Freedom Is A State Of Mind

It’s almost Independence Day here in the United States, but I thought I’d look at freedom in a different way. Freedom isn’t just about rights that are awarded from sources outside of us; freedom is also what we allow ourselves to make of it.

For a while I’ve been imprisoned by my own thoughts and circumstances. My mind has settled on the impossibility of what life is and I’ve been unable to comprehend a time where things could be different. This has led me into some really dark days. I haven’t written on my blog for nearly a month, mostly because the majority of what I’ve written has been so dark and depressing, I simply cannot share it.

During this time, friends have tried to lift me up because I can’t stand on my own. I know this has been exhausting for them because it’s been tiring for me as well. Waking up each day has been a chore. I’ve been caught in an endless loop of not wanting to do anything, and then feeling down because I don’t find joy in anything.

I know; it’s all in my head.

A glimmer of hope came through in my writing recently, and I thought I would share. It’s the first hint in a long time that maybe I will be right again, someday. This poem was written about a friend who has put a lot of effort into trying to get me to see hope. I’ve not been able to look beyond what I could see for today and tomorrow. But sometimes (I’m told) hope waits over the horizon, just out of sight.

Just because I can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Hope is the light streaming in between clouds
Hope is the light streaming in between clouds

You are…

A seedling sprouting

on the charred forest floor;

the sun rising

bathing desolation in golden light;

fresh rain soaking

into parched desert soil;

the smile spreading

across a tear-streaked face.

You are the today

that makes me want to see tomorrow;

you are a gift-

a reminder of God’s amazing way.

These sentiments also apply to everyone who has offered prayers and well-wishes over the last several months. A big, heart-felt thanks to all of you! There is still so much uncertainty in my life, and most days are emotionally and physically draining, but I’m starting to believe one thing IS a certainty: I will be okay. “Okay” might not turn out to be what I thought it would be… but that’s okay :) I am so far behind in reading blogs but I am finally to the point I think I can set aside a little time most days. I always enjoyed the blog community and I think perhaps taking the step to interact again will bring some normalcy, which I’ve been lacking.

I wish you all a beautiful weekend!  If hope isn’t clearly visible, may a shift in mindset bring it out of the shadows.

It Rained.

06-04 Deck

For some time, I’ve been researching, reading, watching videos and asking questions about repainting decks, as I’ve never done this type of project before.  On Wednesday morning, I finished the final step in the prep work: scrubbing and rinsing.  I was finally ready, and I had big plans to cross the deck off my checklist by the end of the weekend. I planned to apply the primer tonight and spend Sunday finishing the two coats of paint.

Then, it rained.

The weather wreaked havoc on my plans. I looked at the forecast and there is a greater than 50% chance of rain for the next two days. Since the deck needs to dry at least 48 hours before painting, there is no way this project will be completed right now. I was disappointed, and a little angry.  (It’s Arizona… it never rains…. why now?)  It was as if the time spent prepping it had been wasted, and I was devoured by pesky mosquitoes for nothing.

I couldn’t help but notice the parallel between the deck and my life. The “plans” I make keep unraveling at the seams leaving me with only threads to grasp onto. I used to know (or think I knew) what my life was about, but over the last few months, I’ve come to the realization that I have no clue. Funny thing is, I’m starting to accept this. It’s not always easy. I want to revert into the coziness of plans. I long for the stability of being able to anticipate tomorrow based on what happened today.  Sometimes I seek the shelter of “same” only to find it doesn’t exist.

Life is changing me. I’m frantically grasping to make something from the undone plans less and less. I’m learning to let them go so that new un-plans will happen. So, it rained; I can’t change that no matter how much I want to.

I could choose to sulk in a sour mood, but instead, I’m ready to embrace whatever life brings me this weekend.  Besides, there’s a great chance it will be much more fun than painting :)

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You may have noticed I haven’t posted much lately- or read others’ blogs as I used to.  The  nearly 500 emails is evidence of my neglect.  I’m sorry about this, and I do intend to get better about both.  It’s a struggle to just wake up most days, but I’m still fighting it.  I think my next post will be a fiction story for Emilio’s photo that he sent me for May.  However, if life has taught me anything, it’s that I can’t plan on that, so I won’t make a promise I can’t keep :)

Low No Expectations

My older son held a crystal in front of me and asked me what I thought of it. It was the tenth rock I’d seen and they all looked fine to me. Then he said he was going to give it to his brother. Before I could say that was nice of him, he added, “this one isn’t as nice as my other one, so he can have it.”

And so my thoughts began…

Dying flowers make me sad...
Dying flowers make me sad…

Giving:

In one way, I can acknowledge that a gift of any kind should be appreciated. But I can’t help but be bothered by this.

First of all, a gift that is knowingly “less than” really isn’t much of a gift- it’s pawning off something that didn’t mean much to you. It’s not a gift of thought or heart; it’s more an act of convenience that serves to make the other person think you are kinder than your intentions are. It’s deception.

Perhaps gifting is an art that must be learned so that we might recognize a gift is more than an object.  I am honored to receive a gift that shows a person pays attention to me and knows the little things that make me smile.

I'll look at the pretty colors, but I won't eat them (except for maybe a couple purple ones!)
I’ll look at the pretty colors, but I won’t eat them (except for maybe a couple purple ones!)

Receiving:

On the other side of that proverbial coin, receiving a gift that is devoid of thought or meaning just leaves me feeling sad and unappreciated; like I’m invisible. It’s worse than not receiving a gift at all.

When presented a gift that is completely not me, I force myself to put on my best gracious smile and say, “thank you.” I hope my smile covers up my hurt because even though I’m devastated inside, I would feel worse if I made the giver feel bad about the gift.

I realize that my expectations sometimes get in the way. I do expect people that know me best to have some idea of who I am and to be able to choose a gift accordingly. Or, if they are still stumped, just write a note; tell me why I matter.

Maybe if I can learn to expect nothing, then I won’t be disappointed. I’m not there yet, but no expectations might be just a gift away.

Already Gone (Fiction) & Photo by Emilio Pasquale

Each month, I team up with Emilio Pasquale – he gives me a photo and I write a story inspired by it.  I barely made it for April, but what follows is the photo he chose, and then my story.  His photography is impressive, so if you haven’t checked out his site, you really should (but I hope you will read the following story too – it’s less than 500 words :) )

Photo by Emilio Pasquale (story by me)

Photo by Emilio Pasquale (story by me)

ALREADY GONE

I shift my weight to relieve the pressure throbbing in my heels. I don’t know how long I’ve been standing here because I lost all concept of time… well, I don’t know how long ago. Minutes, hours, days and weeks carry no meaning for me anymore. I hear muted voices and whispers at my back, a brush fire threatening to consume me. I lean toward the porthole window so I can’t see any metal in my peripheral vision. Had it not been for the scraping of forks on plates behind me, I could imagine being alone on a raft drifting into the ocean. As it is, I feel the shoreline pulling away.

“Has she eaten today?”

“Probably not. She’s been standing there for hours.”

I have a name. My thought doesn’t translate into words because I deem it unworthy of the effort.

I squint and focus on the clusters of palm trees. I start counting, just to prove to myself I’m not completely gone. My vision always blurs around eleven; that’s when I cease to differentiate tree trunks from sailboat masts. I begin counting again, my unblinking gaze moving across the horizon.

“I don’t think she’s right.”

A laugh. “None of ‘em are. It’s called job security.”

I’m not crazy, I’m lost. Again, my thought doesn’t earn the privilege of spoken words.

I can’t discern if I am running away from or toward something. I decide it really doesn’t matter as I lean forward until my forehead rests on the glass. The drumbeat in my chest grows to such intensity that little room remains for my breath. I take what I can get. The glass warms beneath my skin until it feels like an extension of me. I’m mesmerized by the fogging and un-fogging caused by the interplay of my breathing and evaporation.

I hear shuffling feet behind me and voices fade. Isolation envelops me, clutching my insides in a twisting grip.

“Dinner’s over.”

My muscles twitch beneath the hand resting on my shoulder. I close my eyes and inhale, although I can’t claim much air. I want so much to take in the dampness and taste salt from the ocean. Instead, I realize that hopelessness smells like meatloaf and Pine Sol. Desperation has a taste: the sour bile that creeps up my esophagus and stings the back of my throat.

I don’t resist the tug on my arm and we both stumble. My right hand knocks the picture off the wall and the glass shatters. Shards dig into my bare skin when I land on the ground. I don’t feel anything. My muscles spasm, as if separate from me. I watch, intrigued. I hear a panicked call for help. I don’t care. My eyelids grow heavy as I search for white light or shadows. I see nothing. I half-expect to feel fear or anticipation. Instead, I’m indifferent toward death and life. Commotion surrounds me and I almost pity them.

Why can’t they see the futility of saving what is already gone?

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This time Emilio almost stumped me.  I was drawn to the obvious with this photo, and if you have read my fiction before, you know I do try to avoid obvious!   It’s not exactly an uplifting story, but I thought finding out the character was lost in a picture and not out to sea may have been unexpected, although clues to the setting are there.  Thanks so much for reading :)

At My Worst

If we wait long enough, there is always a break in the clouds...
If we wait long enough, there is always a break in the clouds…

Last week, I hinted at fiction for this week… that’s still on- for Thursday, I think :) But tonight, as I work through some stuff in my head, I had some thoughts I was moved to share.

When we have a disagreement with someone, we often comment that we’ve seen them at their worst. On the surface, the disagreement seems like a negative thing. In the aftermath, we tell ourselves the hurtful person that emerged and attacked with well-aimed emotional missiles was just a result of the situation. It’s not really who they are.

It occurs to me that this “worst” isn’t always an abnormality in behavior, but rather the truest sense of the person that appeared from behind the mask usually held firmly in place.   What seems like a bad thing turns into a blessing because it provides a glimpse of what lives in the person’s heart. It’s better to know what we’re dealing with.

It got me thinking about what I am at my worst. I’m there right now…

I struggle to keep seeds of resentment from taking root. I battle anger with regular exercise and prayers to “let it go.” I linger in lows where hope could slide through the eye of a needle.  Sometimes I feel like a doormat and I want to shout all the things I bottle up inside, but I refuse to retaliate with hatred. I seek peace instead.  Bad feelings might be around me, but they will not become me.

This is who I am at my worst.  I’m far from perfect, but I could be worse…

What do you think – is our worst a true indication of who we are?