How to Tap In to those Lost Moments

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#hopeful in India, 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas

#hopeful in India, 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas

If you’re a worry wart like me, you’ve heard the advice: “Learn to live in the Moment.” Do most of us even know what that means?

I recall a very fragile time in my life when every movement seemed like an uphill struggle. I told a friend that I felt I was swimming in a gigantic pool of water and I just couldn’t get to the other side. Have you ever felt like this? Perhaps you still do.

I did manage to get my head above water for a while. In looking back, I was able to recognize brief periods of peace. Small glimmers of joy. A tiny interlude of laughter. How could I capture that feeling and keep it with me throughout the day, even in frustrating, terrifying moments of pain and unhappiness?

Henna prints; India

Henna prints; India

  • The first step is to actually recognize the good things that happen. To savor them. To be grateful for the small miracles such as holding an infant in your arms and rocking them to sleep. Bliss! Singing a favorite song to a child at bedtime. And reliving those precious moments over and over again until your heart is too full for self-pity or sadness.
  • Make “awareness” a habit. A batch of cookies are a lot of work, but the smiles on the faces of your children when they come home from school is payoff. Focus on the details of life instead of bemoaning them. Shine them up and make them sparkle even when you feel there is nothing to be happy about. Slow your life down so you can “smell the roses” and begin to notice the minutia that usually passes you by. A random giggle, a tribute of dandelions from a preschooler. A call from a dear friend.
  • Do something! When you’re at your lowest, make yourself get up and do something. Even small accomplishments can boost your spirits. Get out of the house instead of moping. Take the kids or the dog for a walk. Even if you’re single, there’s something about nature that can draw you out. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Pray. Memorize and say a poem out loud.
  • Try a change of scene. Taking a drive, seeing a new neighborhood or a new shopping area can perk up your spirits. Take a mini-vacation with the help of someone you trust. Get away for a few days and soak up some sun and sand. Water has a calming influence. Hearing it lap against the side of a pool or washing up on the shore is soothing and can bring you to a higher plane. Feeling a higher power in the sound of water may bring you comfort and peace.
  • Never give up hope. If you can’t fight the doldrums alone, get help. Don’t let depression beat you down. Give yourself the gift of time and space. Link up with a supportive friend. Look back on any progress you have made and have a celebration. Buy yourself something new. Make a determined effort to appreciate even small steps of progress.

These steps helped me reach a point where I could make some changes in my life and get the help I needed. Perhaps they may help you as well.

"Namesake" acrylic on canvas, 24 x 18

“Namesake” acrylic on canvas, 24 x 18

Life and Death Struggles Hit Everyone

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All around the world, individuals are in life and death battles against formidable enemies that threaten their existence. The danger often comes by being born in a certain region or conforming to a specific religion. Vulnerability may come simply because of skin color or ethnicity.

Most of us don’t take unnecessary risks if we can help it. We try to avoid confrontation if at all possible. When we find ourselves between the crosshairs of someone’s hatred, we may pray for the very first time. Few of us can understand the animosity that propels this anger. Sometimes we may be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Coincidence? Stupidity? We call it many things.

There are other threats that surround us each day. Disease, accident, emotional or physical turmoil may be waiting for us at the end of the day: in an intersection, at the office, within our own homes, stalking us as a lion ready to pounce. None of us are exempt. No one is above the human experience.

“Namesake” acrylic on canvas

The target changes with the fickle whims of fate and popular opinion. Today if you’re a police officer your life is at risk, not only from the threats of occupation, but from misaligned angst from perceived injustices. Facts are ignored in this wave of emotion.

The supposed victims of police brutality are usually in the process of breaking the law. Officers attempt to stop the perpetrator and make an arrest. They resist. They may even pull out a gun or attempt to physically pummel the officer. The “perp” resents being stopped from continuing to break the law. They see the officer or officers as the enemy intruding into their life and freedom to do what they please. They attempt to flee and are stopped either by a Taser or a bullet.

The assailant’s family grieves not only with sadness but with shouts of “police brutality.” And a new cycle of violence and hatred continues.

Self-examination is difficult. We sometimes see ourselves as victims in a random world where everyone is “out to get us.” Why is it so difficult to take responsibility for our own actions?

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When my children were still in school, I told their teachers at conference time that I believed in allowing my children to “suffer the consequences of their actions.” I wanted them to relate “outcome” with their negative actions. Of course, there were some teachers who were not to be trusted with this precious authority. Not everyone has a sense of fair play and justice.

How else can people learn the difference between right and wrong in a civilized society if not through suffering the consequences of their own actions?

It is delusion to blame policemen for brutality when you resist arrest for committing a crime. Period! A mature reasoning adult accepts responsibility for their choices. Savages do not. The outrage that follows when we do not is the result of exploitation and a failure of government. Lashing out to burn and destroy your own communities only hurts you and those you love.

When will the violence end? Only when the government and leaders cease to feed the fires of envy and hatred. Only when law abiding citizens in those communities rise up and stop the madness.

In Our Absence—Behind the Scenes

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Mount Rainier at a distance.

Mount Rainier at a distance.

A rock is thrown into a lake and creates rings that continue outward until you can no longer see them or the ripple effect that follows.

As human beings, we cast our words, our talents, our actions outward and they continue on, affecting everyone who comes in direct contact with us or indirectly through hearsay and  influence whether for good or for evil. Cause and affect; time marches on, even when we’re gone, and things change.

Mount Rainier "up close and personal."

Mount Rainier “up close and personal.”

When we returned, the weeds had grown; the Bougainvillea had sprouted sucker branches that shot three feet beyond the original plant. Palm trees and Southern pine had been removed at the West Gate and the ground was being scraped and carved for new Condos.

In place of the shrubs and greenery we expected, metallic diggers and large-treaded tractors stood in defiance. The scarred earth lay bruised and exposed in place of the grass we had left behind. I mourned quietly for the raccoons, squirrels, possums, armadillos and birds left homeless and perhaps dead in their wake.

At the base of the mountain:  Still a long way off. (the base is usually covered with snow).

At the base of the mountain: Still a long way off. (the base is usually covered with snow).

At home, we replenished the empty refrigerator and pantry. A clerk where we shop was obviously pregnant. I had not noticed her condition before we left. Now she was burgeoning with ripe expectation. Could this ballooning have happened in only three weeks time?

All around, there were new things happening. The entrance to our complex had been re-tarred. The roadway greeted us with a black sheen and a smooth ride. Our mail was in the box just as we had requested, and surprise, surprise – while we were gone, the world kept turning and operating without our help.

Me and my sweetheart chatting while resting. My daughter caught us unawares.

Me and my sweetheart chatting while resting. My daughter caught us unawares.

Somewhere in this state of insignificance and unimportance that all of us feel from time to time, a young man, thinking only of himself and operating from hatred, decided to change the equation. He would have his moment in the flashing lights of fame and recognition. But instead of the light from above, he was surrounded by darkness and inspired by evil.

Today he remains in a dark cell as a caged animal because he acted in rage and from base animal instincts rather than from reason and love. Yet as he shot the living and ended their mortality, he also freed them to a higher calling.

A beautiful glacier lake on the way to Mount Rainier.

A beautiful glacier lake on the way to Mount Rainier; a female caribou stands in the water.

To his surprise, instead of meeting hate for hate, he was surrounded by love. His so-called enemies were his friends. They chose to forgive him in spite of his egregious actions. They sought to live as they believed and to honor their Lord and Savior.

Instead of the “Christian hypocrites” that many in society were expecting, these humble followers made a commitment to each other and to their God that this heinous crime would not influence their faith or fulfill the hatred that had walked among them.

In the absence of their loved ones and with the indictment of the murderer, these valiant men, women and children walked with their heads held high; their aching hearts filled with the peace of God.

May the blessings of Heaven surround these faithful souls in South Carolina.