July 31st: Unexpected Conversations

You never know where you will hear words of wisdom.

You never know where your story will be told.

I am reminded time and time again to stay open to conversations that present themselves.

I was sitting on a bench, looking out towards the ocean.

I had been camping all weekend and the boat skipper of the camp was preparing his boat to head into town.

I noticed him walking my way but believed that he would walk past, leaving me to look out over the sea alone. I really didn’t want to talk. I really wanted to be left alone. He walked up to me though, and sat on the bench next to me.

We both looked out at the ocean.

He waited a moment before he spoke. He pointed to a group of students who were out in the cove, tipping their kayaks and laughing as they fell into the water.

He said, “Look, their lives are full of endless possibilities.”

I thought to myself, Yes… you are right… their lives are full of endless possibilities but I have lived my life and it hasn’t turned out the way I thought it would.”

I felt I had no endless possibilities left.

He seemed to pick up on what I was thinking and said:

“A year ago I was retired from the Coast Guard, living in Virginia, running a power plant. I believed that my life was what it would be. That there were no more endless possibilities. Next thing I knew, I received a call from a friend in the Coast Guard who told me that the boat skipper of his camp was retiring and  they were looking for someone to take his place. My wife and I sold our home, grabbed our kids, and now… we live on this beautiful island in a house by the ocean. So you see, there are always endless possibilities.”

He smiled…said that he had to get back to work… and left never knowing that he had just said exactly what I needed to hear.

Had I turned my back on that moment, had I chosen to get up and walk away, I wouldn’t have heard it.

He was right.

My life was full of endless possibilities.

Age had nothing to do with it.

Being open to the experience is what it’s about.

Stay open to the unexpected conversations.

They provide a wealth of wisdom if you just stop and listen.

“Dear God, help me to hear your voice in the words that other’s speak.”

July 30th: Listening

Sometimes I ask my Higher Power questions.

Sometimes I ask my Higher Power for signs.

Sometimes I ask… but I don’t listen… or ignore signs once they appear.

A friend once said to me, “Remember, when you ask God a question, don’t forget what the question was by the time he answers it!”

I was always asking questions and asking for signs and then forgetting to listen or watch for them to appear.

One day, I was hiking on a path.

I was having a moment where I was lacking faith and I was questioning my Higher Power.

I was feeling abandoned in my time of need.

I asked my Higher Power to give me a sign… a sign to let me know that I was not alone… that a spiritual being was with me in my time of need.

I allowed my mind to become quiet as I hiked slowly up the path.

I listened to the sound of my breathing… to the sound of the ocean… to the wind blowing through the brush.

I watched my footing on the path and took it slow.

Suddenly, there was a small white feather laying in the middle of the path. I first walked past it, not really thinking much about it, but something inside of me said, “Turn around and pick that feather up… it is a sign from your Higher Power.” I turned around, picked it up, and then continued up the path.

I was almost to the top when I noticed a small turn out. I walked over and sat down on the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean.

I sat and cried.

I cried feeling so lost and alone.

Where was my Higher Power?

Where was my faith?

How was I to walk through this pain?

How did others walk through this pain?

I reached in my pocket for a tissue to wipe my face and the small white feather fluttered out of my hands. It started to catch in the breeze and blow off into the sky when the wind changed direction and sent the feather back into my hand.

I calmed my mind.

I quieted my tears.

I listened.

Something told me to get up… to get back on the path and walk on. I stood up, dusted myself off and did just that. It was just a few steps more to the top of the hill… to the end of the path.

When I turned the last curve of the trail, I found a giant wooden cross, standing in front of a bench, looking out over the ocean.

I sat on the bench and stared at the cross in awe.

It did not matter that the sign was significant of a specific religion.

What mattered was the sign was a spiritual one.

Something inside of me said, “You see? You were just a few steps away from faith… if you had stopped, you would still be choosing to walk this path in fear… alone.”

I realized then that I had to believe.

I  had to watch for signs and believe my questions would be answered… in time.

If I wasn’t walking in faith…then I was choosing to walk alone and in fear.

“Dear God, help me to listen. Help me to look for your signs. Remind me that I can have faith if I choose to walk with you instead of walking alone in fear.”

July 29th: In Between

I didn’t want to go on the weekend retreat.

I had planned and paid for my trip while I was still trying to work things out with my husband.

I was going with people who were trying to work things out in their lives and I felt like I was already a failure… an outcast of the group.

I was fearful to leave my children behind during this troubled time.

I felt that it was my responsibility to stay with them until things were calm again.

I almost didn’t go but… I went.

On the boat over to Catalina Island, I stood outside in the cold sea air. The sea was rough and the bow of the boat slapped hard into each of of the crests and dips as we headed toward the island. I had to hold on to the rail so that I wouldn’t fall. I had to accept that I may get cold and wet if I wanted to stand outside and enjoy the sea air. I kept looking back to my home, at the city I lived in. I thought of my husband and I wondered what he was doing with his new life.  I thought of my children and wondered what they were doing right now without me. I felt dread at the thought of my family being split up all over the city and the loss of my dreams.

I watched the mainland fade farther and farther away. I looked forward, but all I could see was the ocean… The island was nowhere in sight.

I knew it was there.

I knew that somewhere out in the ocean was the place that I would land but still… it did not appear.

Then… the ocean surrounded me… no land in any direction.

I felt fearful.

I felt that it was symbolic of my life.

I could no longer look back to the shore of my marriage, and I was unable to look ahead toward the shore of my future.

A new and different life lay ahead and like the island that I was going to, it would provide a stable landing spot once my my boat came in from sea.

I would have to trust that it was out there… even if I couldn’t see it.

The boat continued on… fighting the rough seas. It dipped and slapped and rocked and swayed and I held on.

I was a little scared.

I was also exhilarated.

I smiled and tried to find enjoyment in what I could see.

We passed sea lions swimming fast and hard… birds coasting on the ocean breeze or diving in long straight lines into the sea.

I wondered if the boat would stay afloat each time a large wave slapped up and sprayed across my face and then laughed at myself. How many times had this boat crossed this rough passage to land? Others had crossed this passage as well. I was not alone. I was not the only one who had felt scared and stuck and “in between.”

Suddenly, the island appeared out of the ocean mist ahead of me and I could once again see the shore. It wasn’t a familiar shore… It wasn’t what I was used to seeing.

I smiled to myself.

I looked back once more, still searching for the familiar outline of the mainland but… there was nothing to see.

The mainland was gone.

The island was the only place to land.

The only land in sight.

It may not be the land I wanted… I may not have wanted to go on the retreat… but that was beside the point.

It was where I now was.

“Dear God, help me to walk through the in-between times. The times when I don’t know where my life is going. Let me have faith in your plan for me. Let me believe that there is a stable shore where I will soon land.”

July 28th: Tears

When I would leave my job at lunch time, I would find myself walking somberly to my car, quietly opening the gate at work, quietly opening the door to the car… no expressions crossing my face… the perfect picture of calm yet once inside my vehicle: the tears would flow. I couldn’t stop it. I would find myself crying each time I reached the sanctity of my car. It wasn’t just a lunch time thing. I could be driving to the store, coming home from the gym, heading back from taking the kids to a water polo practice… always alone in my car when suddenly… the tears would flow. I would sob like an injured child. Sob, trying to find a way to come to terms with my loss. I would try to understand. I would try to find logic, but I just couldn’t. They were feelings and my feelings had to be released through tears. Tears are good for us. They clean our souls. They help us to heal from our wounds. They provide a much needed release from our stress and our pain. Allow yourself to cry. Allow yourself your own private place, your own sanctuary, where you will not be disturbed…where your tears can flow freely until they flow no more. Cry. Allow yourself to cry. Allow yourself to release your pain through your tears and when you are through, take a deep breath, calm your mind, and go back to the business of your day. “Dear God, help me to work through my feelings. Allow my tears to flow and clean my soul of pain. Allow me to express my sadness through the release of crying.”

July 27th: Fears

During my divorce, I would wake up in the middle of the night full of fear.
I would fear my own mortality, what my husband was doing and who he was with, being left behind without hope for the future.
The fear was so intense that my heart would pound, my body would feel the need to bolt out of the bed, and then… the grief would well up inside of me and I would cry big heaping sobs.

It was horrible to live in fear.

Fear overwhelms and controls you. It makes you feel that there is no hope… only despair. It keeps you out of faith. It makes you believe that you are being punished.

One night, I woke up and began the same horrible routine again. I felt the fear, I felt the need to bolt, and I felt the need to cry. But… instead of fighting it… I allowed it all to happen. I allowed myself to feel the fear… to feel my heart pounding. I allowed my body to get out of the bed, to bolt if necessary and then… I cried.

When my crying had ceased, I stopped… calmed down… and logically looked back at what happened.

Yes, I had fear about my mortality but that was a fear that I had long before my husband left home.

Yes, my body felt the need to bolt but that was just a basic animal instinct. I reminded myself that it is normal to feel the need to bolt when you are afraid. It’s your body telling you, “This is dangerous… you may be hurt… RUN!”

Yes, I had the need to cry but… who wouldn’t? I had been hurt. I had been betrayed. I had been let down by the person that I had given my love to.

Why wouldn’t I need to grieve? Why wouldn’t I need to express my sadness through my tears?

When I could calm down long enough to look at what was going on with my fear, I could see that it was really… a very logical, rational and natural reaction.

I was then able to take a deep breath, lie back down, and go back to sleep.

When I woke up the next morning, I realized that I had actually slept through the night. I had actually come to terms with my fear. I knew that I would feel these feelings again but now… I could look at the process that I was going through and come to terms with the loss of my marriage and my impending divorce.

“Dear God, help me to find strength in a moment of fear. Help me to calm my mind and find a logical and rational way to walk through the process and to become aware that it is a natural response that is helping me to overcome my recent loss.”

July 26th: Going to the Well

Sometimes we get caught up in old behaviors.
My favorite one was “going to the well.”
I had spent years trying to get what I needed emotionally from my husband and…
Sometimes… I got it.
Sometimes… I didn’t.
He was never consistent with his emotions.
I never knew from one day to the next if he would comfort me or make me feel worse.
One day, a person that I greatly respect, said something that made me become aware of what I was doing.
He said:
“Your spouse is like your drug. He is very intoxicating because you never know what you are going to get. So, you keep going to the well looking for more.”
I asked him to explain his statement.
He continued:
“When you are addicted to alcohol and drugs, you go to the “well” again-and-again to drink or use and make yourself feel better. But sometimes… you go to the well and you can’t get your “fix.” You feel horrible. You keep going back hoping that finally… your magical well will be full again and when it is, the rush is so much better because you went so long without being able to quench the thirst for your fix. The agony of not getting what you want enhances the pleasure when you finally get it.”
He was right.
I was experiencing the negative rush.
A false sense of satisfaction.
I finally understood completely.
When I went to my spouse and expected sympathy and comfort…and received it… I felt great. It felt great.
But, it felt even better if he wouldn’t give it to me… if he made me wait for his affection, wait for the slightest bit of emotional comfort and then finally gave in… it would soothe me in a way that nothing else could. It would provide me with a false sense of calm until… I needed to go back to the well again.

I realized that never knowing if I would be soothed or left behind to feel miserable made my spouse a very intoxicating drug.

I gave all my power to him.

He had the ability to make me feel good or bad with his words and actions.

I allowed him to manipulate me.

I willingly went back to the well again-and-again to get my drug.

His emotional distance only made me want him all the more.

I was willing to sacrifice my whole “well-being” just for one drink from his well.

But I learned over time that the well would not provide me with what I needed on a permanent basis and would only cause intense pain.

And now I know: Don’t go drink from the well.

I cannot continue to drink sand because I’m so thirsty for water.

The well will only give a false sense of security…a false sense of calm until I need to go there again.

I will never quench my thirst from that well.

That well is a mirage that will bring no comfort or solace.

“Dear God, help me to break my old, destructive patterns. Help me to see that going to someone to meet my emotional needs when they don’t have the ability to do so, will only hurt me. Help me to find the strength inside myself to meet my own emotional needs.”

July 25th: Calm in the Middle of the Storm

NH BILL THOMPSON

Sometimes there is a moment when you feel complete… calm and serene.

It is a moment of clarity in the middle of the storm you are walking through.

Feel the calm.

Enjoy the release.

Take that moment and fully explore it.

Breathe deep.

Doesn’t it feel wonderful to exhale and be relaxed and serene?

Feel the release wash over your entire body.

Relish the feeling of calm.

Allow yourself to sink into the moment of serenity.

Take the time to curl up into a cool, clean bed.

To bathe in a warm, soothing tub.

To walk through a quiet, green park.

Take that moment and rest within it.

Find a way to enjoy the calm to its fullest before the storm rises again.

We all walk through storms… unsure when serenity will come to us again.

We may wake to constant feelings of fear, anger, resentment, humiliation, and sorrow.

We may lose our center, our balance and feel lost.

It is difficult to feel calm as we walk through difficult feelings.

Accept when the calm sneaks up on you.

We don’t know how long it will last.

Enjoy it now for what it is.

Know that life will always have struggles, but at times of great stress, we can still take the calm when it comes.

“Dear God, help me to accept the calm when it comes. To enjoy the feelings of serenity that my body has long forgotten. Let me breath deep in the moment and enjoy the power of the calm. Help me to hold the peace of this moment while I am walking through the storm.”

Photo courtesy of: Bill Thompson