abuser.  When I stopped working full-time because my little one had febrile seizures, I had people who didn’t even have children tell me that I should be working, that I was lazy and selfish.  I had always given people compassion and understanding, a shoulder, a hand, and a dollar whenever I could, but they didn’t return even the courtesy of the benefit of the doubt.   The world was so full of confused people saying and doing unkind things, and I was told to constantly forgive and have compassion or that I was not really a good person.  I became so angry that I started feeling guilty that I was ever so nice to so many thoughtless people in the first place!  Imagine that – any excuse to feel guilty!

I had a monumental shift in my guilty tendencies when I finally had to evict own mother from my home.  That is a whole other story.  But let me tell you, once you’ve mustered enough courage to take your mother to court, game over for future oppressors.  It took a LOT for me to get to that point.  And it was one of the best things I ever did for myself.

It taught me that guilt, for the most part, was an useless emotion.  Once I got that, I was free, happy, and at peace for the first time in decades.  From this place, I have become more capable of helping others, as well, starting with my own children.

I think I am still quite accommodating, and kind (my heart feels steadily warm and full), and actually more patient than ever.  But if I don’t like someone, I’m okay with that.  If something pisses me off, I remind myself to trust my instincts and allow the process.  And, as you may have read, if I don’t feel like forgiving, I won’t guilt myself into it.  Not anymore.

Guilt is not completely out of my system.  It still pokes its head in the door every so often and says, “now?” and I have to shake my head no, and then it leaves.  Sometimes I’ll entertain it by asking it what it wants, and it tells me.  I can sympathize with it – or not.  Guilt and I rarely see each other, but I know it’s there, and it knows who the boss is.  It is no longer the grossly inflated monster that thought and directed my life for me; that one, I’ve offed with its head.

5

“The Secret” is Out

TheSecretRejected

A few years ago, I stumbled across this book, which promised some awesome rewards for the price of committed blind faith.  It was a very seductive offer, and I was in a compromised place in life, a place familiar to the majority population.  The book was sexy and an easy read while I stood in Target, waiting for my daughter to get out of her martial arts class, and I was tempted to buy it right away.  But it was so easy to get through, in fact, that I managed to skim through the whole thing within that 30 minute time and find holes in the general message, “Ask. Believe. Receive.”

The power of positive thinking is no news, first of all.  Your brain is a conductor, and whatever instructions you give it, it will follow, more than less.  The negative thought will have you gravitating towards actions, people, circumstances, that match your external realities to your internal ones.  People suffering from depression are often drowning in the sense of hopelessness, which colors what they think and feel, regardless of what they do externally to mask it.  The shift from this thought process to one of sudden hope and promise of a better tomorrow, of dreams to come true, all within access of your thoughts alone, can inspire a complete change in direction for the person from the inside out.  So positive thinking is real and valid in the value it has for changing one’s life for the better.

But “The Secret” goes too far.  It states that such thoughts also cause one’s misfortunes.  When I read that, I immediately unlatched, because I knew it to be untrue.

When my brother was hit by a car and killed when I was 16, my family was probably among the happiest, most positive, excitable, carefree, fortunate-feeling family in the world.  Nobody foresaw anything bad happening.  I didn’t even know the term “dysfunctional family” until much later in life, and thought that sad families were rare exceptions, usually found in “extreme” cases (parents fought, kids didn’t listen to them) that ended up in talk shows.

Another reason that easily disproves the thought-blame game is in an area that has always impassioned me: children who are victims of heinous crimes.  I can find no logical explanation that the child victim’s tragic fate was caused by faulty thinking.  Was this due to their predators having had stronger thoughts of evil than the child had of innocence and goodness?  Ridiculous and offensive.

Nonetheless, “The Secret” blew up everywhere, and I would get excited shares about it from well-meaning family members.  I love them for their good intentions, and I hope the book triggered a chain of needed positive thinking to propel their lives in the most joyful, productive ways.   They would have to gloss over the severely flawed and potentially harmful viewpoints from the book, though.

There is a huge trend on “positive thinking” nowadays, which is great; maybe the profitability of “The Secret” inspired the resurgence from individuals and marketers alike.  But it doesn’t guarantee a genuine person or way of being.  More on this to come.

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