Make Room for Joy

A positive attitude can improve the quality of our life, often leading us to heights of joy. However, in finding our way as human beings, we are also vulnerable to emotional pain; even on the road to joy we become derailed by times of sorrow. One day when I asked my elderly mother a question about the past, she said, “I don’t want to remember the past, honey. It hurts too much.”

Now that I’ve reached my own twilight years and more fully understand my mother’s pain, I’ve also discovered something else. The things that hurt the most to remember now are the pains I numbed myself to when they were fresh. Even though I had this terrible ache inside, I refused to grieve. I told myself that, like Scarlett, I would deal with it tomorrow.

Some hurts I even denied, burying them so deep I’m shocked when they release fresh arrows of pain from the past into my heart. Others I rationalized by telling myself how lucky I was, that the hurt could’ve been far worse. That I had no right to feel pain because other people had it so much worse than I did. Counting my blessings.

I do believe in counting my blessings. Not by denying or ignoring my pain but doing so while also acknowledging that I have a right to grieve for my loss even while I feel grateful for my blessings.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalms 30:5
So, when your heart is heavy it is better to allow yourself to experience and express the grief until it has wrung itself out. The tears of grief are cleansing your soul, making it ready to once again receive joy.

Find Your Own Truth

To be a person of truth, be swayed neither by approval nor disapproval. Work at not needing approval from anyone and you will be free to be who you really are. — Rebbe Nachman

It sounds simple. To be a person of truth, be who you really are. But what if, one day, you realize what you’re reflecting is other people’s truth, not your own?. First it was your parents truth; you were thrilled by the light of approval in their eyes. Well, of course! What are parents for, after all, but to teach us their own truth. We have to start somewhere.

But deep inside us is our own truth. Which may conflict with our parents truth. You are not your parents; you are growing into your own person. Only you can know the truth of who you are. And the only way you can know your truth is by examining your beliefs. Where did they come from? Do they have the ring of authenticity or are they things you were told and accepted without question?

If you find some shreds of old beliefs that don’t have the “ring of truth” do you dare to explore the possibility they are wrong? Are you willing to modify them into what does ring as true to you? And then are you willing to resist being influenced by other opinions?

Rebbe Nachman says “Work at not needing approval from anyone and you will be free to be who you really are.” The key word is “work” because finding our truth is not easy for most of us. We have to dig for it, defend it, even suffer for it.

But in the end, to know your truth is to know pure happiness.

How do I Offend Thee? Think on What I Say

(With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

How do I offend thee? Let me count the ways.
I offend thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach when I say good riddance to your
Shackles of propriety. You say I’m not allowed
To have beliefs that differ from your own. Even though such
Beliefs come from my heart and mind only to guide my own life,
Not to inhibit yours. I offend thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith. That America
Is the land of freedom to believe as one’s conscience allows,
Not as others say. I offend thee with the breath, smiles, tears,
Of all my life! And, if God chooses, I shall offend thee until death.

Bless Her Heart

While walking Winston in the park today I realized I owe you an apology for my recent rants. Time was I never ranted but swallowed my ire and pretended the world was always a happy place. For this reluctance to express anger I blame my mom (God Bless Her Heart, as we say in the hills when speaking ill of someone – to show we really love the ornery person). My mom was, of course, a wonderful woman (God Bless Her Heart) but she was of the “turn the other cheek” variety.

Well, of course I could say the other cheek I was thinking of was lower down on the body and I forgot which one she meant. I tend to get things mixed up that way. You aren’t buying it? Mom wouldn’t either. She raised us to not “Act the Fool” (Bless Her Heart) and to Mom facetiousness was never funny.

But this isn’t about Mom. It’s about me apologizing for sending out negative vibes instead of positive uplifting ones, about me trying to make amends for my angry rants. The best way to do that, I think, is to give you a list of a few of the things that I’m truly grateful for:

1) That my eldest daughter just bought six baby chicks but can’t have a rooster, which is okay as she’s only going to have them lay eggs (in the garage until she can get a chicken shed built). They are already counting on 42 eggs a week after the chickens become hens. This is part of her answer to the coming food shortage she keeps hearing about. (Bless Her Heart)

2) That my youngest daughter has given up feeding her family grain, anything made from wheat, oats, soy, or even corn. That’s right. She now makes pizza crust from coconut meal, brownies from black beans, etc. They really do taste good, Bless Her Heart. I just hope Michelle doesn’t hear about it!

3) Which brings me to the last item for today. We still live in the good old USA where my grandson can buy a green wig with his birthday money, have me make him a strange-looking cape and go to an anime convention where everyone looks like they just stepped off an intergalactic vehicle traveling through unknown worlds to visit planet Earth, and nobody thinks it’s odd. My Mom would be appalled. Bless Their Hearts, she’d say. Ain’t it wonderful!

Bless Your Heart!

A Boil on the Presidency?

If you’ve ever suffered from boils you know how painful they are. They have to be lanced and drained in order to heal.

Although I don’t remember the following family story as I was only a toddler, an older brother told me about the days when we lived in poverty due to the early death of our father.

The trouble began with an outbreak of boils. To bring the boils to a head and give relief from the pain our mother applied hot compresses, probably from a solution of Epsom salts, and/or soda and boric acid powder in boiling water.

But more boils continued to break out. Finally, Mom sought the advice of a wise old hill woman who told her we were all suffering from an evil in the blood. She said to have the older boys gather burdock, a weed that was plentiful in the hills, and make a tea from it. Everyone in the family should drink the tea and it would soon remove the evil that was tainting our blood. At last we found relief.

I researched and found that burdock has been used since the Middle Ages as a blood purifier and treatment for boils. As well as a host of other ailments. Interestingly, the article’s advice was: “Do not gather burdock in the wild.”

Evidently because “The roots of burdock closely resembles those of belladonna or deadly nightshade”. Now was that a narrow escape or what? One mistake and the solution to our problem might’ve killed us. Not unlike, I think, some treatments for cancer today that kill the good cells as well as the bad.

What a mixed-up world we live in! Everything appears to come down to trial and error. Pure luck appears to determine the outcome.

I can’t help but wonder what evil force has infected the blood of our country. Rising like a boil to the surface with hate messages running amok.

I can’t help but wonder if there is a boil on the presidency.

Upon the Tinkling Creek

Cousin Charles SwearenginI just learned my cousin Charles Swearengin passed away this morning. He’s pictured to the right. The following poem is excerpted from our Kentucky book and was written and addressed to Charles by my brother many years ago. May they both rest in peace.

Upon The Tinkling Creek
Composed By Byrd Adams, Jr.

Let’s talk across the mountain, Charles
And down the hollow road,
Passing by the old graveyard
Remembering tales of old:
How Granddaddy built his house
Upon the tinkling creek,
Adding rooms as babies came
To fill a mansion, sweet
Aunts and Uncles now grown old,
And I along with them,
To fill this sacred country with
Our voices growing dim.
Pause to rest a moment here,
My rifle on my knee,
To take a rabbit on the ground,
Or gray squirrel in a tree.
I’m in no mood to fire a shot
Upon this sacred day,
Where rabbits hop, and stop, and hop,
And gray squirrels come to play.
I’d rather pause among my kin
To spend a day or week,
Here where Granddaddy built his house
Upon the tinkling creek.

2012: Don’t Be a Pee-Post

From my dog Winston’s point of view, everything that sticks up above the ground, and doesn’t move, is a pee-post, there for only one purpose.

So when we walk in the park I have no need to worry about walkers or joggers.  They seldom stand still long enough to be mistaken for a pee-post and often give this old lady and her dog a wide berth.  The occasional walker who does approach quickly backs away as Winston growls ferociously.  I apologize, explaining that my sweet little doggie has become old and cranky.   (I wonder if it’s true that we humans pick dogs that resemble us).

On our walk this morning, however, I thought about it being the last day of the year.  And wondered if I should speak up about what is on my mind.  You know – “speak now or forever hold your peace”.  The “now or never” thought really piles the pressure on.

So, here I am, ending another year into my dotage, realizing that tomorrow I might not remember what I was so angry about today.  Wondering if during the past year I’ve learned anything worth carrying  forward into 2012.  You know, like reaching the end of a page in my checkbook, writing “carry forward” at the bottom and “brought forward” on the next page.  Simple.

Intended or not, something from this year will be carried forward into the next (unless the world ends tonight, not an impossibility) something perhaps stronger, more important than New Year Resolutions.

So, drawing on my most recent experience, or should I say, my most recent gripe, let these words become your guide.  Don’t be a pee-post.  Don’t stand still as others use you to mark out their territory.  Ignore their vile accusations against each other.  That stink in the Iowa air does not come from the hog lots.

You can’t be a doormat if you don’t lie down.  And you won’t be a pee-post if you keep on moving