Childhood can be Painful, but Nothing Lasts Forever

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“Beach Buddies II” 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas

I’ve never figured out why the news media and the talk shows delight in keeping us on the edge of our seats. Not from excitement, mind you, but unadulterated fear! I personally know many women who avoid the news altogether because of how it leaves them at the end of the day: wilted, worried, and unable to sleep. Like ostriches, they prefer having their news spoon fed to them in small doses.

I must admit I was quaking in my slippers when a new “super bug” made its debut on the Nightly News. The spread of this dreaded super-sect is caused from a “teensy weensy” camera on the end of a gastric probe commonly used by Gastrologists to detect stomach and bowel problems. Apparently, the magical instrument on the end of the probe is difficult if not impossible to sterilize.

My ears perked up as I moved to the edge of our soft leather couch. I had had that test this past year. My “hypochondriac tendencies” went on high alert. “Is that why I’ve been feeling so lousy these past few months?”

It’s not only super bugs we have to deal with. Many of the old diseases that were once eradicated are making a comeback; and with a vengeance! Outbreaks of old fashioned Red Measles have been playing out in large cities and states across the nation. Tuberculosis is becoming more and more prevalent. Yet not once have I heard anyone ask “What about all those illegal aliens who flooded the borders and were transported by bus to places across the country?” Most of them had never been immunized at all, and some were carrying viruses and bacteria that children in the United States had never come in contact with before.

When I was a child, Polio was not only a new word but a disease to be feared. Children who didn’t die from it were left crippled and prone to get diseases later on in life. The aftermath was almost as bad as the disease itself. If you survived, your limbs became shrunken and deformed, at least on one side, and you probably limped for the rest of your life.

“Few diseases frightened parents more in the early part of the 20th century. Polio struck in the warm summer months, sweeping through towns in epidemics every few years. Though most people recovered quickly from polio, some suffered temporary or permanent paralysis and even death. Many polio survivors were disabled for life. They were a visible, painful reminder to society of the enormous toll this disease took on young lives.” (Wickipedia)

My grade school playmate Eddie Knowles died from polio. We used to climb trees together and play outdoors all summer long. My mother would supply us with popsicles when we were sweaty and hot. Eddie liked to dunk his in the irrigation ditch running beside our property. It made the icy pop melt in his mouth. At the time, I firmly believed that this had caused his polio, although, we now know the disease is caused by a virus.

More from Wickipedia: “Because of widespread vaccination, polio was eliminated from the Western Hemisphere in 1994. Today, it continues to circulate in a handful of countries, with occasional spread to neighboring countries. (Endemic countries are Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan as of 2013.) Vigorous vaccination programs are being conducted to eliminate these last pockets. Polio vaccination is still recommended worldwide because of the risk of imported cases. Polio has no cure, so prevention is the most effective means to combat it.”

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“India Rising — Prince of Thieves” mixed media

Another school mate, Alice Johnson, had polio, and because of it she was teased and taunted most of her childhood; but especially into the teen years. She had a shriveled right arm and leg, and when she limped, it made the smaller arm flop up and down. If not for the love of her family, I don’t think she would have survived the relentless nicknames and the other health problems she incurred.

As a kid, I had my own nemesis. During puberty I had hormonal problems which caused me to break out in pimples. For awhile, some people even thought I had the measles. It was a painful ordeal that took several months and years to rectify. Childhood is painful enough, but when we’re saddled with a disability or a visible problem it becomes almost unbearable.

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“Broken Hearted” pastel on Bristol; matted and ready to frame or canvas print

My heart goes out to these brave little souls who weather the taunts of their friends and deal with a fatal disease or a discriminating disability. As we mature, most of us outgrow the need to put others down so that we may appear better or smarter. My friend Nancy was one of those people. When I was 12 and feeling like a leper and the ugliest toad on earth, she invited me to her father’s ranch on the lake for the weekend. I was thrilled!

I learned how to ride bareback on a shiny black horse that reminded me of my two favorite books: “Black Beauty” and “Red Horse Hill.” After that ride, I fell in love with books about horses. I devoured them like peanuts.

About this time I also began bringing home stray cats. Animals don’t care what you look like or how ugly you feel, and these strays were sometimes as scabby and scrubby looking as I felt. They sopped up every ounce of love I could give, and then gave it back to me. Animals can heal a lost soul.

When I had a chance to give back, I made friends with the kids who had problems like Alice, the overweight friend who limped from having polio, and Gale who was neglected and so poor there was rarely anything to eat in her cupboards or refrigerator. One day I shared a moldy piece of cake with her that was left on the counter top. Her sad eyes told me how lonely she felt when she came home to an empty house after school.

Sadly I had a new problem to deal with: I was being teased and taunted for befriending the un-friendless, the outcast or the new kids in town. Thankfully, I ignored their sarcasm and did what I knew I had to do.

"Looking Outward" 3-D painting in an actual window frame

“Looking Outward” 3-D painting in an actual used window frame

Lorraine had a bedwetting problem. You could smell it when she walked into class. Every afternoon during story time, we’d hear the sound of water trickling to the floor and we knew it was Lorraine. She handled her humiliation well. The janitor was called and he mopped it up quickly and silently, and then the teacher would go back to reading. But at recess, Lorraine stood alone.

I wish I’d found a way to reach out to her, but I didn’t; although, I thought about her a lot. I did hear she married and had a family. I’m certain she eventually overcame her lack of muscle control.

These problems seem insurmountable when we’re young. They only become bearable when we have a friend or a loving family.

And you know what? Our lives don’t really change that much as we grow older. There are new hurdles to overcome and harder challenges to cope with. Acceptance is sometimes the only way to suffer through. “. . Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

If we just wait it out and hope for the best, we will finally get to the other side.

“The Road Less Traveled” is Sometimes the only Way

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"Looking Outward" 3-D painting in an actual window frame

“Looking Outward” 3-D painting in an actual window frame

My life has taken such twists and turns, I scarcely recognize it. Events and circumstances have turned out differently than I expected. I made choices that changed the direction I was going, the people I interacted with, and caused a complete 1-80 transition from my familial and spiritual beginnings.

I once had visions of me herding a bunch of “grands” and living near my own children so that I could enjoy the fruits of motherhood. As it is, my six children and their children are scattered to the far winds. They rarely if never take vacations where I live. I manage a few trips, but because of their numbers it’s usually only once every three years or more that I see any one of them.

"Day Dreams" 11 x 14 oil on canvas

“Day Dreams” 11 x 14 oil on canvas

They inherited my aversion to telephones, so we don’t talk as often as we should. But thank goodness for Facebook and email or I’d never learn a thing about who they are and what they do.

One of my children hasn’t spoken to me since he left to live with his father at age 15. I expected that he’d get over it in time, but he hasn’t. He now has two children (one I only heard about from his sister). I saw the first one when she was only one years of age, and then again at three. Now she’s somewhere between eight and ten years of age, and she doesn’t even know me.

I’ve traveled long and far. My journey has been difficult and painful. The peace I’ve found along the way has been hard-won. The missing pieces in my life leave a large hole that only my children can fill.

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“Through her Eyes” sketch of live sitter

When I titled my blog “Artwork and Musings from my Dancing Heart,” I truly meant that because down deep inside, I’m an optimist. But in the normal course of living, for all of us, there is a wearing down, day after day, and it’s bound to have an effect.

In my first marriage, whenever I was “up” my husband was “down” looking sad and morose. When he could ignore me or bully me into a corner that’s when he’d feel the control he needed to breakout into a smile and dance around with pleasure. For some strange reason, my playfulness and laughter was his nemesis.

If I was happy that meant I had something over on him. Perhaps I’d spent too much money. Maybe I wasn’t burdened down with the cooking and the cleaning for our large family. If it was too easy for me, then I probably wasn’t doing my job. For whatever reason, we were never on the same plane of joy or the same wave length.

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“Moody Blues” mixed media on canvas

Today our pathways seldom cross. When they do it’s usually for a wedding or special occasion. Then he’s on his best behavior. He smiles and interacts with the children in a demonstrative way I never saw when we were together. His current wife and he seem to have “the perfect” relationship.

But when the festivities are over his facade dissolves into the sad and empty expression that I remember. It doesn’t reveal itself too often. The smiley face is the mask he wears to deal with the world. I hurt for him. I would love to see peace and contentment spread over his face as a permanent fixture not just when other people are present.

"Namesake" acrylic on canvas

“Namesake” acrylic on canvas

We all wear masks at times to hide the humanity we’re ashamed to show to those we don’t know. It’s important to have a close confidante you feel comfortable with so you can vent some of that anger and resentment. My release came from an art teacher and her weekly class. When I was involved completely in painting, I was in another sphere; free, alive and soaring. I forgot about my problems. My deep sadness slunk into the shadows, and the weight lifted from my shoulders.

Today I don’t regret that twisted rocky path I traveled on to get from there to here. Sure the sadness lingers, memory doesn’t wipe the slate clean. My journey has brought me to a place of confidence and well-being that was not possible in my former life. I took the path “less traveled, and that has made all the difference.”

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, 10

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. 15

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 20

By Robert Frost

Let the Healing Begin; Ways to Beat the Odds

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Looking Outward (16 x 20) acrylic; frame: Old Window

Looking Outward (16 x 20) acrylic; frame: Old Window

The body is a miraculous organ that under normal circumstances functions to heal itself if injured. When attacked either by accident, bacteria or virus, through our own carelessness or that of someone else’s the body’s defenses (the immune system) kick in. Even if they don’t, modern medicine is there to take over the job and provide much needed support.

An emotional injury is quite another matter. Our very heart and soul are under siege. The mind is fooled into thinking it’s our fault either through manipulation, abuse, or false accusations. Confusion sets in. We can’t process the pain. Did we cause it? Did we say or do something wrong? Are we unlovable? Are the things the other person said about us true?

The internal pain goes deeper than we ever thought possible. So deep that some people who experience an emotional injury feel actual physical pain like a knife piercing their heart or a feeling that  life and breath are being squeezed out of them in a spasm of muscular pressure. There have been occurrences of people dying from a broken heart or who have had a nervous breakdown as a result of suffering emotional trauma similar to the PTS syndrome veterans experience in war time.

Tickles from God

“Tickles from God” acrylic on canvas

Such tragedies happen because we are human. How do you deal with reality when your whole being is swirling around in a surreal world of physical and emotional pain? How do you get off the Merry-Go-Round that keeps replaying the past? You look for answers, but there are none. If you replay the memory again, perhaps you’ll find a reason to make this nightmare stop or go away? Like an old-fashioned record, you’re stuck reliving the pain again and again.

This is the time to reach out for help. Friends may offer sympathy; but they have none of the skills needed to help you, or to ensure that you make a safe transition to wellness. A psychologist or psychiatrist may help you understand what has happened and guide you to a better place, but the work of healing is still yours.

Falling on your knees in prayer can help you feel the power and love of God. This action alone will give you strength to do the hard work. Trying to heal without God is like covering an open wound with a dirty rag. It’s like burying your sorrows in a dark room, curled up in a ball, and hoping that you’ll recover. The saving, healing grace of Jesus Christ must be received in openness and light.

"With These Hands -- Wonder" oil on canvas

“With These Hands — Wonder” oil on canvas

Doctor’s may heal your mind and your body, but only God can heal the jagged wounds of the heart. Spiritual pain needs a Savior. Sins of all kinds need a Redeemer to give you hope and remind you that you’re not alone. He is “worthy to be praised,” and he can heal you of your broken heart just as he did mine.

I have seen people flounder in unbelief. God throws them a life line, and they ignore it because they do not recognize his voice. They have turned away from him so often that he has become a stranger. They do not trust what they have not seen. They do not listen to one in whom they do not believe.

Instead they trust in people, humans like themselves with weaknesses, lusts and desires. They read what so-called experts have written or said as if it were gospel. They trust in the arm of flesh because it is all they know. God’s Word is mocked and treated like myth or legend. In their heart of hearts they are devoid of truth and without a light in a dark world.

Healing is a process; one that takes time and effort. There are no easy fixes or magic solutions. Some people try to find comfort in a bottle, or a needle or other physical gratification. But they are never satisfied, never filled. Their hunger creates a vacuum that sucks the life out of everything and everyone they touch.

The “Bread of Life” satisfies that deep hunger and begins the healing. The new life that follows brings peace and contentment. There is no other way. Jesus is the “well-spring” of life and his healing is permanent and eternal.

Why have I used this message in my “The Art of Living” blog?” Because in my own personal life my faith is as basic to my survival as food, water and shelter. My faith is vital to my overall satisfaction and happiness; A life void of faith is a life not worth living. (See my other blog: “Witness Spoken Here”)

Link  http://www.witness-spokenhere.com

What Better Gift than the Gift of Self

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“Broken” 11×14 mixed media on canvas (SOLD); prints available.

Heartache and Sorrow are as much a part of life as joy. In down times, we sometimes think that hardships and trials consume most of our lives, but they probably don’t. If we cleaned the lens of memory, we would also find moments of laughter and sunshine amidst the clouds.

Getting through Christmas is difficult for many. When my children were young, we made a gingerbread house together and decorated it with frosting and festive candies. I baked quantities of good things to eat that were shared with friends and family. Now that the kids are gone, I can barely make myself put up a tree or decorate at all.

I rarely use my oven, knowing that most of the sweets will end up on my husband’s stomach and my hips. I can hardly wait for Christmas to end. I enjoy the spiritual worship and the sense of joy, but the aloneness I feel with my children scattered to the far corners of the US, leaves a hole in my heart.

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“Emma” 11×14 drawing; in celebration of her 92nd birthday

Getting involved in my church and community somewhat fills the void. There are many ways to “get out of self” through helping others. If you find yourself weighed down by personal grief, move yourself to action.

When I’m working in our food pantry, I’m able to give sincere hugs of love to the people in need. Their hunger not just for food, but for companionship and the touch of another human being warms my heart, too.

Self-pity can consume you. When you turn your sorrow outward, in a show of love for others, the grief and sadness becomes bearable. Outlets of love provide a way to healing not only for the giver, but for the one who receives.

There may be times when we are on the receiving end. I was given a life-line many years ago by a neighbor and friend who seemed to know just what I needed.

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“Mother and Child” brush drawing on panel

Suffering from after-baby blues and depression combined with a traumatic experience had made me morose and frozen in inactivity. One day the doorbell rang, and there she was with a shovel in hand and some plants from her backyard.

“You’re coming outside with me,” she said without giving me a chance to refuse. I followed her outside like a sheep needing a shepherd.

We spent the next hour in the sunshine, planting my favorites from her garden. While we worked, we talked. After she left, I felt hope for the first time in weeks. The sunlight not only warmed my body, but my soul. My friend had pulled me from my dark sadness to a place of friendship and love. I would survive.

I’ve been forever grateful to her for taking the time to reach out to me. First she was aware that something was not normal, then she thought of a way that she could reach out to lend me a helping hand. Her example has helped me watch for the clues and signs in other people that indicate they may need my help.

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“Moody Blues” mixed media on 16×20 canvas

“Paying it forward” is a popular action that people are doing to help someone else. Instead of waiting for problems to develop, they reach out when they can and do something nice for someone else like paying for a meal, giving them your parking space, letting them go before you in line, allowing someone to merge ahead on the highway.

There are countless ways that you can serve. And in the helping, your own inverted downcast self is pulled from its dark shell and into the light.