Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Living in the NOW"

Question of the Day:  
What can I do, right now, to enjoy my life, 
without looking into the future or hanging onto the past?


Answer:

Life happens in THIS moment.  I tend to live always looking at my current deficiency and working toward a life that is much better.  Never quite there, always slowed down but working toward something bigger. 


I have been held back by my past:
     -Illness
     -Marriage and Divorce
     -Trauma
     -Abandonment
     -Self Loathing
     -among other things


I keep working toward the future:
     -Recovery
     -College Graduation
     -Love
     -Babies
     -Career
     -among other things


There is a gap between past and future, and it is NOW... as humans we tend to focus on the beginning and end, but forget that life happens in the dash, in the journey.


 If I am living in this moment, what can I do to live more fully right now?:
     -Go to the lakes and see pretty things
     -Notice people and things that make me happy or inquisitive
     -Learn about all the things I ponder (documentaries, books, museums)
     -Make art!  Think creatively
     -Take care of my body... with compassion and grace


We don't always have to be working on or building our future lives.  I am realizing that it will always be future goals, I will always want it to be better or I will find defects in myself and be driven to improve before I feel worthy of anything positive.  I can BE without having a goal in every moment.


I can sit at Perkins and read something other than school/self-help books.  
I can go to a park without a reason.  
I can drive around aimlessly just to feel the breeze and look at the clouds.  


I don't need to judge and justify every action, reaction, and thought.  I can just BE without being overly concerned with the outcome or gain that I could achieve by certain actions.  I am starting to understand the concept of "living in the now".  


Being goal oriented can be a way to accomplish things in life, and that is an awesome quality to possess; however, just like anything, too much can be detrimental.  Over achieving has given me a way to run away from the past and to pull me forward from where I am right now.  


Guess what!?!  -  I am safe from my past, it is over.  I get to learn from it and have the privilege of not having to relive it.  Just because I allow it to be over doesn't mean that I am invalidating that it happened or that it hurt, I am merely taking back the power that my offenders took from me a long time ago (and the power that I let them keep).  I also am not a slave to my future, God says he has my plans laid out, and I trust that... no amount of work or toil will make Him love me any less or take away anything positive that He has planned for me.


RIGHT NOW:  
I have made it, 
I have worked hard, survived, and kept my faith.  
It is time to LIVE.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Journey, a Quest

I used to be in love, till death do us part,
You broke your own vows, and ran with my heart.
I tried to distract, the journey, a quest,
I found men, jobs, and money but failed to find rest.

Burned out and exhausted, bad health ensued
while I realized my life, at that moment, was screwed.
Out of money and resource, and a place of my own
humility sprouted within, a plant not full grown.

Others provided that which I could not,
 intense guilt that I felt, burying me in a plot.
I chose not to die, rather I forged right ahead
its been three years now and I am still not dead.

The ocean around me continues to churn
the large waves crash, but the tide does turn.
Loving to live trumps living to love,
peace often comes right after the shove.

New friends I have made have opened my eyes
to the wonders that lay below the blue skies.
Creation around us through people, and song
shows complexity - a human so strong.

I embrace the beauty and say thanks for the day
gratitude is best met with a heart that will stay.
I have found a new love, trustworthy and strong.
He promises not to hurt me and sings a sweet song.

The book that He wrote is well guided and true,
it brings me much comfort, like a good coffee brew.
When I remember the pain and the anguish of past
I know that He was there, and his protection will last.


He lives not on this earth, rather in my strong heart,
the sacrifice He made for me was definitely art.
He won't walk away, His love is so deep
words don't describe the commitment to His sheep.


The future is unclear, and it will surely bring pain,
but the heavy blows and wounds will no longer stain.
The Lord is my shepherd, they often do say,
with my life and my actions I will continue to pray.


<3 <3 <3

Monday, April 2, 2012

You Don't Own Me

Enemy (noun): one that is antagonistic to another; especially : one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent, something harmful or deadly, a hostile unit or force.


My Enemy (name: anorexia):  Alluringly ugly, deceptively truthful, maliciously caring, hatefully compassionate, harshly smooth, venomously soothing, friend of enemies, judgmentally inclusive, addiction and solution, vulnerably controlled, ambitiously failing, critical perfectionism.


This is what my enemy sounds like:


"You are fat, but with your self control, you have a leg up on everyone else.  
Go for it!"
"You will be worth it when this is done"
"With me you will be loved...for a small price
...but you can't put a price on love right?"
"Obesity is a pandemic, and you are a statistic 
overcome it!"
"Oh yes, enjoy this food, 
but don't complain to me later about being fat"
"Its okay, you are ugly, but I'm here for you"

"Baby you're beautiful, if only you would workout more, 
you are already half way there!"
"I believe in you, you are strong, 
push through the dizziness and headaches."
"When you are done, you will look put together...
 and finally be on top of your game"
"Another failed day, lets work twice as hard tomorrow"

"What the hell, you got a C on your test, 
now you are fat and dumb?  Come on!"
"Yes, he did leave because of your inability to master your body
...and the universe"
"Just a couple more colds and you will finally be in shape!"
"If you trust me, I will get you all you want and more."
"You aren't working hard enough...
no wonder everyone is leaving."
"What?!? You can't run anymore, 
you are a weak excuse for a woman"
"Passing out is for babies, get up and push through, 
you are strong, aren't you?"
"You are a disappointment, I was sure you could succeed."
"Oh yeah, your heart is failing, pleeease, 
tell it to someone who cares."
"You are believing them?? 
The doctors want you to get fat!  
WTF?!"

"We may be on a break now, 
but I will be back, we will finish this."

"Oooh a relapse....now THAT is more like it!"  
"Welcome back my love, you have been sorely missed.  
I really do love you"
"Yes, working out will make you feel better, 
and is the most healthy thing you can do."
"Do you know what will make your performance even stronger, 
cut out red meat and white flour."
"You don't have to cut everything out...
just a couple of things"

"Damn, you passed out already, its only been a couple of weeks"
"They tell you that your heart is shutting down, 
but they lie, they just don't like me"

"You are in this casket...
but why is everyone crying??
You look amazing, 
exactly what I envisioned for you
You, my dear, have succeeded."

"You have reached the finish line"


My Response:


I believed this and have listened to the lies for too many years, and I have come too close to heart failure. And where was my eating disorder?  It was chiding me for not being strong enough.  Even in my recovery, it says, "The only thing that recovery got you....was fat", well, its not the truth.  


Here is what recovery gave me that an eating disorder cannot possibly offer:


A strong relationship with the God who pulled me through and kept my body alive, close relationships with my family, friends who would go to the ends of the earth for me, and allow me to do the same for them, endurance to live an active life, ability to give back to the community, the capacity to love on the children I nanny, and the energy to share in the life of developmentally disabled adults (who bless me more than I could imagine).  It gives me the focus I need to work, and go to school, and gives me the motivation to push through horrific memories.  I can live alone, I can sing at the top of my lungs and maintain relationships, I can stand up for myself, and make hard decisions, I can be a shoulder to lean on, and a partner in crime, I have beautiful curves, and contrary to YOUR belief, I haven't heard many complaints.  I am able to have a love life with someone who will love me as much as I love them.  No more one sided relationships, no more hatred.  Just Love, Grace, and Mercy.  

I am surrounding myself with life-giving, 
compassionate, strong, healthy, loving people 
who enhance my life 
and whose lives I can positively impact.

I am wrapped in the loving arms of a God who loves on me every day, and who saved me from falling victim to the most deadly mental health disorder - anorexia.

<3 <3 <3




Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Disturbed - A Short Story



“Get off the street and get a job!” he yelled as he drove by me in his glistening silver BMW.  The anger in his face matched the cold whipping winds of this Minneapolis winter, temperatures below zero, a cold heart that is indifferent to human suffering.  All I could do was pray for him and try to ignore the implication that I am a lazy excuse for a man, both tasks are difficult to accomplish, but somehow the hateful words don’t seem to sting as much as they did two years ago.
I stand on the corner of 4th avenue and 10th street, my feet are sore – well at least what I can feel of them, my cheeks have become callused and scaled and are showing the beginning signs of severe frost bite.  Even though I don a couple of layers under my coat, it still feels as if my bones were separated and placed in deep freezers.  I suppose it would help if my clothes were clean and free of rips and holes, and if my coat still had the inner liner which is now long gone on another homeless man’s thieving back.  Alas, I am here, today I live with a familiar prickly cold hint of humiliation as the pampered young adults drive and walk by me; children of middle-to-upper class families taking for granted not only the college education they are being handed, but also the warm meals shared with friends, and the dry comfortable mattresses within the bedrooms they call their own.  They look at me as if I was a burden on their groomed block in dinky-town.  I am seen as a blemish, an oozing, repulsive comedone on the pristine face of the Twin Cities.  The comments become old news as the weeks and months wear on, and the general consensus of those rude enough to express their ignorance is that the homeless are a society of slothful, second-class creatures who are out to take what is not rightfully theirs.  These people pass judgment as if they are a superior race, immune to suffering and bad luck.
The snow underneath my feet has become a solid pad of ice, and in the summer, it looks like the balding spot on the top of my head.  This place is where I have faithfully stood for 2 years, day in and day out, where I hold cardboard that hopefully tells the passers-by that I am honest and out of other options.  I do have a family who still lives in Maplewood, however they have decided that my ‘issues’ are too heavy a burden for them to manage.  I cannot go back to Linda and my two daughters due to a restraining order which was issued almost exactly two years ago, on March 10. 
I never thought this would be my life; I am a college educated man, and a master’s degree in finance seemingly secured my job with an accounting firm downtown.  It is the truth that I once was the ignorant man in the fancy car judging that which I did not understand.  My paychecks were fat and so was my stomach as I ate out daily and ritually imbibed a six dollar large white chocolate mocha every morning. 
It is mind-boggling to me that a disease of the mind could so quickly rob a successful family man of everything he has.
About two and a half years ago, in my 3 bedroom, 3 bath colonial home on the edge of an elm tree studded golf course, my fate began to change.  My wife Linda, stunning with her long dark hair and voluptuous figure walked into the sitting room where I was mindlessly watching the game.  The lines creasing her face and the desperate look in her eyes were enough to pull me from the tv.  “What’s wrong Hun?” I pried, “You look scared, what’s going on?”  Without a second’s thought, tears began to stream down her pink porcelain cheeks which had since turned red and warm, “Why are you so moody Jon?  You have been out of control for the past couple of days,” she stopped as a realization hit her, “you act like you don’t even recognize me or your daughters.” I was shocked at her comment; I felt my face become very warm and my palms began to sweat.  I wasn’t entirely sure what she was referring to, “I don’t know what you mean Linda.”  I seem to have no memory of the previous days; she can sense this in my tone.  Desperately she asks “Are you seeing someone else? What is going on?” The soft tears have now turned into heaving sobs as she looks me dead in the eye, “I have a right to know Jon!”
My heart sank to the pit of my stomach as I flashed back to a conversation my father had with my mother on the wraparound porch of my childhood home about 25 years ago. At the time I did not understand what was happening.  There were weeks on end that my mother would act as if the life she was living was foreign to her.  Her normally calm voice would contort as she would scream at me “Who are you young man?  Why are you in my house?”  She would panic as if I were an intruder, “You don’t belong here, get out,” she would point at the white screen door at the front of the house, “GET OUT!”  My father calmly explained the outbursts to my mother, who was unable to remember such breakdowns.  She became frustrated and felt mistrusted, she knew that something was wrong, but would refuse to see a doctor.  About a month after their conversation that summer, my mother was checked into a psychiatric institution which was four hours from our home.  My father explained to my seven year old self that she had a problem with her brain called schizophrenia.  Six months later, we received a letter that my mother had committed suicide.
With this image springing up from what seems like a lifetime ago, I panicked.  It was happening to me.  My first instinct was to run as fast as I could away from everything, alcohol would be the easiest way to do that, however I knew that when the stupor wore off I would still be screwed.  I decided to sit my wife down to explain the disease that robbed my mother of her life.  I had not shared with her previously because I was terrified that I would end up with the same disease – I figured if I ignored that my mother was ill, I would be immune to the passing of the gene. 
Linda stared at me in disbelief and quickly made an appointment with a psychiatrist across town.  We hoped that I was just suffering from a mid-life crisis.  Apparently her initiative was threatening enough to trigger a surge of anger within me.  My last memory was my standing in the kitchen feeling faint and clammy.  I assume some time had passed because the next thing I noticed was my home.  It was ransacked and the police were coming in the front door. I had blacked out.  Broken glass was strewn across the great room where an antique vase had been thrown against the wall.  The counter had been completely cleared of its contents and in the rubble laid a family portrait taken not a month ago, which was now shattered and torn.  A foreshadowing of my future I suppose.  My wife was shaking in the corner with hot tears leaping onto her jeans like rain.  She looked at me as if I was a rabid animal.  My adrenaline shot through the roof and I felt dizzy and out of sorts as the officers came down the hallway and into the kitchen where they escorted me out of my own home. 
24 hours after my arrest, I was taken to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.  The doctor talked to Linda at the door of my hospital room, he shook his head slowly and formed the words “It’s severe schizophrenia.  I am sorry; we need to hold him for observation.” 
After a 72 hour hold, I found that my insurance did not cover severe mental illness or the treatment of it.  I received a prescription for an anti-psychotic medication, and was sent home.  As the taxi pulled in front of my house, I noticed Linda waiting for me.  Gosh I missed her face.  When I approached, a sad look rested in her tired eyes, “Jon, I filed for a restraining order today.  I cannot risk having you hurt our children.”  She looked at the maple tree on the front of the property as if she wanted to crawl into it.  At that point I knew there was more.  “You need to take your clothes and leave.  For good.” Her face turned cold and disconnected, “I want a divorce.”  Those words pierced through my tough exterior and reduced me to a man begging for a second chance. 
Over the next couple of months, the divorce proceedings moved quickly through the courts as I was deemed an unfit parent and Linda was awarded custody and most of the marital assets.  I lost my job, and was hopping from couch to couch until I ran out of friends willing to help me out.  Little did I know that without insurance, the medication would empty my bank account and leave me on the street.  My father had since passed away and I had no other extended family who could support me.  I was alone.
Without the medications, I faced possible death due to exposure, it is impossible to keep track of where each of my selves are and what they think their life looks like – let alone get them to cooperate and agree on a place to keep safe and warm.  I spend what money I get from the state on my prescriptions and that which is left over is spent at the Salvation Army, or on small bits of food that I can afford with whatever change I have left over. 
It is a wild juxtaposition really; I am trying to survive like a prehistoric human in the setting of the greatest technological and economical advances in the history of the world.  
When the dust settled, I had to survive in any way I could.  I have been living on the streets of Minneapolis, where I can get two modest meals a day at the mission.  Every now and then I receive a couple dollars from compassionate motorists waiting at the stoplight where I stand with my cardboard sign.  The majority of the drivers are indifferent and avoid eye-contact, but every now and then, there is a gem that hands me a dollar or two scraped from the bottom of their passenger seat.  During these short interactions, I am commonly asked what I think about all day.  I reply that I pray for each and every one of them - even as they look at the ground and scurry past.  While I am around many people every day, I find myself suffering with a throbbing loneliness which is felt deep within my core. 
I walk to this spot every day from my tent which this week rests underneath some rubble directly below the Mill City Museum.  It’s not a bad place to stay when there are no other options as it is covered by the western edge of the stone arch bridge, and is sheltered by large stacks of crates – presumably left behind by the barges that go through the St. Anthony main.  If I am lucky, I am able to have the area to myself, however, being homeless in Minneapolis during the winter is a tough feat, and there are few places that are sheltered enough to be livable. The walk is refreshing in the morning after a stiff night of fitful sleep interrupted by prayers for warmth.  The exercise gets my blood pumping and allows my skin to thaw if just for a couple of hours.  On the way to my daily post, I stop at Union Gospel Mission, where I can get a bowl of instant oatmeal and an apple both of which dull the hunger pains in my stomach and the intestinal cramps caused by yesterday’s questionable second hand deli sandwich. 
I arrive at my spot around ten o’clock in the morning and pull out the ratty cardboard which I had rolled up and stored in the waistband of my jeans.  Business as usual today, I am hoping for enough money to afford lunch and a ‘new’ winter coat from the Salvation Army.  I receive a couple of five dollar bills, and a packet of crackers fished out from the passenger seat of a young woman’s car.  The heavy feeling in my head and chest has been growing all day, and I am feeling the need to take a nap, which is unusual as naps are not easily afforded in this line of ‘work’. 
At about noon, a black SUV rolls up to me.  A woman, sophisticated and polished, peeks out of the driver’s side window.  Her soft voice matched her hair and it echoed in my head, swirling around like melted chocolate.  She asked if I would join her for lunch.  While I dread the inevitable questions regarding my lifestyle, I am grateful.  I accept her offer and suppose it’s the small things in life which are blessings.  I am able to take a deep breath, and for the first time in months, I am able to smile, even if only for an hour.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Everlasting


If in the starry night, wandering,
kiss the frosted mouth of the breeze,
the kiss whose melody’s broken.
A visceral discovery.
Men are endless bodies
desiring, descending.
Lovers laden, disrobed.
bodies of dark chocolate -
souls, melting and grasping.
Realizing the downward moment
where two are glued fast together.
Flaws of a diamond,
endless round of gold metal
discarding fears.

Love Realized


Romance, the dream
in severed hearts of lovers.
Marriage, divorce – counterparts?
Beautiful girl, you are enough.
Notice the cold shards strewn
in the aftermath.
Beauty squandered, misused.
Intelligent girl, take heed and consider.
Pursuing soul’s match,
deaf, blind to sirens and lights.
Hunger pains viewing a cake white dress,
perfection - the mirage.
Curious girl, inquire why, and what for?
Diamond crusted ring, polished paradise,
supported by generations, refuge assured.
Insecurities painfully birthed from ancestral failures,
contractual self worth.
Authentic being, embrace yourself fully.
Do you purchase the first car?
Vibrant colors, chrome masking disrepair,
broken, tarnished, and used. 
Beloved, the answer is within yourself.
Fa├žade realized – an accurate razor,
Freedom poured out from a chalice,
a bouquet of esteem,
a true love – growing internal.
                        Strong woman, believe and be loved.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sacred Gifts

 "Spin Your Story" by Amanda Oaks is a book that gives 200 creative writing prompts - my goal is to write about each one before 2013.


Today:  "What are your sacred gifts?"


I believe that I have been blessed tremendously in my life by way of tragedy and bad circumstances.  Sure, I have had a lot of great things happen in my life, however, I feel that my sacred gifts were developed through the pain and the heartache that I have endured.  


I guess in order to really answer this question fully, it would be important to explain what I think sacred gifts are.  As gifts go, I believe there are physical gifts, emotional gifts, and spiritual gifts.  I had not thought about sacred gifts until this question was posed, and I think I kind of like it.  Sacred to me holds an heir of deep meaning, of a quality so intrinsic and connected that it must be revered with much respect.  Those qualities within ourselves are what make our personalities contagious, its the immeasurable energy that each of us carries and most often fail to acknowledge.  Sacred gifts are those we have been given that keep us glued together, and allows us to touch other lives.


I honor the gifts within myself tonight by discovering what these gifts are and enjoying the fact that they hold great purpose in my life, I also grieve the fact that I have not noticed them or been grateful for them sooner.


In my heart, I find compassion, intelligence, child like faith, empathy, and unconditional love.  I have an ability to meet people where they are at, which is demonstrated by my love for children and the elderly - among other things.  Both groups hold such a life giving quality, children with their innocence and lack of corruption, and the elderly with their incredible life experiences and wisdom that only the years can teach.  Some people say that my compassion is a fault because it opens me up to being hurt, and I respond with the same answer - I would rather love and get hurt, than not love at all.  I don't think it needs to be black and white though.  I believe that I can love on people, care for people, and put myself in their shoes without being reckless.  Two of the qualities, intelligence and child like faith, seem to contradict each other when first approached.  I believe that I have been given a gift of understanding and integrating information in order to make my life more rich and abundant; I also believe that faith is killed only by skepticism.  I am intelligent AND I believe in a God who can do far more than I can ever ask or imagine.  


I would not be who I am today if I had not been given these gifts and been allowed ample time and experience to develop them.   My sacred gifts are what put me to bed at night, and what get me going in the morning, they are what bridges the gap between myself and the rest of the world.  My sacred gifts are what hold my inner self together, and also what reaches out to connect with the world.


What about you?  What are your Sacred Gifts?  Leave a note if you would like, I would love to hear about your gifts.  


<3 Haley