Monthly Archives: September 2015

What “Rock, Paper, Scissors” Can Teach Us About Making Life Choices.

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An odd memory tickled my brain early this morning. Once upon a time (in the late 90’s), there was a website that allowed you to challenge others to a game of “Rock, Scissors, Paper” via email. A friend and I engaged in several rounds of the game, and at some point I got it into my head that I was going to choose “rock” for every challenge. Over and over, I clicked the rock….chuckling to myself (and thinking that I was being clever and funny) as my opponent went through the process of discovering that was the move that I was routinely playing. Now and then he would play a move other than paper, anticipating that eventually I would play something else to catch him off guard. However, I waited until he stopped playing anything but paper (and was obviously displaying frustration that I kept sending him challenges when I was not going to play anything but the same move), and then I finally challenged him one last time…. and played scissors. I won. So, what does this teach us? Well, firstly, it indicates that I was once very young and annoying, and perhaps lucky that said friend did not strangle me…….but it might also represent elements to be found when approaching life choices.

Ultimately “Rock, Paper, Scissors” is a strategic game of choices, and although the actual game itself appears to be simple, it actually involves many of the same thought processes that we use when making major choices for ourselves. When playing RPS, we watch for patterns….we try to anticipate what the other person will do, and thus what our best options are to be the victor. Sometimes we try to control the game by plotting ways to deceive and manipulate the other player so that ultimately we can surprise them, and win. And yet, many claim that the best way to play the game is to avoid analyzing or plotting, and to simply trust that letting go, and playing at random will be what will ultimately create the most wins— because the other person will be stumped with the lack of pattern to aid them in their own combative strategies.

When we make life choices, many of us try to analyze all elements to the situation to try to aid us. We strive to anticipate what others will do, what choices will have the best outcomes for us, and what possible negative results could occur if we take certain actions. Other times, we may plot, plan, and try to line things-up in a way that will lead to, or even force the results that we hope for…..even if it might lead to manipulating others, and practicing deception to get the outcome that we desire. However, how does the “random” RPS strategy equate in real life?  Faith. Trusting that God will guide us, and learning how to flow with that trust, and not force things due to thinking we know what is best, or because we are too impatient to wait for God’s answers and timing.

Rationally, it can appear at first glance that carefully weighing all elements to a situation is the best way to make choices (it is the course that I usually take)—this typically is true, because it at least prevents rushing into big mistakes impulsively based-off of temporary feelings or various other fragile elements…..however, it can also sometimes have the reverse issue of holding us back. At times we can be almost too careful, and get so wrapped-up in “this or that could go wrong”, that it prevents us from even making a choice, let alone “winning” at things, or finding peace and enjoyment in life. We can become our own stumbling block that prevents us from making choices, or we may even make choices that are fear-based that eventually lead us in the wrong direction.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. — Phillippians 4:6

Essentially, the above scripture teaches that we should avoid being overly careful or anxious….but instead, we should take everything (choices and trials) to God through prayer with a thankful, open mind-set and attitude. My interpretation on the “thanksgiving” is a reminder to approach prayer from a place of open gratitude, rather than with a stressful anxious mind that may not be able to hear, or receive anything through all of the inner commotion. It is about silencing our worries, our desires, and striving to have faith that Heavenly Father knows what is best, and that we have to sometimes let go of all of our intricate analyzing to allow room for him to guide, and have a hand in our lives.

   As for plotting? Oh how we strategize, and even twist things in order to “win” or get what we want. Sometimes we try to take the steering wheel, and turn it in the direction towards things that ultimately will not be good for us. We want to believe that we know what is best, and force things into the results that we want. Even though we might be able to do/get something, and even achieve what we desire, it doesn’t mean that we will result in truly “winning” (such as young me who “won” at the cost of aggravating a friend in a very negative way). There is always the possibility that if we manipulate things to get the outcomes that we desire, that it could actually be something that was not even meant for us in the first place (especially if we had to be deceptive in any form to achieve it). Our tactics can result in lying to others (and even to our own selves), or doing things such as pretending to be someone else, or claiming that we have interests, or skills that we do not…all in the effort to achieve a relationship, a job etc… Even though they may seem to be tactics that are excusable because they are done as a means to gain something “good”, in reality nothing that is truly right, or meant for us should require any kind of force or deception to achieve it. Additionally, at some point those deceptions will become known, and likely cause problems—-typically the loss of whatever was achieved via those deceptive practices.

Also, that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good; and he that hasteth with his feet sinneth.

The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the Lord–Proverbs 19: 2-3

   So, the message in the first verse ( as I see it), is that it is not advised for us to allow ourselves to let our judgment get clouded, and to grab that steering wheel and force it down the road we want—especially if we have not received knowledge or answers that demonstrate that it is truly the direction we should go in ( or if we do it despite possibly having received indication that it is not what is best). It is acting on our own will…and though that is our right and choice, it does not necessarily mean that it will fit with what Heavenly Father would want for us. Compare it to when a child decides to not listen to, or take the advice of a parent due the assumption that they know what is better….even if they do not have enough experience or knowledge to fully understand what it is they are doing, and ultimately would fair better if they did listen and take that parental guidance.

   As for, “he that hasteth with his feet sinneth“, I personally think that it is a warning that rushing into choices could result in mistakes, especially when we do so on our own ambitions (without spiritual guidance/ knowledge). I personally have seen this demonstrated many times in my own choices, and also that of friends, clients etc… Typically, the needful inner voice that pushes us to race and rush indicates the desire to “cinch” something before anything could ruin it, get in the way etc… even if it is running form the simple tap of truth and reality that could eventually catch-up to the situation, and pop the fantasy bubble. Any urgent need to dive-in and make something happen fast is the sign of something within us knowing that what we are doing might not be right, or could change/ be lost if we give it time….so we have to make it happen quickly before anything can make it fall apart. The truth is, anything that we truly know is right should result in us having a sense of calm and trust that no matter how much time is given, that it will happen, and be there for us….that we do not have to rush, push, or force it into happening. It is akin to building something with snow, and wanting to rush it into form before the sun will come out and melt it…..as if that somehow will prevent the inevitable outcome. However, if we take time, if we follow guidance, and if we feel truly secure in our choice and plans…. then we have the time to build a solid foundation of sturdy bricks without the fear that something can easily destroy, or take it away from us. So, we must learn to watch for our own inner warning lights when we feel the need to quickly make something happen, as well as when anyone else tries to grab us up into their sprint towards an expeditious destination.

   Proverbs 19:3 indicates that it is through our own foolishness and desires that we can come to negative paths and results. The word “perverteth” hits me strongly, because it represents corrupting or twisting something to alter it’s original course or purpose—in sense, it is speaking of perhaps not only going against guidance, but even distorting things to make ourselves believe that we are acting on what God wants us to do, when in fact it is allowing our own desires to dominate, and misuse any promptings from the spirit to justify our actions, and what it is that we want. The danger in telling ourselves that we are acting on spiritual promptings ( when we are not), is that when things eventually lead to disastrous results, it then is all to easy to put the blame on having been guided incorrectly, and somehow betrayed (“his heart fretteth against the Lord”). We might even feel anger, and a loss of faith because instead of a blessing, we were given an extreme hardship….when in reality, we were acting on our own wishes, and created our own path out of “foolishness”… instead of truly listening, and receiving—-especially if it was because we did not want to hear, or follow an answer that revealed something other than what we wanted.

   Making choices is hard. It especially can be difficult if we pray, but feel we are not getting answers, or maybe are even hearing a small voice that goes against what we are hoping for the answer to be. We simply need to have patience for things to truly be revealed, and come to recognize the signs of things that point towards letting our ambitions lead us astray —rushing/impatience, using deception, rationalizations or justifications, and anything that moves us on a path that goes against what we know is right/ true…..or away from God himself. They sound like basic guidelines, but they are what will help us to keep our feet moving in the right directions. We have to learn to be self-aware, and honest with ourselves. Sometimes it is not just about having faith, patience, trust…and being able to receive spiritual promptings. It is also about being able to recognize when we have not received guidance, and when we truly are just racing towards our own desires.

   When we make selfish choices, or gain things through any form of deception….we will have to carry that weight and knowledge with us, which in a way taints whatever it is that we have achieved. We cannot truly be at happy, or at peace if we know deep down that something was gained through wrongful means. However, when we are honest and open, and make choices that are both spirit-led and healthy for us (without anything we have to conceal)….. that is when we truly can experience peace, and assurance that we have made the right choices.

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Suicide Awareness and Prevention. What I Learned When I Lost My Sister.

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I debated at length about writing this. Myself, and so many are still struggling to cope with the immense loss. However, what decided me, is the thought that maybe this could somehow help someone who stumbles upon it—be it someone in direct need, or someone who is trying to understand a loved one who is struggling.

It is still hard to say it in a public way. It is not something that we have hidden, or treated like a secret, and it is certainly not something any of us are ashamed of….. just, I think we do not say it directly because of how painful it is—the shock, and sadness that is so deeply felt from losing someone in that kind of way. We instinctively want to shield, and tip-toe around that which is so hard to understand, and which seems too fragile to touch. Even now, it is hard to type-out the word. I prefer to say that we lost her to depression. I feel that is the most accurate way to define it. It is the truth.

Pain. Pain is what causes it. They just want the pain to go away….and lose the ability to understand what else will end with it.

There are so many stigmas and mistaken beliefs that create obstacles in treatment and prevention. We have such a deep, long history of associating it with negative connotations– in large part ingrained from religious ostracization, and mistaken traditions in society that treat it as something that brings shame, or creates some kind of black mark on not only the person, but their family. These beliefs have created thousands of years of pain and struggle in the dark. In hindsight of how long these beliefs have been practiced, the shift to new ways of understanding and treatment is still relatively in a stage of infancy, and many still have old misconceptions ingrained. I think a good example to reference is the reaction to the death of Robin Williams. The Internet and media lit-up with debates between those declaring it an act of selfishness and cowardry, while others tried to combat it with explanations that it was depression, and thus something that debilitated his ability to think rationally. As tragic as it was to lose such a brilliant person who was loved world-wide, it was an event that both revealed how far we as a society still have to go in gaining understanding, as well as provided a way to bring more awareness and education to light. If only there were easier ways to create awareness. It is understandably something uncomfortable to address, all the more so due to lingering past stigmas….thus, it is crucial that we not be silent, and that we continue to educate and strive to break-down the invisible restrictions. It is why I am writing this, despite how hard it is. Every person who shares their story is another slice against those ancient bindings, and another light that is created to push back the darkness.

There are two common obstacles that create the largest challenges…. and the first is believing. It sounds like something so simple and basic, and yet it is one of the primary reasons why people are ignored, or fear that will be the result if they attempt to tell others. Something that I have learned, is that it is very common for us to try to twist scary uncomfortable things into being something else—be it child abuse, sexual assault, combat situations, mental illness, or anything else that is hard to face. We most especially do not like to think about those we care about as having been victim to, or suffering from terrible things—-so we seek other explanations. This is why so many people who are most in need are met with not only being ignored, but also being accused of lying in order to gain attention, or to excuse off negative behaviors and addictions. It seems far safer to tell ourselves that the situation is not real, and that the person is just creating some kind of fake ploy, stunt, or manipulation…. than it is to embrace a terrifying, and painful reality involving someone that we love. It is all the easier to do when the person is seen as having acted erratically or dramatically in some way—yet those often can be the very symptoms that display that something is truly wrong. At a time that people most feel alone, they are met with further isolation that can add to their pain, and to their beliefs that they are unwanted, unworthy, and do not belong. The rejection and denial can serve as a form of confirmation of the negative things that are being felt and thought. We need to always take it seriously, no matter how uncomfortable it is, and even if it seems like something that is just being said by someone to get what they want, or to gain attention. It is a risk that cannot be taken. We need to tell them that we believe them. We need to call for medical aid, even if we have fears or guilt that it could result in that person being held for a psychiatric evaluation—it may be exactly what they need. We need to not worry that the person could be mad at us for forcing them into care. It is far better to have their wrath and blame for a while, than to never be able to hug them again.

The second obstacle is the old stigma and belief that it is an act of selfishness, and weakness of character. In addition to the fear that people will not believe them, those who are suffering often do not say anything because they are afraid that it will result in being told that they are a bad, selfish person for feeling that way (or considering to do such a thing). No one wants to be told those kind of things, let alone someone who is struggling against inner voices that are already pushing in that direction. The guilt and fear keeps people trapped, isolated, and from getting the treatment that could help them. The thing is, when a person is deeply affected by a mental illness such as depression or PTSD…. the pain, despair, and negative thoughts can drown-out everything else, and make the person incapable of thinking clearly, or seeing things in any other way. They can truly believe that they have no worth, and that they do not belong—that they will never do anything right, have anything good, or be loved. While it may seem selfish for them to abandon loved ones, especially children—for them, they can completely believe that others will be better off if they are gone, and that they may somehow taint, or cause harm to those whom they love if they remain. They can literally believe that it is somehow an act of protection and love. The illness tells them that there is no other way to break free of their pain and suffering, and that they are not worthy of those that they love.

As a society we need to not only learn how to recognize that depression ( and all other mental conditions) is a legitimate illness that needs to be responded to with compassion and care, but to also get that message out in every way, and place possible. Imagine how many losses would be prevented if people did not have to fear negative responses, but instead could trust that they would receive kindness, understanding, and aid. What if education was so widely available that it might easily assist people to recognize warning signs not only for loved ones, but maybe even for their own selves? What would it be like if no one had to feel ashamed, or fearful of how others will respond? That is what we should be striving for. However, in order for that kind of change to happen, it is something we all need to take a part in.

I am writing all of this as someone who understands. I overcame C-PTSD…..and I lost my sister seven months ago today.

People who have meant well have tried to compare it to when they have lost their loved ones to natural means…..but the truth is, as heartbreaking as every loss can be, there are elements that are unique to losing someone to depression. To suicide. Those they leave behind not only grieve their absence, but are left in torment as they struggle to grasp for answers—they get slammed with immense guilt, and the constant mental churning on what they could have possibly done to have prevented it. We blame ourselves, even when logically there was nothing that we could have done. Self-blame is a natural response when we cannot find any other sense of control, or explanations for what happened ( it is also a natural reaction for victims of any kind of crime or abuse). We torture our own selves, and are left forever haunted with wondering if there was any shred of possibility that we could have done something. Logically, I know that there was nothing that I could do…..and yet, even with that knowledge…. I still sometimes find myself battling those whispers that say otherwise. I had frequently been speaking to her for hours at a time due to the difficult situation that she was facing. I know that I was there for her. I know that I told her that I loved her many times. I know that I offered to go stay with her….. and I know that had she revealed the true scope to me, that I would have instantly acted on it—and yet, my mind still sometimes twists around all of that with, “What if I had…”, due to that instinctive need to find answers and control. It will forever break my heart to think of how alone she must have felt. However, the truth is, so many people had been actively helping her, and showing their love and support—family, and friends alike. She just did not have the ability to hear, or believe us. That is what depression does.

That call was the most devastating moment of my life— as I am sure was true for everyone who received that same call seven months ago. I had been sleeping, and woke-up to the phone ringing in the living room. Even though it was not unusual to get a call in the middle of the day, I instantly knew that something was wrong… something was missing. I bolted-up out of bed, and ran for the phone. I did not have long to process anything, so my first panicked thoughts were fears that what I was feeling meant that something had happened to my father. I answered the phone, and instantly asked ( without saying hello), “What happened, what is wrong?” My step-mother stammered for a moment, caught-off guard by the instant questions. She said the words in a sudden rush. I made her say them a second time, hoping that I had heard wrong. I then screamed. And screamed. I don’t know how long that I screamed and paced back and forth across my living room. Everything inside of me instantly felt ripped-apart in shattering horror and disbelief. What brought me back was the sound of my father sobbing, and realizing that he could hear me through the phone. I spent that first afternoon and night alone. I know that was confusing to some people, and my sister especially pleaded to be with me ( we have different fathers, so she and my sister who died are not technically related.. just to explain that I was not pushing away someone who was also grieving). I simply was too emotionally raw to have anyone around me, and I could not bare to restrain my emotions (which is my usual habit to prevent upsetting others). I periodically broke-out into more screaming fits, vomited, sobbed, and prayed through the night as I struggled to grasp that it was real… that my baby sister was gone. The next day, I held my father as he sobbed for his baby. There are no words to even describe how that felt.

The days that followed are a fog of grief …struggling to keep water down, going through pictures with my father, hugging her babies, blurry faces and hug after hug at her service…..and battling the disbelief that wanted to scream that it was not real. She was so young, beautiful, intelligent…loved…. It could not be real. But it was. It is.

There is this massive hole where she is supposed to be. There is no way to fill it. Every holiday, every special moment for my family….. will always have a crucial face, and beautiful laugh that is missing. Her children will grow through life without their mother, and her youngest may struggle to retain memories of her. The loss has forever changed all of us. I will always ache to hug her.

Grief is what happens when a piece of our heart is missing. Our love pours out through that hole, desperate to wrap around that which is gone….only it can’t. That is the most accurate way that I think I can describe it.

I share this hoping that it will help others to understand. I want to make clear that my intent is not to make anyone feel guilty that they could potentially cause pain for others. I have shared my experience and emotions in an attempt to demonstrate how much love was felt for someone who believed that none existed for her. I am just one of so many who loved my sister deeply.

I hope that if someone who is considering suicide happens to reads this, that maybe it somehow will get through a crack to help you understand that people truly would be deeply affected by your loss—that they would be broken—due to how much you truly are loved. This is truth, even if the depression and dark thoughts are trying to make you believe otherwise( Yes, they truly do love you. Please try to not tell yourself that none of this would be true in your case.). Additionally, I hope that if someone reads this who has a friend or family member who is struggling, that it will help to sharpen your awareness and understanding of the situation and person. Lack of education is truly a leading cause to these kind of losses, and that is a fault on our society, more than we as individuals. We of course cannot always prevent it, however, we can at least improve the odds through education, and creating a society that nurtures and supports…. so that more may feel safe in breaking their silence—without fear of being ignored, accused of lying, or being shamed in any way. They should be treated the same as anyone else who reports a serious life-threatening illness.

 

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If you are struggling, or suspect that some one is ( and need help with what to do), please call this hot line:

When you dial 1-800273-TALK (8255), you are calling the crisis center in the Lifeline network closest to your location. After you call, you will hear a message saying you have reached the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Additionally, this is the website for the Lifeline Network, and it has a wealth of information for all ages and situations, as well as additional modes of contact and help.   http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

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02-23-2015 02;34;29AM

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. –Mathew 5:4

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Agape Love.

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Agape. Upon hearing that word, most of us likely think of something that is “wide open”, but the word holds another meaning. Love. In it’s purest form. Self-sacrificing, ever-lasting, enduring, unconditional….Love. More specifically, it refers to the love of God and Christ for man, thus it quite literally is “Christ-like” love. Agape is the ultimate example of love in it’s highest manifestation.

Agape originates from Greek origins, and appears in ancient texts to denote great, or pure affection. It then was adopted by Christians as the word to describe the love of God for humanity, and in turn, the reciprocal love of humans for God. “For love is God” (1 John 4:8).  Though we are not capable of loving at that level, or even comprehending…. it is still the guide to lead us in our lives, and the form of love we should strive towards as far as can be achieved by humans. Agape is selfless. It does not seek to gain, and it does not place conditions. Agape is loving, and doing good for others, even if they would not do the same for you.

When applied to personal relationships, agape can also be used to describe the deep love one has for their spouse and children (family). However, agape is not about drippy, gooey, sappy romantic sentiments. It is also not about a rushing chemical response “high”, or drunken butterflies fluttering around in your insides. Lust plays no part in agape—it has nothing to do with physical attraction, or sexual desires. Seeking to gain something from others, to possess them, push agendas, control… wanting to achieve status through a relationship, showing-off, or desiring constant attention ….are also common relationship elements/intentions that do not apply to agape. Additionally, obsession, or “being in love” with the idea of someone loving you, solving everything for you…is most especially not something that can be called “agape”—though ironically, it is most often in those types of situations that people will want to boast that it is what they feel for, or share with someone. Essentially, there is no “me” in agape. It is not about getting, it is completely about giving. It is quiet, deep, unconditional, selfless, unwavering love… no matter the situation or cost. Agape is the type of love that sacrifices, and puts the welfare and needs of the other before our own.

Unfortunately, agape is a difficult thing for many to understand or grasp. As someone who assists with relationships, I frequently see clients who are purely focused on the sparkly surface elements of “love”– so much so, that many instantly proclaim love and soul mate connections for every man (or woman) that walks in their door, and then try to shove them instantly into deep commitment (or even a wedding tux) before enough time has even been given to truly get to know the person, let alone develop true love for them. The focus is sometimes more on having their big princess wedding day, than on the reality and commitment of marriage itself. The notion of love and marriage has become over-romanticized and skewed for so many—-it often is more about gaining, getting attention, planning a fairytale fantasy event, playing house etc… than about truly feeling pure selfless love for another.

The truth is? What goes up, comes down. Gushy, high-flying “love”, as great as it feels, and and as addictive as it can even become… cannot possibly be maintained indefinitely. Those fluttery feelings are not love itself, but often initial chemical reactions and lust… or even fantasy-fueled adrenaline rushes from the prospect of having desires fulfilled. To forever stay in that “high” state would be exhausting, and would require endlessly giving little focus to anyone, or anything else in your life, and just… well, is not possible…. no-matter what people want to believe, or what movies and Nicholas Sparks novels shovel at us. It is after those drippy, rushy, manic feelings settle that it can be determined if there is indeed a real enduring love bond present…but unfortunately, many make their big relationship choices while in the hyper-arousal-euphoric-tune-out-reality state, and it is why so many mistakes (and divorces) happen. Often once the high-flying phase passes ( and when people become more real, and stop trying to behave, impress, or temporarily change themselves to fit with the other to achieve the glittery ring etc…) it turns out to not be at all what it originally appeared to be, no matter how perfect it seemed. We tend to rationalize, and tune-out anything that does not fit with what we hope to receive from the situation and person. Eventually the things we tried to blind ourselves to WILL hit like a mack truck, no matter how we try to deny, or wish them away. It often is a harsh reality check, yet many of my clients fall for it again and again, and even blame the men, despite the fact that they themselves have not changed how they approach relationships, and their desire to instantly gain gain gain from them.

Giving, and loving someone to “get” either in return… is not love, and is not agape— yet it is what so many do. If we all were to truly focus on developing an agape level of love in our relationships, so much would change. Agape is the kind of love that truly lasts, and cannot be shaken…. there is no upset to be had when things quiet down, nor are there unrealistic expectations for constant lovey-dovey-validating attention. It is loyal. It endures. It forgives. It supports.

Did Christ demonstrate euphoric, skip-through-the daisies love? Did he love us expecting anything in return, or to gain admiration from others? Is any of that described anywhere in scripture? No. Instead, he gave us the example of pure love which seeks nothing for the self. That may not sound very romantic, but, it is still what is truly real and solid. Sure, butterflies, and physical attraction feel great, but they should not be the soul deciding factors of love, or a relationship—they are sweet sugary frosting that can melt away, compared to the solid, lasting, nourishing “cake” that agape represents in comparison.

The ideal situation would be a relationship of two people who both feel an agape level of love for each other— who simply, deeply, unconditionally love each other without the expectation for fanfare, or to constantly be validated/adored. Really, it is mature love, verses immature notions of love. The other types of pairings? When one person feels agape, and the other is more self-seeking—it often can create imbalances of one giving far more than the other, and even making great sacrifices to try to live-up to the constant expectations/ demands of the other… and eventually the strain typically wears the relationship down. The most volatile relationship pairing is when both partners are soaring high in the clouds with their fantasy images of what they want, and what think they have/feel, and typically are seeking the “me me me” elements (though no one likes to admit they are doing that) of having someone validate them, solve their problems, and to gain the big princess wedding day (since again, that is often the focus for immature love situations that do not truly understand that marriage is not just a single romantic admiration-receiving day). Unfortunately, I see those kind of situations often with my clients, and when things finally come down to earth, it often is very shattering for both parties—especially if they rushed into big commitments while still in the euphoric stage, and without looking at the situation (and each other) honestly.

Although agape love is something that denotes Christ-like love, and is what we should strive for in general in regard to how we approach, and treat others….it also can be the true key in forming true, lasting relationships. Regardless of what your personal religious beliefs are, if you seek to love someone without selfish motivation (no-matter how well-intended you think your personal motives/needs/ reasons are), and are careful of getting involved with anyone displaying signs of immature love (it is hard sometimes to be honest with ourselves when we really desire for someone to fill that kind of role)….that is when you are most likely to have something real, and lasting. The interesting thing is, it typically is when we truly are not seeking for ourselves (when we simply love and give), that we ourselves DO gain blessings, and experience personal growth towards being the best version of ourselves that we can be. So, try not to push or rush things (anything that needs to be pushed or rushed reveals a desperate, impatient need to “cinch” things before reality, or anything can bring it “down”– rather than having a solid, secure, bond). Do not shove just anyone into the tux because they are there, and you are desperate for them to be “the one”— to love you, fill you, give you what you need. You should be able to accomplish those things for your own self in the first place, and seek relationships as a place to share, grow, and give….. not to gain, escape, or fix things that ultimately only you can truly fix for your own self.

Love to love, not to be loved.  That is what Christ taught us, and is the definition of pure, agape love.

A Letter to My Sister on Her Birthday.

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Dear Mikki….Dawn,

It’s your birthday today. It would have been a big one. Your 30th. If things were as they should be, I know that I would have been baffled that you could be that old, because part of me still sees you in my head as that impish little girl who used to beg me to act-out Disney scenes with her, and to, “Read just one more chapter!”. We rarely got to see each other on our birthdays, but still we always remembered. Typically, I would shoot over amazon credit so that you could gorge on books, but I would like to think that we would have tried to get together to celebrate your third decade. My mind twists around images of a family dinner, or maybe even some girly escapade and fun sister time….but all of it is sweet “what ifs”. Instead, I have been giving you the only gift that I now can…..I have been thinking about you, and sending my love to you.

I would be lying to say that I have been handling things okay today. Really, the tears started yesterday, and have been creeping-up in sudden bursts since then. It’s as if all the progress I had made in the grief process has suddenly come undone…. but that is to be expected. It is your day, and thus, your loss suddenly is felt so acutely once again……for so very many of us.

Instead of thinking of the gifts that cannot be given to you today, I am trying to put my focus on all the gifts that we were given. On this day thirty years ago, a beautiful spirit was born. She was intelligent, loving, and feisty. She had a light-filled smile, and the sweetest, most contagious laugh. She filled our heads and hearts with wonderful memories….made us smile, laugh…. and love. Most especially, she gifted us with two precious children who have her brilliant blue eyes, and hold all that was most cherished by her. She left us with such a beautiful legacy of love, and taught us so much. We are the ones who have been gifted today, and every day.

I miss you so much Sissy. There are not adequate words to express the immense depth at which I love and miss you—the yearning, and brokenness that my heart feels in your absence. Thank you. Thank you for being my baby sister, for being everything that you were to everyone… for the love that you brought into our lives, and into our hearts. I hope that you feel all of the love being sent to you today, and that you know how much you are cherished. You always will be.

Happy Birthday Sweet Sister.

Love, Delaney

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Did Someone Tell You That Boy/Girl Was Mean Because They Liked You?

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I can trace it back to kindergarten. There was a little boy who frequently picked-on me, and after an incident where he had pulled my hair…..I distinctly remember the teacher telling me that he was mean to me because he liked me, and did not know how to show it. Not long after that I had a fall off of the jungle-gym, and that little boy was the one who came running to my aid. I thought that was some kind of proof and confirmation that what the teacher had told me about him was true. Unfortunately, most of us likely have a similar story stored in a mental pocket—women and men alike. We were taught that those who treat us poorly do so because they like/ love us. How ridiculously backwards is that?

I have had my past share of excusing-off negative behavior as being due to some kind of inability to “face feelings”, or being “scared”. I also constantly see clients who struggle with this issue. No one wants to believe that they really are not wanted, or that someone that they themselves love would treat them so coldly and selfishly. It is far more comforting to tell ourselves that the other simply feels so much that it scares them, thus they need to push away at times, and have breaks…..and that if they are given enough love and time, they eventually will realize that they are in love with us, and see how great we are for having been so patient, and having put-up with so much. Yes, I was once guilty of that mentality, but it at least now helps me to relate to, and be compassionate towards clients who need help with understanding the truth of their situations.

Are there ever situations where people truly are struggling with what they feel, and thus it causes them to teeter-totter? Yes, there are. Sometimes it can be due to having experienced past abuse, mental conditions, being inexperienced with the depth of feeling/ relationship, or simply honestly on the fence with the situation etc… However, no matter the reason, it still is not right to treat others poorly, let alone to teach children that negative behavior demonstrates concealed love— and that it is not only excusable, but something to nurture. Despite there being some real reasons why people struggle with what they feel (and connecting to others in healthy ways), far too many simply do not feel for the other person, and will selfishly string-them-along for as long as they can get away with it—without intent to ever truly commit to the relationship. So many clients come to me suffering from similar situations of being routinely scooped-up and dropped, shoved-away, having affection withheld from them, being blamed for the other’s issues and problems, and sometimes outright being talked to, and treated in ways that damage them emotionally. Yet, despite that, they excuse it off by saying the other person does that because they struggle with this or that thing, and that they really do love them. Many people desperately want to gloss-over and excuse-off any kind of behaviors that they do not want to shine a light on, or be honest about…..but nevertheless, they still exist, and those behaviors will continue to pop-up regardless of how much we rationalize or attempt to blind ourselves. Why do we do that? Often it is out of the fear that they are the only person who will love us…. our only chance…. thus we try to ignore the behaviors, and other factors about them that are red-flags of it not being the right match, or even of it being an unhealthy situation. We would rather twist things into having different reasons (or as being something that the person will change about themselves), and keep pushing forward with false hope that some day the person, and the situation will truly be what we desire and need— so we should stick with it.

It is natural to want to believe the best of people, and give them the benefit of the doubt, but we also have to do so in a way that is both smart, and honest (with our own selves). If the same issues and behaviors keep arising, especially after having discussed things…. you have to pay attention. Anyone can say pretty words, make claims of how they are going to improve, or change this and that, but it is what people DO that truly needs to be looked at. Whether the actions are outright abusive, result in frequently withdrawing, cheating, or even trying to force you into loving them/ into the relationship to fulfill their agendas……you have to be honest, and call it as it is. You cannot tell yourself that they say abusively critical things because they are trying to help/improve you, or that they push you away because their feelings are so strong that it scares them. On the flip-side, do not convince yourself that smothering, possessive, or clingy behavior is just because they love you so much that they cannot help themselves ( that is obsessive infatuation, not love, no matter what they say, claim, or even believe themselves). If you put blinders up to these kind of situations, and make excuses for the other person…. you ultimately will make devastating mistakes, lose precious time, have your heart utterly broken…..and worse yet, could miss-out on others who could have resulted in being a loving match for you if you had not lied to yourself for so long. It is so rare that I see the above kind of situations improve for my clients— eventually most of them end-up either empty handed, or in very damaging situations. Ultimately you do sometimes have to put yourself first, and seek-out balanced, healthy relationships that truly fulfill your needs. They do actually exist. People can truly love you, and be dependable without requiring you to ride roller-coasters, dropping you frequently, or trying to push you into the things that they want/ who they want you to be. You have to love yourself enough to be honest about what you need, and who people really are…..and walk away if the situation is not right.

Additionally, we all need to become aware of how we talk to children in regard to relationships and love. We need to break the habit of telling kids that others are mean to them because they like them/ have a crush on them…. even if we are simply looking for a way to make them feel better about how they were treated. Those kind of words plant seeds—-big ones. I see the results of those seeds every day, and it is sad to see how much people lose to the beliefs that grow from those seeds. Instead, we should be teaching children that they should not tolerate those who are hurtful towards them, as well as teach how they should be treated, and in turn treat others. It works both ways. Many are taught it is okay to treat others poorly from those very same words and examples—-that others will put-up with selfish actions and still label it as love. Some will even believe that is how you treat those that you love.

Imagine how differently many of us would have looked at, and handled relationships had we not been taught to twist negative conduct around into backwards definitions? Would you have been spared mistakes and heartbreak ?

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A Memory of a Little Girl’s Act of Kindness.

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I was either in the third, or fourth grade. It was winter, and kids were lined-up outside of my elementary school as they waited to get onto the buses. Noise and chaos filled the air as bundled-up classmates romped around …and out of the cacophony a smiling dark-haired girl appeared, and handed a brown paper bag to me. She simply said, “This is for you, I hope it makes you feel better.” I barely had a chance to register things, let alone say anything back. She instantly darted off, leaving me with the brown bag in my hands. I recognized her. I often saw her on the play ground, in the cafeteria etc… but I believe she was a year ahead of me in age/ grade.

The line started to move, so I climbed-up into the bus as I unrolled the top of the crumpled bag with shocked curiosity. I slid into a green vinyl seat, and looked into the bag. The first thing that I pulled out was a little teddy bear wearing an orange shirt— something that appeared to have likely been from the little girl’s own toy collection. One by one I pulled out sheets of stickers, decorated pencils, and various other “little girl” things that she must have put together from her own belongings. Of special note, was a pink button pin that said,”You are Special.” I remember feeling so baffled and overwhelmed. I did not understand why she had given those things to me, and I could not find a letter, or anything to explain it. I did not even know her name, and she likely did not know mine.

That little brown bag filled with another girl’s treasures had an immense impact on me. I remember feeling so touched, and confused at the same time. And yes, it made me feel better….as if someone cared, saw me, and wanted to make me smile etc…. though I did not understand why she had done it. For days I picked-over the items one by one, afraid to use/ ruin them….because they were very special to me, and I was amazed at the kindness.

I tried to thank her during a recess that was held in the school gym (likely due to rain/ winter conditions). She smiled big at me, but then turned and ran towards some of her friends without saying anything back. I had hoped to ask her why, learn her name etc…but that never happened. We would pass smiles, and sometimes little waves at each other across the playground, and when we passed each other in the halls and cafeteria…but that was the most that we ever interacted. She remained a mystery to me.

Over thirty years have passed. It demonstrates how random little acts of kindness can remain held in the heart long after they occurred. She may not even remember me, or whatever it was that inspired her to collect items from her own possessions…. but I will always remember her. She placed that crumpled brown bag into the hands of a child who was silently struggling, and who felt alone (I was in an abusive situation). I do not know if she somehow saw that, or if maybe she had been doing a church exercise of kindness ( or something similar). Regardless, it made an impression on me. It made me feel better.

I decided to share this today, because I do not have a way to tell her how much her kindness is still appreciated. The best I can do is to share the little story/ memory, and hope that it serves as a reminder to all of us (including myself), of the power (yes, power), that we all have to affect others in a positive way. We have no way of knowing how much even a smile and a positive word could mean to someone, or if a small thoughtful act might arrive at a time that they most need a glimmer of light. If you feel a prompting to say, or do something for someone…. no matter how small…..try to act on it. It could be a special “nudge” meant to help someone who is concealing their struggles.

To the little dark-haired girl…..Thank you.

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