When We Think Our Struggles Are Exterior Problems…

“For the most part, all our trials and disturbances come from our not understanding ourselves” (Interior Castle, IV, 1, 9).

~St. Teresa of Ávila

The Locked Music Box

The Locked Music Box

My Gammy is not dead yet. But she has already left me part of my inheritance to discover, all contained in a plastic storage tote she calls, “Sarah’s Treasure Chest”. The container could be less alluring, I suppose, despite its lid cracked in one corner and its generic organizer label written upon in my grandmother’s cursive. I could be a weathered, mildew-stained cardboard box. But the contents and their recipient are far more important to her. Contained, I found oversized Life magazine issues from the 50s and 60s, documenting the lunar landing and whatnot. These were of mild interest to me, and are less so after finding a silverfish in its folds. Also found were Easter bunny figurines and collector’s plates, which I moved to the Goodwill box, and other assorted decor she must have thought I would enjoy in my own, adult home (yet to be seen). I stored away the teacups, each different with their various flowers, away for that later life. I deposited the collector’s state quarters, which are regular quarters anyway, into my adoption money vase. And I found a music box she had never showed me or told me about, that I remember. 

Immediately, I noticed the design, which seemed Italian. Definitely interested, I cranked the knob, hearing the gears, but no music followed. I tried opening the lid, realizing it was jammed or locked. Did she really give me a music box I couldn’t open, one in which I couldn’t hear the music? It’s been sitting on my desk for weeks, looking pretty, and occasionally pestered for a moment by my hand. 

Meanwhile, I’ve been listening to Jeff VanVonderen’s talk, “Wounded by Shame, Healed by Grace”, lent CD by CD to me from Ray. CD six was my guide today. Within the tracks, Jeff VanSchmillichvichen (or whatever pseudo-German name Ray and I think of in the moment) explained some theology I had heard numerous times, but had never heard in his words, which I summarize: we can do nothing to be filled with the Spirit. We can block being filled by some part of the ego, but we cannot make ourselves filled. His words affirmed that I just need “to be”. I can block my connection with “the Source” (the Holy Spirit) by relying on “resources” (relationships, people, material things, ideas, etc.) provided by “the Source” by making those “resources” my Source; in other words, making something else my god, my source of peace, love, joy, etc. will leave me empty. 

Realizing this, by the end of the disc, I was full. Just be. Anxiety and depression itself can so often be my “Source”. I can allow it to preside over my being, allowing it to be my excuse for the way I feel. Instead, it should be a resource I use to bring me back to “the Source”. Feelings are neither good nor bad. Instead, how we feel can give us insight into how we can live our lives.  My feelings of anxiety and depression can give me insight into how I can live joyously, with love, with freedom. If I can recognize the feelings and remember what they do to me, I can fight them. 

However. When I’m feeling low and hopeless, I most often don’t have enough fight in me. I may survive the attack, but I’m left wounded, and I don’t allow time and presence with my Creator to heal me. More thoughts swarm in the near space ahead like bees in a desert sand storm, and quickly my wounds open again, filling with sand and stings of the past and anxiety for the future. The wounds begin to close, as our bodies and spirits are trying constantly to heal, but another swarm lies ahead. 

Jeff VonderVanMichten helped me open the box. By listening to his words, my spirit has begun to open up to the music locked away inside of me. Within my spirit is the fight I need. It’s the Source of my hope, and it will heal if I only allow.

That was revealed this afternoon, and now a refreshing view is before me, the hopeful feeling still lingering like incense in a temple just rebuilt.  

I sat down to compose some sort of post for you here. I touched the top of the box, an upraised diamond shape catching my fingers. I pulled it toward me and it slid over with a wooden click. And the box was opened. The music plays with the rough vibrations of its contents: a cotton swab liner, some safety pins, sewing pins, a button, a dime, a newspaper clipping, a purple and yellow flowered handkerchief that smells like the wood-working in Gammy’s former house, and a note: 

 

Dear Sarah, 

This music box was brought to me from Europe in about 1958. I lived and taught school in Mentor, Ohio and lived with two other (teachers) girls. One of which made a trip to Europe that summer (1958). The tune is “The Isle of Capri”, which was a popular song back in my day! 

Inside you’ll find a handkerchief that belonged to your great grandmother, Ruby Thompson (Papa Thompson’s mother). Her obituary will tell you all about her – you are one of the 17 great-grandchildren listed there. 

 

The music slows to a scratching, softly clattering halt. Discoveries are always to be had, even when we think every treasure box is locked, and the music continues, our spirit song plays, even when we are out of turns. 

Truly an Indicator that Depression is Disease

Yesterday, one of America’s comedic icons died, presumably from depression. I’m sure you’ve all heard of it by now. Not only about Robin Williams’ death, but about depression itself. If reports are correct, this true and tragic disease has murdered someone who made us laugh and cry with his life’s work. He seemed so happy in his ways of manic humor,  so devoted to his craft, so lively.

But many of us know that depression allows you to smile, if only to cover the sick turmoil its creating within. It may be asked why such a successful man, beloved by millions, would take his life. Some would say, “It goes to show that fame and fortune can’t satisfy anyone for long.” But Robin Williams was talented, and seemed to truly love his talent and used it as much as he could. I don’t think he was an actor or comedian for the money, but because he knew what he was good at, and he went for it. That’s an honorable and brave thing, especially for someone with depression.

I don’t know the inside details of Williams’ life, and no one will ever know the extent of his heart, and what thoughts littered his mind. I do know that if depression was the cause of his death, its likely that even if he could have seen the result of mourning millions, the gigantic waves of adoring comments across social media and the celebrity world, they wouldn’t have changed his mind. Perhaps they would have touched him, caused him to debate internally. However, depression is a disease that blinds our everything from reason, reality, and the deep sensations of love. He may have thought that no one really loved him, that all the fan responses were lies.

He really is no different from us. He and we are human, and humans face disease. He had a disease. We all have a disease of some sort. And we all need love to help our spirits survive the physical.

You are loved unconditionally, not by all, but by some, and that is enough. Take that love and give it to yourself. Love yourself. If you think you can’t, don’t surrender to the disease, even if surrender makes more sense.

 

Hoping I Puke

I’m jealous. The travelers, the first-apartment-dwellers, the newlyweds, the successfully employed. I’m in a rut of cabin-fever with no car, overbearing parents, no job, and little motivation.

I admit it.  I’m jealous. And a bit depressed. But that’ s what this blog is for, right?! :D

…Things could be worse, yes.

…I have a beautiful-hearted, wonderful boyfriend who loves me, yes.

…I have gifts, yes.

But I’m not feeling it. So I’m writing it, in hopes I can puke, figuratively, and feel better. Hopefully I’ll puke soon onto this virtual page and help you feel better too. Hopefully I’ll puke up something good, some brilliant, earth-shaking thought or quote. Maybe I’ll puke up kittens. Kittens for all. Don’t like kittens? I’ll try for a puppy. But it may get stuck. Puppies are a tad bigger in size.

Or maybe I’ll puke up words and music to actually finish a song. Mmm, but the stomach acid in my throat may complicate singing.

Puking money isn’t happening. It tastes disgusting anyway, like the hands of the greedy.

How about books? Ouchy, hardcover edges, though. Paperback might work, but all the paper would dry out my throat already acidic and not singing. And I’m not motivated to read the books I have, ones I spent feeble money on, feeble because I have so little and it was earned with over-work….

Seriously, though, everything I try to fight my depression is fleeting. I went for a bike ride this morning, the lighting making shadows and vivid the colors of summer wildflowers, corn stalks, soybean plants, and trees. Every bike ride this week has been provided with beautiful country landscape. Yesterday, my leg brushed with a swallowtail butterfly and I giggled aloud, hearing myself faintly through my earphones. Today, after my ride, I sat on the front porch reaching Richard Rohr, a Franciscan spiritual writer that I receive much insight from, nourished by the perfectly cool and warm breeze, the sunlight shadows of clouds, and lightly bobbing morning glory flowers in front of the porch. Beauty all around me. Yet, it does not dwell long in my consciousness. My spirit quickly dampens, and the flames licking me back to life snuff out and smoke.

Reading, writing, singing, crocheting, whatever I think I enjoy does not delight me, at least not for long. I am forced to think myself into enjoyment. A feeling I do not enjoy.

I think I need more fellowship. More company of friends, old and new faces. I need stimulating conversation. I thank the Creator for Ray, because I taste what I need when I’m around him. I love and am loved around him. And while I want to spend the rest of my days with him, he is not enough. I need to help the world. I need to come alive. And I don’t know how.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman

 

Group Photo Reflection #1

The following are photos I’ve taken in different spots I’ve explored. What are your thoughts? Don’t try so much to define the contents, but aim to share the emotions they evoke in you. Post your thoughts in the comments; I would love to hear them, and they may help others!

DSC03029

DSC03133 DSC03138 DSC03148

Standing Empty

“Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy. Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.” ~ Khalil Gibran

 

I flipped to this quote in Gibran’s The Prophet, a book given to me by Ray, and one we’ve been slowly reading together. I shared the quote with him during a rough morning he was experiencing, and he told me that evening that the thought worked well to improve his mood. The night previous, when I first read it, I was going to sleep. I imagined sitting in meditation, my open hands upon my knees. I want to practice this image in reality, my hands as the scales, balanced, because I am empty.

I want to deepen the inner stillness of my soul by standing between my joy and sorrow. I’m not sure how to describe what that looks like, because I’m uncertain if I’ve experienced it, or if it’s attainable. I choose to believe it’s attainable, and that I will experience it, though it may not be soon. What does standing between joy and sorrow look and feel like? What can be learned? What experiences will come and what will my perspective be?

I’ll begin exploring with a simple sitting, hands on my knees, open and upward, the mists of my mind settling.

Inadequacy Remedies

In the past week, I’ve cut my dosage in half because I’m running out of meds and live in an out-of-reach place, where, about thirty minutes away, Walmart is the only thriving shopping center. Granted, the less-commercialized side of the town, the less-pagan side (a joke formed between my dear and I when we were trying to eat out one Sunday and all the restaurants in historic downtown were closed because of those “Damn Christians”. Before anyone is offended, we are of the Christian influence in part) provides shops of personalized and local variety. Anyway, I’ve been running on 10 mg per day instead of 20, and my dear (who I will now reveal as Ray, and not William) told me last night on the phone that I must take the 20 mg today. He reassured me in ways I never could reassure myself how adequate I actually am, saying that I am, in fact, “overqualified for the position” of his significant other. Thank goodness he knows me better than me, though we’ve known each other for only nearly half-a-year.

Confidence reassured and 20 mg of Prozac now in me, I enter here some goals and aspirations to boost me.

Games I want to learn/master:

1. croquet

2. badminton

3. chess

4. Tzaar

5. Bocce

 

Childhood interests I am revisiting:

1. dinosaurs

2. outer space

3. the Titanic

4. butterflies and birds

 

I didn’t pursue these interests in full when I was a child. I am quick to regret this, but I know the depression hit early, perhaps preventing me from staying true to my personal studies. Maybe it was just childhood indecision. Regardless, I make the decision now, as an adult, to more fully pursue these interests. May I maintain a child-like heart in these endeavors.

 

Write Away

I’m writing tonight just to get my fingers moving, so my mind will tag along. I’m trying some fiction writing, but without burning myself out. I tend to think I need the entire story plotted when I begin writing, but I realize I need to just write now, organize later. Write whatever comes to mind. Just to keep him off my mind.

I love thinking of him. He shines in my heart. His spirit kindles my spirit. But anxiety of what may or may not happen droops heavily on branches spread through the forest of my mind. Last night, I dreamt my grandfather drove up (unrealistic, because he should not be driving) to my dad and I. He said, “You know your friend, [insert my man’s name]? He died.” It was of a corroded artery or something. I fell in front of the car, sobbing, asking why repeatedly, after a short period of denial.

Thankfully, I awoke. I called him, despite my inner conflict, because he said I could call at any time, even 3 a.m. I was around 5 a.m. I apologized, but he insisted not to, assured me it was just a dream and if that happened, he’d be fine. We talked for over an hour, and he thankfully had another hour before rising for work.

The dream shook me, shakes me still. I confess I don’t know what would happen should I be left without him. Much has been said between us since I last reported here. I am part of his beauty, and he mine. We have agreed to set the pace slow, but he does not want me to linger. A calling draws him to help many, and with his job mixed in, he feels he would not give me the time he thinks I deserve. I continue to tell myself that if it is meant to be, it will be. I also know that a relationship takes work. He suggested we continue to communicate, and I have agreed. These terms were discussed previously, days before the dream. Unfortunately, my brain took me to the place of departure that neither of us could stop. But what will be, will be.

His heart sings to me. I stretch to hear him always.

That is all I know for now. So, I attempt, for now, to write away my fears.

Dreams Not Made

I regret that I did not seize my former days. I lament that I still have not learned to seize the one I’m dwelling in. I fear that my days to come will be left empty.

I fear being mediocre, in others’ eyes and my own. I fear I will never improve. I fear that I will always be average. I fear that I will always be a dream-chaser without any drive and without any results.

This infuriates me. Yet, I don’t know what to do.

My dreams are tall, and not all are unreachable. “You’re so young,” they say. But that will all fly by me, and I fear that in that small window of human-organized time, the small frame of years, and in the finiteness of human life, I will not accomplish something that satisfies me.

I try to exercise bravery, to press on and do things regardless of fear, so that someday soon the fears will be dissipated by experience. How am I to be brave now, today, when everything feels worthless? Small actions that accomplish small things, such as laundry or reading a chapter, feel like nothing. Surely they are worth something?

Why won’t my dreams propel me? I’m treading the snow outside, feet deep in my winter of discontent.

Alone, but Not Lonely

Yesterday, I performed an exercise.

Nope, it wasn’t athletic, though I stretched a little. Does watching figure skating later count? Anyway, I exercised being alone. But not being lonely.

My parents were out working for the day, so it was just my kitty and I. Unfortunately, I slept too much in the morning, but by the afternoon I stayed awake. I declared it a tech-free day, with the exception of texting on my cell phone. No television and no internet/computer, except later that evening. It was refreshing to not use these, because I too often use the internet when I’m feeling lonely especially, absent-mindedly thinking that social media sites will fill the void. They won’t. They can make me more depressed and stressed.

What did I do with myself, all alone without internet and the racket-making telly? I watched the rain with Arthur (the kitty), lit a candle lamp, brewed some coffee, read a little, crocheted lots, danced to the banjo-induced jazz of Béla Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio, dressed in one of my favorite dresses, and made myself dinner.

Later, I wasn’t alone. My parents were back in time for me to catch a ride with Dad to see some friends who live about 30 minutes away. Sadly, my car is being a stubborn little girl and not starting, so a ride from Dad was necessary (also necessary was the ABBA disc we played on the way). I promised him a coffee, since Starbucks was were I was meeting my friends. He got more than coffee, he got conversation, too, as my friends, good as they are, assimilated him into our group. We talked for hours, and my time with them was fun and enlivening.

So my day alone wasn’t so lonely. I ended it with real social time with friends, face-to-face, cup-to-cup.

Being alone is not so lonely after all. We shouldn’t isolate ourselves, no, social time is essential, but we need to learn to like ourselves unconditionally during those mandatory solitary times. In turn, if we enjoy our time alone, our time with others is very likely to be enhanced.