Peace In Letting Go

It seems like so long since I have been in touch with you all, but hopefully this will bring us all back together because, quite frankly, I’ve missed you.

shutterstock_213079855We all have reasons and circumstances in life that cause us to retreat.  It doesn’t matter the source, because the reactions are much the same.  For me, it has been several years (especially the past year) of dealing with a loved one who has Dementia and struggling to leave a church I’d been part of for over 20 years.  Then my husband’s parents died just four days apart.  Within a matter of weeks, things substantially declined with my dad and he ended up moving into a memory care facility which resulted in my mom (whom I love beyond words) has moved in with my husband and me.  To say it has made my heart wander and wonder would be an understatement, yet here I am doing it more than I could have ever dreamed.

Life is hard, and sometimes it seems we get beat up every time we turn around.  On top of that, people can also be mean, unkind, selfish and even narcissistic, including ourselves at times, which is why it’s so important to be able to reflect and take a look inward to see how we are contributing to the situations in which we find ourselves.  I am learning (more slowly than I’d like) there are times when you just have to step away.  When reality slaps us in the face, sometimes we have to be willing to let go of expectation.  That’s something I’ve never been able to do very well because I am not a good “leaver” no matter the situation.  When I was younger, I couldn’t have anticipated how much pain that trait would cause me over the course of my life.  There is a fine line between believing or hoping for the best in someone and subjecting yourself to continual heartache, bullying or abuse.

When you find yourself in a situation that makes you feel as though you are on the outside of something, whether it is a job, relationships, church or anything else, there are always things you can do to try and regain your footing.  The struggle that comes with finding your footing is that sometimes it may require you to step somewhere else.  shutterstock_1492027019THAT is something with which many of us are not comfortable.  Stepping out of what we want into the reality that exists means we have to let go, give up, and be willing to experience the loss and grief that comes with doing so.  Peace doesn’t come easy in these kinds of seasons in life.  When you are between a rock and a hard place, even if only by perception, it is painful no matter which way you turn.  But it’s also in that terribly lonely place that you are forced to look at what you are willing to do to be free.

As a person of faith, I have struggled with what to do or where to be.  I believe God has a plan for each of our lives, for my life, and yet I get discouraged or feel like giving up just like many of you.  Having faith doesn’t mean we don’t experience times of discouragement, rejection or even utter despair at times.  It doesn’t mean we won’t get tired or feel lonely.  Jesus himself experienced these same things when He was walking on this earth.  Our emotions aren’t sinful; they are human, but it’s what we do with our emotions that’s important.

They say confession is good for the soul, so I have to tell you that as I was writing this post, I was interrupted by a song I’d never heard before.  It was validating, comforting, and convicting all at the same time.  The song is called “Ordinary Love” by the Jim Brady Trio, and the words of the chorus have been echoing in my mind over and over.  “Ordinary love, a love that winds its way through common conversations and simple acts of grace, ‘cause no one needs a superstar and no one need a saint.  We need someone to just show up with ordinary love.”  As I sat here listening to the song over and over, I first nodded in validation we all need that kind of love, yet I’ve been fighting the oppressive sadness of feeling left out, unimportant, and insignificant.  My world has been feeling increasingly small and lonely until it finally takes too much effort to even say anything anymore.  Then as I continued to listen, I felt the tears streaming down my face at the comfort those lyrics were bringing, because no matter how I am struggling or how silent it feels, I am so grateful for the few people who show up every single day in my life with “ordinary love.”  They put legs on their intentions without prodding or having to ask for it. Then as I continued to hear those lyrics over and over, my heart began to be convicted about how important it is for me to just keep on walking where God has called me and to love people the way I always have…with all my heart…in the little ways that matter.

shutterstock_229454029When life gets so overwhelming and you can’t breathe, sometimes it is the smallest acts of grace and kindness that get you from one day to another or from one breath to the next.  Yes, there are things we must let go of to move on, and sometimes those things are deeply painful and even wounding to our hearts and spirits.  It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t let go of things, people or even our expectations; it just means it’s going to take some time to heal as a result of doing so.  We simply need to step back and listen to that still, small voice inside, and then walk on as peaceably as possible down the path ahead, even if the ground is stained with our tears as we move along.

If you are in a season of your life filled with feelings of isolation, insignificance discouragement or despair, you’re not alone.  Yes, it’s hard, and yes, it may be time for big changes within your heart that lead to changes elsewhere.  Just remember, that even as you are trudging through each step right now, be kind in your silence.  Be strong in your fatigue.  Be gentle in your frustration and disappointment, and choose to still fill the world around you with ordinary love.

Blessings!

Are You Recovering or Relapsing?

shutterstock_178294598Recently I was reminded of a statement I heard years ago: “If you’re not recovering, you are relapsing.”  Although this statement often applies to those who have had issues with addiction of some kind, whether drugs, alcohol, food or any other substance, I believe it also applies to many other things we struggle to change in our lives.  It might be relationships with other people.  It might be aspects of your spiritual walk or relationship with God.  Whatever it is, we can all relate to having things we want or need to change.

This summer, I will have been in “recovery” from an eating disorder for 25 years.  I say recovery because for the most part, I have been extremely successful.  That being said, there have also been relapses here and there along the way.  Even recently, it reared its ugly head and manifested itself in an entirely new way I would have never expected.  I was caught completely off guard, though it eventually started becoming clear what triggered the downward progression.  Like most people who don’t want to admit something has gotten the better of them – even if only momentarily – I initially denied, then rationalized my behavior.  “But I’m not doing it the same way most people do,” I said.  “I am in complete control and know full-well what the risks are.  I’m not stupid!”  I kept saying it to others, and to myself, but eventually it reached a point where I could no longer deny it and started making serious steps to get a handle on it once again.

shutterstock_65434666My experience with this made me think about all the other mindsets and ways of thinking we all have about things in our lives.  It might be an actual addiction to a substance or it might be an addiction to a particular behavior or routine.  Sometimes our addictions involve the old tapes playing in our heads that are easier to leave playing than to make an effort to turn them off.  We get used to the familiar even if we know it is bad for us.  We gravitate to old coping mechanisms and techniques even though we know the end result will actually make it more difficult for us to actually cope!

We all have these ways of thinking and if someone tries to tell you they have never been touched by “addiction,” they are lying.  It may not look like what many people think of when they hear that word, but an addiction is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “a strong and harmful need to regularly have something or do something.”   Maybe you overeat or under-eat because you are doing it out of emotion.  Maybe you constantly gravitate to people who do not treat you well because you’ve been convinced you don’t deserve anything better.   We spend money we don’t have or over commit to projects or people because it’s been beaten into our heads that saying “no” somehow makes us bad or selfish.  We go to church because someone told us that God will be mad at us if we don’t.  We wear elaborate masks because we think it’s easier than looking in the mirror and facing the truth.   We turn over a new leaf and make a commitment to ourselves (and even to those around us) that we are going to change but eventually find ourselves right back in the same boat again and again.

shutterstock_147867770We relapse!  Yes…I said “WE” relapse…all of us.  Sometimes we relapse because we are lazy.  Sometimes we relapse because we become too confident in ourselves or our abilities.  Sometimes we relapse simply because we are human.  We are imperfect people in an imperfect world.  That fact does NOT excuse us or our behaviors, but I have learned that it doesn’t do any good to beat ourselves up when we fail.  We have a God who loves us and forgives us completely when we simply ask.  Are there consequences of our behaviors?  Most certainly, but He has even promised to give us the grace and strength to endure the consequences as long as we lean on Him and trust Him to do so.  That is where our recovery begins.

Recovery is not easy…not from any behavior we seem to struggle with.  New habits are hard to form, and we are impatient creatures!  Recovery is sometimes very slow and methodical even though we want things to change right now!  Once we truly realize how warped our thinking or behavior is, we want it to be different but we don’t want to spend the time (and sometimes pain) it takes to get there.  Unfortunately things do not just happen on their own!  It takes effort.  It takes us being continually aware and making conscious choices to do things differently.  It is a life-long “recovery” process!

It’s been said that life is all about how we move forward.  I like to think of that a little differently.  I believe life is all about how we move forward AFTER we have fallen backwards.  If I am continually striving for perfection, I will continually be a failure in my own mind.  If I believe I am a failure when I stumble in life, then I will become fearful of getting back up.  And when I believe it is safer or easier to just stay where I am than to get up and risk falling at some point in the future, then I am choosing to become a slave to “relapse.”  I am choosing to give control of my future to the very things or people that want nothing more than to steal that future from me.  On the other hand, if I believe life is all about an ebb and flow, falling and soaring, then I know it is possible that success may lie in the very next step that I take forward.  That is what drives me on toward the next breath sometimes when I am struggling under the weight of my all-too-familiar weaknesses or faulty thinking.  Recovery is a choice.  It is believing that falling does not make me a failure and stumbling doesn’t mean I will never succeed in changing the things I want to change.  It isn’t about sitting on the shore to avoid being knocked down by the waves; it is about learning to recognize the tide so that when we lose our footing and fall down, we are not pulled into the depths of the sea.

shutterstock_155808656Relapse or recovery?  Whichever you find yourself in today, or at this time in your life, take heart in knowing you are not alone.  We are all moving one direction or the other when it comes to our “addictions.”  No matter how big or small the change you are trying to make may be, just remember this:  If you are not moving away from those negative things or behavior, then you are moving toward them.  The beautiful reality of it all is that every breath is a new beginning and every heartbeat is a chance to start again.  That is what life is all about.

Blessings!

Shelter the Innocent

child_abuse_symSome of you may be aware that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.  I was very fortunate and blessed to have had a childhood where I was loved and safe but many people I know personally were not as fortunate.  They endured terrible abuses of every kind and yet most of them have become some of the strongest people I have ever known.  It is a difficult thing to watch the people we know and love endure these scars in their lives but I have been inspired to see them come to places where they realize just how beautiful they are and have always been.  It is such a process but it is one that is well worth going through.  Healing never comes easily but it IS possible for it to come.

About a week ago, a song came to me in a matter of minutes as a result of reflecting on situations that some of the people I love have had to endure.  Since this is Child Abuse Prevention Month, I thought it fitting to share the lyrics with you so I have added them to the end of this post.  The song is titled, “The Mirror” and it speaks to what is seen when we gaze at our reflection.

shutterstock_92486212Children really are so innocent and need protecting.  We all hope they are raised in loving and caring homes, by good and loving parents but we also know that is not always the case.  It is our responsibility to step forward not only when we become aware of severe abuse but we should also pay closer attention to the children in our lives no matter where we encounter them.   They are a treasure and we should strive to be good examples to them in every way.  We need to love and encourage them whether they are “ours” or not.  We need to talk with them and listen to them and when there are concerns, we need to voice them!  We need to always remember what it felt like to be a child and how real our fears were to us, regardless of what any adult may have thought.  We need to be the ones who genuinely care and help lift them up to be all they can be.  It doesn’t matter where they come from or where they are.  Even if they come from seemingly wonderful homes, they can never have too many supporters and encouragers in this life.  Life can be hard no matter how old we are and I still have people in my life today who listened to me as a child.  I still go to them sometimes.  I still feel warmth and love from them to this very day and it strengthens me continually.

shutterstock_76099252So reach out to the children around you.  Be available.  It doesn’t take much for us to provide a rock to hold onto when their little worlds are crumbling.  It simply takes a willing heart and a few moments of time to make all the difference in the world.  Give them the greatest gift of life they could ever have.  Give them you.

Blessings!

The Mirror

Just a little child broken and abused.  Treated like a rag doll – utterly confused.  Focusing on nothing, she stumbles through the door and looks into the mirror as she hides there on the floor.

And she says, “Mirror mirror on the wall, why can’t I see someone pretty looking back smiling at me?  Will there ever be a time when the ugly finally fades and all the pain I’m living now turns into yesterday?”

Just another woman haunted by the past.  Survival left her empty ‘cause she had to grow so fast.  Afraid to trust another – afraid to ever tell that all she sees is ugly when she tries to see herself.

And she says, “Mirror mirror on the wall, why can’t I see someone worthy looking back smiling at me?  Will there ever be a time when the shame will fade away and all the pain I’m feeling now is lost in yesterday?

Down through the years, now when I look, I see I’m not defined by what they took.  And though there are scars, they’re beginning to fade.because I can see I am wonderfully made.

Now in the mirror on the wall, I can finally see someone beautiful and strong smiling back at me.  And should there ever come a time when the doubt begins to rage, I’ll let it go and turn my eyes away from yesterday.

The winds of change have carried me on the wings of love and grace to where I’m free to live beyond my world of yesterdays.”

© Deanna Kay O’Leary 2013

For more information on Child Abuse Prevention Month, please visit:

https://www.childwelfare.gov/preventing/preventionmonth/

http://www.brightfutures4kids.org/blue-ribbon-society/

“Out Of the Closet” Isn’t Always What You Think

I recently shared some personal information about myself with my family and, subsequently, with the rest of my friends. It was something that up until now just wasn’t openly discussed. There have been a few people in my family with whom I talked about it in the past and I have had some amazing friends who have known and supported me for many years. Unfortunately because the stigma attached to mental health and brain chemistry issues is so great, it is a subject that required careful silence. My revelation: I have lived with bipolar disorder my entire life and was officially diagnosed in April 1994.

shutterstock_93702475We all have things in our respective “closets” that we are afraid of revealing. We are afraid it will so drastically change our world that we would rather live in hiding than risk upsetting what we already have. We are worried our families will struggle with the corners of our reality. We worry we will lose respect of the people in our professional lives. We fear that society will suddenly frame us in a different light and begin to judge us solely within that frame. WHY then would we ever want to come out into the light and fully show ourselves? Why would we want to open the door to areas within us that may cause people to walk away?

I have a faithful friend who, when I shared the news of my revealing with her, responded with a note filled with beautiful words. In it, she said something that resonated deeply within me. “Being open does not give other people power over you. It gives you power over you.” There exists such a wonderful truth in that statement. Coming out into the light of your truth will liberate and empower you. It will give you the ability to breathe more deeply because you aren’t constantly wasting your energy trying to shove things further into the dark. It will also allow you to more clearly recognize those beautiful people in your life who truly accept and love you as you are. It is not easy to come out of the closets in our lives, no matter what those particular closets might be. There is an endless list of things you might be hiding but there is one solution to it all. Turn on the light and throw open the door. Walk bravely out into the open and look around. You just may find there are many of your friends and family who embrace you in all your uniqueness. You already have the key. The question is whether or not you will use it.

shutterstock_110895386“Coming out” is a term that applies to much more than simply the one thing with which we commonly hear it associated. Revealing our true selves is a process of steps. We first show our truth to one or two people (or maybe even a few) that we know we can trust completely. We lean on them and use their support and acceptance to help us grow stronger. Then we begin to carefully unravel the layers of our selves to others in our world. We may come out to friends but not to our coworkers. We may come out to coworkers but not our families. We may come out to our families but not to others. It just depends on the situations in which we find ourselves. You see, there IS risk in revealing the things in our lives that we (or we assume others) consider to be unattractive, embarrassing or negative and it is not always appropriate to run wildly into the open shouting our truths. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we cannot help but do so but we must remember there are also consequences we may face as a result. If I had revealed the truth of my bipolar brain chemistry in my professional world years ago, it would have become an albatross from which I might not have been able to escape. My position (and my particular division) was one that was not conducive to such revelations. My successes would have been eclipsed by the glaring judgments of many of my colleagues which would have undermined my ability to continue to be viewed as productive and successful. It is sometimes a difficult dance to maintain and the sad thing is it is a dance you will dance alone. The same holds true for any other realm (family, friends, etc). Depending on what your closet holds, you may find yourself dancing alone in the midst, trying to find a balance between revealing and surviving.

I have been overwhelmed by the positive and encouraging responses of the people in my life and am grateful beyond belief but there are still areas that have not been fully breached. It is a process but I will take it as it comes. For now, it is an unspeakable feeling of liberation and I am excited to see what God is doing and what path He is clearing before me.

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Often times, we THINK we are ready to walk the path before us but we continue to be faced with obstacle after obstacle. They are not here by chance. They are here to help us come to the place where we begin to see that the only requirement to being all we are created to be is to let go of who everyone else thinks we are. When we relinquish our need to always be in control, we will find there is a much greater power than ourselves clearing the path at exactly the right time, in exactly the right way. Honesty, truth, kindness and love…these are the great purifiers in our lives and refiners of our paths. Trust yourself. Embrace the truth and let the rest fall where it may. It is the only way to truly live.

Blessings!

To help fight the stigma of brain disorders, please visit any of the following links: