The Morning Process: Mourning in the Morning

morning (mawr-ning) noun 1. the first part or period of the day, extending from dawn, or from midnight, to noon; 2. the beginning of day; dawn.

mourning (mawr-ning, mohr-) noun 1. the act of a person who mourns; sorrowing or lamentation; 2. the conventional manifestation of sorrow for a person’s death, especially by the wearing of black clothes or a black armband, the hanging of flags at half-mast, etc.

In a 2013 article titled, “The Sacred Experience of Grief and Mourning”, Amy Brown, a R.N. in Gynecology-Oncology shares her experience of losing patients and sheds light on the grieving process. She expands Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s linear five-stage model of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) and explores the Four Tasks of Grief and Mourning introduced by Dr. J. William Worden. The task model differs as it is non-linear and the tasks may be worked through simultaneously. The new model includes the following tasks:

  1. To Accept the Reality of the Loss
    1. This first task involves facing the reality that our loved one is gone and reunion with them (in this lifetime) is impossible.

When I awoke this morning, I had finally accepted the reality that reconciliation with my once and former beloved was highly unlikely.

  1. To Process the Pain of Grief
    1. There is both physical and emotional pain involved with grief. This experience is different for everyone and is deeply rooted in attachment theory.
    2. Attachment Theory, developed by John Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst, attempts to understand the intense distress experienced by infants who have been separated by their parents.

The past two weeks have been devoted to my processing (emotionally and physically) the fact that my beloved had ended the commitment. I have processed with hypnotherapy, with singing, with writing, and with talking (candidly with friends and family).

  1. To Adjust to a World Without the Deceased
    1. The three areas of adjustment after a loved one dies are external, internal, and spiritual. External adjustments involve everyday function; specifically, how the griever will adjust to day-to-day life without the deceased…Internal adjustments involve the sense of self…there will be challenges to one’s self-esteem, self-definition, and sense of self-efficacy…The third area of adjustment is that of spirituality in terms of one’s beliefs, values, and assumptions about the world. The death of a loved one can challenge our fundamental belief systems. Many people search for meaning in the loss of their loved one and in the process, they may leave their church or seek out a church or spiritual discipline for the first time in their lives.

Over the course of the past two weeks I have done my best to not “insert myself” into my beloved’s life, but more and more often I have found myself sending him emails and text messages in an effort to remain connected. Since we have never seen each other daily, I haven’t been too overly bothered by not seeing him. I have however been adversely affected by not hearing his voice. I broke down and called him last Saturday as a result. In terms of the internal adjustments I have been reciting positive confessions each day in an effort to redevelop my self-esteem and self-worth. I have also re-submerged myself in The Word in order to see myself as God sees me—which also serves to realign my spirituality.

 

  1. To Find an Enduring Connection With the Deceased in the Midst of Embarking on a New Life
    1. This task involves emotionally relocating the deceased so that the griever remains connected with them but at the same times goes on with life…When people are able to incorporate the influences, values, memories, and inspirations of their deceased love one into their new patterns of living, the transformation can be very endearing and humbling.

Because my beloved is not physically deceased, I have had to emotionally “relocate” him into a place where I cannot easily access him—out of sight, out of mind.

Not all deaths are those that consume the soul of the physical body; some deaths are those of the relationship variety. Yesterday I wised up and cut off all communication with my once and former beloved. After finally accepting the truth of his actions (inaction actually), I determined that it was time to sever ties and truly move forward with my life. In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz cautions his readers on the issue of lies as they relate to the second agreement, “Don’t Take Things Personally”:

Don’t expect people to tell you the truth because they also lie to themselves. You have to trust yourself and choose to believe or not to believe what someone says to you. When we really see other people as they are without taking it personally, we can never be hurt by what they say or do [don’t say or don’t do]. Even if others lie to you, it is okay. They are lying to you because they are afraid. They are afraid you will discover that they are not perfect…If others say one thing, but do another, you are lying to yourself if you don’t listen to their actions. If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from you. If that person doesn’t walk away, you will surely endure many years of suffering with him or her. Walking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make right choices.

Last night I deleted every email, text message, picture, and I “unfriended” him on Facebook. When I awoke this morning, I began my morning (mourning) process. After two weeks of emotional torture, I had drawn the conclusion that this man had no intentions of reconciliation. While a recent email response gave me a glimmer of hope with his “Maybe. I just need time to heal and clear my head [,] so maybe one day I can forgive;” his inaction said something else completely. When I finally listened to his actions a day later, they didn’t match up.

(Me) Your comment about forgiveness weighed heavy on my heart.

This morning I wrote an article about Forgiveness on my blog.

Here is some of what I wrote…

(Beloved)

Maybe once you forgive all of the folks that hurt you in your past

[it] may free you for your future.

Not hold all that inside.

(Me) I don’t hold any ill-will towards anyone.

If I did, I wouldn’t be able to write as much as I have lately.

(Beloved) Ok.

(Me) But have you forgiven me?

(Beloved) Most certainly.

I had been listening…but what I heard wasn’t making any sense to me. Why would someone who has supposedly forgiven me “…need time to heal and clear [his] head so maybe one day [he] can forgive”? That question wracked my brain. Immediately my mind returned to the words of Don Miguel Ruiz, “…listen to their actions”. His action(s)/inaction was saying very clearly that he was toying with my emotions and had no real intentions of reconciliation. While he may have sent intermittent text messages and random emails in the past two weeks, he had not once called me in the two weeks since pulling the plug on our relationship. And when I did reach out to him, he was emotionally distant and his responses tended to be short, vague and nebulous.

My movement through Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five-stage model:

Sunday, May 31st: Denial over the relationship’s end

Monday, June 1st: Anger and Bargaining with my Beloved

Everyday: Fighting depression

Saturday, June 13th: Acceptance of the relationship’s end

heart beat

Time of Death: 06/13/2015

Citation:

Brown, Amy. “The sacred experience of grief and mourning.” Journal of Gynecologic Oncology Nursing 23.1 (2013): 10+. Academic OneFile. Web. 13 June 2015.

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Forgiveness

Today’s piece was birthed from a short string of correspondence that I had with my beloved. Though emotionally and physically estranged from one another, we have maintained communication. And as a result, I haven’t completely been able to move forward because my heart longs for this man who made the decision that we should split. That being said, I wanted clarity. I know from the past that unanswered questions have the potential to drive me crazy, so I wanted to ward off a return to entertaining old strongholds. Nevertheless, in asking questions, I have also learned that we may not receive the answer we hoped to hear. So here is the message I sent to him just yesterday. Mind you, I prayed that God would help me accept whatever response was returned, and to move forward in peace and love.

Screenshot 2015-06-11 11.13.06

Screenshot 2015-06-11 11.13.15

Screenshot 2015-06-11 11.13.21

While it wasn’t exactly the response I was hoping for, it wasn’t a “no”. At the present moment I am not sure that the “maybe” I received has brought me solace or more confusion. At any rate, what latched onto my spirit was my beloved’s statement, “I just need time to heal and clear my head so maybe one day I can forgive”. Forgive.

Forgiveness seems so very simple in theory, but the reality of the action can seem insurmountable for many. I heard somewhere that forgiveness isn’t for the other person (the one who “wronged” us), but forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. I agree with this logic because when we harbor feelings of unforgiveness, it is only stunting our growth and development. All too often those we feel have done us wrong may have no idea that what they said and/or did impacted us in such a profound way as to leave us crippled or damaged emotionally and/or psychologically. Words, which have the power to uplift or destroy, have lasting conscious and subconscious effects on our psyche.

As part of my healing process, I have immersed myself in the music of India Arie, a kindred spirit. Ironically enough, the lyrics to India Arie’s “The Heart of the Matter” rose with me this morning.

I got a call today, I didn’t wanna hear/but I knew that it would come/An old true friend of ours was talkin’ on the phone/She said you found someone/And I thought of all the bad luck,/And all the struggles we went through/How I lost me and you lost you/What are all these voices outside love’s open door/Make us throw off our contentment/And beg for something more?

I’ve been learning to live without you now/But I miss you sometimes/The more I know, the less I understand/All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning them again/I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter/But my will gets weak/And my thoughts seem to scatter/But I think it’s about forgiveness/Forgiveness/Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore…

These lines capture the Sound Track of My Life. On the heels of healing from this recent break up, I do find myself missing my beloved sometimes. My thoughts are oftentimes scattered. My will to remain positive does often get weak. And I know with all certainty that forgiveness is at the heart of this matter of brokenness.

After I listened to the song a couple more times I sent the link of a live performance to my beloved. I’m not sure he understood where I was coming from, but I’ve recently decided that I won’t take anything personally. And that includes the lack of response. Afterwards, I went in search of scripture on the topic of forgiveness. Below are those that resonated with my spirit.

Forgiveness Scriptures

Matthew 6: 14-15 (MSG)

“In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.”

Mark 11: 25 (MSG)

“If you have anything against someone, forgive—only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 (MSG)

“We certainly don’t look at him [people] that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!”

Isaiah 43: 25 (Amplified)

“I, even I, am He Who blots out and cancels your transgressions, for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

Daniel 9: 9 (MSG)

“Compassion is our only hope…”

If we work with the logic that forgiveness is something we do for ourselves, then Matthew 6: 14-15 proves that unforgiveness leaves us at a deficit with God—making it impossible for Him to send us the healing that will propel us to our “next level” experience.

Likewise, Mark 11:25 is also proof that we cannot receive forgiveness of our wrongdoings if we haven’t in fact forgiven others.

In the case of 2 Corinthians 5: 17 God is calling us to relinquish our view of the “old man” who “wronged” us. He is calling us to see each other with new eyes. When I woke this morning the following prayer sprang from spirit, out of my mouth, and onto the pages of my notebook/journal:

Lord, help us to see ourselves as you see us. All too often when we look in the mirror the image we see is untrue. We see a fragmented, broken, incapable, unlovable person because of what has been said and/or done to us. But God, give us new eyes that allow us to see our [and other’s] truth—who we are through your eyes.

When we consider Isaiah 43: 25 we find the absolute TRUTH about forgiveness. God himself “blots out and cancels” the remembrance of our wrongdoing(s). And it isn’t for our sake because He says, “…for My own sake…” There you have it right there. Forgiving others is truly something we do for ourselves–for our healing, growth, and spiritual development.

And finally, in Daniel 9: 9 we find the simple solution to the “woes” of humanity, compassion. When we express compassion for our fellow man we are doing what God sent us here to do, love one another as He loves us. When we are able to extend compassion for another person we are essentially freeing ourselves from the bondages that would otherwise keep us from the greater life God has prepared for us. Compassion is a gift, like forgiveness, that we give to ourselves and to others.

beloved 3.0

Home Sweet Home

Judy Garland said it best while in character as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”

country roads

Growing up in an area known for its poverty (fiscal and emotional), I have found it difficult to express a sense of pride in my West Virginian roots (and don’t get me started on my “African-American” roots). In my travels if someone asked me where I was from I’d of course respond with the truth (however half-hearted), West Virginia, but I tended to lack the gumption to say it with any vigor. And aside from that, many people would then go on to say, “Oh, Western Virginia. That’s nice.” Of course, I would get a little flustered by their lack of geographic knowledge and typically spout out that “No, not Virginia. West Virginia, it’s a state—ironically enough, west of Virginia. It was once part of Virginia, but succeeded over the issue of slavery—or so say the history books we read in my childhood.” But it was like my words fell on deaf ears because it seemed that so few people knew about the state that I called “home.”

Earlier this morning I woke up and decided I needed a run. While I was on my way down the steep and winding hill, I ran into one of my childhood acquaintances—a girl (woman now) who used to live just two doors down from us, but who had subsequently purchased a house around the corner with her husband. When she (Misty) finally recognized who I was, we stood in the middle of the road and talked for a few minutes. It was a pleasure to hear about her life (as a married woman with kids) and about the evolution of our old neighborhood. Our conversation ended with the typically pleasantries and an invitation to stop by for a longer chat before I headed back to Florida in a few days (something I most assuredly plan on doing).

When I finally reached the bottom of the hill I put in my ear buds, turned on my ipod, and started my GPS watch. I really didn’t know how far I planned to run, just that I needed to clear my mind. As I ran past familiar landmarks, it brought back memories (some pleasant, some not so pleasant). I passed by closed houses and businesses. I ran over crumbling sidewalks, and what I saw were the continued effects of poverty. It saddened me that my hometown had become the skeleton of a once robust man. But more than anything, my run reminded me that home truly is where your heart is. Years ago I vowed to never return to West Virginia as a resident because I felt I had emotionally “outgrown” the state. However, I realized that I can always return to this place and feel the love and joy that comes from familiarity. True enough, the last time I had lived here was over fifteen years ago and I didn’t really miss the place, but I have realized that I missed the people I call friends and family.

Since returning home for a visit I have taken a few wonderful naps (and I’ve only been here a day). I’ve regained some of the appetite I lost over a week and a half ago. I have reconnected with family and friends. I have grown to appreciate my rural upbringing. I have made peace with my impoverished roots. And I have even shed some emotional baggage.

While Saint Petersburg, Florida is now my “home”, my heart will always be tethered to Charleston, West Virginia.

I can hear the voice of John Denver in the trees whispering: “Country roads/take me home/to the place/where I belong/ West Virginia/mountain momma/take me home/country roads.”

The 4 a.m. Epiphany

4 am epiphany

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” –James 1:2-3 (New American Standard Bible)

I didn’t fully understand this scripture until recently. It didn’t make a lick of sense for anyone, me especially, to respond to trials and tribulations with joy. Yes, joy. Joy God?

Joy has such positive connotations and synonyms: happiness, elation, satisfaction, and glee. On the flip side, the word trial is synonymous with tests and assessments—words that can, an often do, send school children into a tizzy (some teachers too, but that’s another post for another day). To be quite honest, it seemed utterly asinine to respond to a single trial with any semblance of joy. But trials, plural? Really? I kept thinking: God? Are you serious? How could someone who was “taking a beating”—emotionally, physically, psychologically, etc. muster up the strength to smile? How could someone find the fortitude to express elation? How in the world could someone graft the grace to be gleeful?

After enduring the pain of heart break again and again, I asked God a simple question. Why? His answer: because you’re strong. Quite vehemently I replied. What? I’m strong? Well, there you have it. So, we should “consider it a sheer gift” when we are tested because it is a sign of what God sees in us, our strength to endure. That’s right, with each test and tribulation God is testing our ability to trust in Him. And when we don’t lose hope in the midst of these trials, we are gifted the ability to endure (the next eighty-two trials and tribulations).

We were each placed on this earth for a specific purpose. God, who is omniscient (all-knowing), knew (in the beginning) which of us would be able to handle the weight of life. His omniscience is evidenced in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-29, Amplified Bible).

For it [the kingdom of heaven] is like a man who was about to take a long journey, and he called his servants together and entrusted them with his property. To one he gave five talents (probably about $5,000), to another two, to another one—to each in proportion to his own personal ability. Then he departed and left the country. He who had received five talents went at once and traded them, and he gained five talents more. And likewise he who had received two talents—he also gained two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those talents returned and settled accounts with them. And he who had received five talents came and brought him five more, saying, Master, you entrusted to me five talents; see, here I have gained five talents more. His master said to him, Well done, you upright (honorable, admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the blessedness) which your master enjoys. And he also who had two talents came forward, saying, Master, you entrusted two talents to me; here I have gained two talents more. His master said to him, Well done, you upright (honorable, admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the blessedness) which your master enjoys. He who had received one talent also came forward, saying, Master, I knew you to be a harsh and hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you had not winnowed (the grain). So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is your own. But his master answered him, You wicked and lazy and idle servant! Did you indeed know that I reap where I have not sowed and gather (grain) where I have not winnowed? Then you should have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent away from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given, and he will be furnished richly so that he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does will be taken away.

And what does this scripture prove? I’m glad you asked. Here is what we must focus on in order for us not to lose hope (and express joy) in doing good for the sake of God (2 Thessalonians 13).

  1. The all-knowing God (like the Master in the parable) knows what we can handle
  2. God gives us that which we need in order to succeed/prosper, talents (literally and figuratively)
  3. We (God’s children) develop those talents
  4. God honors/blesses us for doing His will (being faithful)
  5. God doesn’t bless us when we operate out of fear and/or doubt His power and faithfulness

As I heal from this most recent heart ache 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (KJV) brings me joy.

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted by God.

Live blessed because you are!

Hurt People, Hurt People

While under the tutelage of Pastor Paula White I recall having heard her say (on several different occasions) that “Hurt people, hurt people.” The two clauses are profound. The first clause is fragmented and merely describes the collective’s condition; the second clause, while independent, succinctly expresses the actions of the collective. The irony is in the structuring of the statement; people who are hurting (those who are emotionally fragmented) inflict on others what has been done to them—perpetuating a cycle of dysfunction and proving that misery does in fact love company. Sad and yet true, I have come to realize that I am in the healing stages of being one such individual.

Let me first say that I don’t think that people intentionally act out for the purposes of hurting others, especially those with whom they are closest. However, hurting others does happen in the crossfires of their attempts at making sense of their world (or the collective “dream” that Don Miguel Ruiz references in his best-seller The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom). Having recently finished a second reading of the text at the suggestion of my hypnotherapist (yeah—I’ll be getting around to her later), I have come to the conclusion that:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”—Lao Tzu

 As one transforming from the emotional hurt unintentionally inflicted upon me, I earnestly believe these practical words from the esteemed Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu. If one who has been hurt no longer wants to hurt others, it merely takes one conscious step to begin the journey of recovery or transformation.

The closing of my last post referenced Romans 12:2 and serves as a springboard for todays. While many people prefer the King James Version of the bible, I myself, prefer The Message version for it’s simplistic language. So I will share both with you in an effort to be accommodating.

“And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” (KJV)

“(1) Don’t be so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. (2) Instead, fix your attention on God. (3) You’ll be changed from the inside out. (4) Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. (5) Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (The Message)

Yes, The Message version, while written in “plain English”, is longer, but is easier for me to digest and appropriate in my life. So let’s break it down.

  1. Sentence One: is imperative in its function. It is a command or request that cautions us against an uncontrolled mind and “running with the masses”. In her national best-seller Joyce Meyer notes in the introduction of Battlefield of the Mind, that:

Our actions are a direct result of our thoughts…[and] So many people’s problems are rooted in thinking patterns that actually produce the problems they experience in their lives…; [therefore] The more you change your mind for the better, the more your life will also change for the better.

All that said, we have been mandated by God to transform our thoughts in a manner that will lead us to a place of freedom and out of bondage.

  1. Sentence Two: also imperative in function, calls us to fix our attention on God. No, I wouldn’t say that our every thought should be about God (the being or spirit), but of the things of God, namely His word. I cannot tell you how much I have struggled to keep my mind on God (not so much in a literal sense, but in the sense of doing the great command—loving those as He loves us (unconditionally).
  2. Sentence Three: informs us of the benefits of such actions. In it we see the effects. If we are non-conformist to popular culture and thinking, and our thoughts are God-ward, then we shall be changed internally. And as we are being changed internally, our actions will be the evidence of those changes.
  3. Sentence Four: is a return to the imperative, and urges us to be cognizant of what God desires of us and to urgently take action.
  4. The Fifth and Final Sentence: serves as a reminder of the difference between those who are bound by their “unenlightenment” and those of us who are being transformed. With knowledge of the truth we (the enlightened) are developing a spiritual maturity that sets us apart from those who lack the knowledge to be the best version of self.

So where am I going with all of this? In the words of Bishop T.D. Jakes, “I’m glad you asked!” Today I had my first hypnotherapy session (told you I’d get around to this). It was marvelous, freeing, therapeutic and enlightening. Because I am by nature inquisitive and curious, I quickly decided that this form of psychotherapy deserved a “look-see” after I stumbled upon an advertisement in a local magazine less than a week ago. Given the fact that I have hurt people as a hurt person, I knew that I needed to make changes in my life. As one who grew up in a religiously spiritual family, I was taught at a young age to “pray about it.” But just praying about my mental and emotional dis-ease hasn’t yielded the breakthroughs that are necessary for real transformation. Yes, in years past I have made efforts at renewing my mind, but again, my previous efforts haven’t brought me to a place of sustained peace; thus my desperation for trying another alternative, hypnotherapy. Regardless of your personal belief system, I know that prayer alone was not going to get me to where I have desired to be, in perfect peace. And since faith without works (action) is dead (James 2:17), I have chosen to engage in this alternative form of therapy so that I can:

“Be the change that I wish to see in the world”—Mahatma Gandhi

The session began with us talking about the book (The Four Agreements) that she (I’ll call her Sarah) suggested I read during the consultation three days prior. I got out the journal I had purchased specifically for thoughts related to these therapy sessions, and I went to town talking about my “take aways” and the quotes that “spoke to my spirit”. Intermittently, Sarah shared her insights as a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist. I appreciated her listening ear, but more so appreciated her candid honesty about the conscious act of re-reading the book about every six months. I was immediately taken aback by her statement. As an English teacher I understand the importance of rereading. I urge my students to read and reread as an act of becoming a better reader, a more conscious analyzer, but I haven’t always walked the walk. Don’t get me wrong; there are some books (You Can Pull Down Strongholds And Break Old Habits by Pastor Casey Treat) that I have read upwards of four times. I suppose I was in awe of Sarah’s statement because I have tended to pull the previously mentioned title off the shelf when “I’m desperate for a change”. Her act of purposefully rereading The Four Agreements every six months is a conscious act of continued transformation, and that has seemingly been lost to me in years past. Our talk continued as I mentioned conversations I had had with friends the past week. I told her about the notebook I’d created with positive confessions that I recite. And I even shared with her how I had allowed myself to be vulnerable in front of my students by writing them individual heart-felt letters that I distributed to them on the last day of school.

“Wow! You’ve made a great deal of progress in a short amount of time.”

“Yes. I’m serious about this. And I’m excited about it too. I don’t want to waste this experience.”

And that’s when we got down to more serious business. Calmly, she asked me the following question, “So where do you want to begin?”

I took a deep breathe; “I think the best place to start is with my self-loathing tendencies”.

While there is certainly more to the session, I will save the rest for another time. What matters most is that I have reached a place, emotionally and psychologically, where I no longer desire to hurt people with my words and actions (you know, those things that originate as thoughts), I have taken the first steps in the journey of my transformation (personal evolution). I live in the reality that this journey may not be easy; it may at times be uncomfortable and arduous. And for these reasons, I have to remind myself of wise words that I coined just a few days ago:

“Maturity is about doing what must be done despite one’s obvious desire for something less ‘confrontational’”—Me 

My transformation “cocktail” includes (Please know that I use the word “cocktail” with utmost respect):

  1. Prayer
  2. Positive Confessions
  3. Reflection
  4. Reading (and re-reading books)
  5. Hypnotherapy

Undoubtedly, our words have power and impact those around us. And as such, we are charged with spreading love and not hate with them.

“Your word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; it is the tool of magic.”

Don Miguel Ruiz

from The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

No Guarantees

Now burgeoning on the age of thirty-nine I have to ask myself why I’m still a single, unmarried woman. Over the course of my adult life I have had ample opportunities to connect with men in an effort to progress the relationship to a more permanent status–marriage. Nevertheless, not one of my previous relationships has yielded the outcome I’ve desired for countless years. My “current situation” has left me perplexed, a little bitter, and somewhat reluctant to try again.

After each failed attempt at a lasting love I take the time to reflect over my actions with the hopes of finally achieving the “eureka” moment where the light bulb comes on and my life is forever changed because I now know the malaise that has kept me from obtaining what I so longingly desire—a permanent love connection with a man. But that hasn’t been my truth because I keep finding myself pacing around the same tree.

Just recently the man that I had been dating (with the intent of progressing the relationship to something permanent) broke up with me. No, this wasn’t the first time a man had dumped me, but that certainly didn’t make the loss any less traumatic. You see, when I met him I had plans to leave the country. I was on my way to Dubai because there was nothing and no one (male counterpart) keeping me here. And while I will admit that I didn’t expect to catch feelings for him, I didn’t stop myself from doing so. With each passing day and the interactions that ensued, I soon found myself falling for him—something I hadn’t done in nearly four years. My lack of falling for a man wasn’t so much about my lack of desire, as it was about my lack of connectivity with the men with which I had been interacting. At any rate, after falling for this man I made the decision that the possibility of love with him here was more enticing than the opportunity to live and work abroad. I soon contacted the director of the institution for which I planned to work and was subsequently released from my contract. Later that day I sent the following email to the man for whom I had recently fallen.

In just a short time you have captivated my heart. You awoke something inside me—the possibility of love. I have been in search of love all my life and it has always seemed to elude me. And when I had all but given up on the possibility, you walked into my life. You’ve ignited a passion inside me—a passion to love fully, completely and without condition. I am not asking anything of you, but that you are invested in building a future. I’m not interested in just “dating”; I want to try and build something permanent. I am aware that there are no guarantees when it comes to love, but I can guarantee that if I stay, you have my heart and my full attention. I want to stay because my heart is with you. I want to stay because the possibility of love is much more enticing than leaving this country. I want to stay…because I want you.

Now, before you cast judgment, let’s consider a thing or three. Some people might think that my decision to stay was rash and foolish.   To some degree I would concur with those individuals. Still others might consider my decision to be nostalgically romantic. And to those individuals I too would agree to an extent. Nevertheless, at the end of the day I have to embrace the decision that was made and move forward without regret(s). After all, I did state in the email to my beloved that “I am aware that there are no guarantees when it comes to love…I want to stay because the possibility of love is much more enticing than leaving this country.” Like the lyrics in the Chico Debarge song “No Guarantee”, I was essentially saying, “But I know exactly what I wanna do/I wanna make this work with you, yeah…[but] Nothing in life is guaranteed”. I knew what I was getting myself into; I knew that the relationship (which was relatively new) wasn’t destined to last. But I took the chance on him, and I took a chance on love because I wanted love more than I wanted the job opportunity.  And maybe the idea of taking a chance at love, instead of closing my heart, wasn’t such a bad decision to make after all. In the end every experience (blissful and/or sorrowful) teaches us something.

While the sting of the loss is new, there is a sense of peace that I currently feel because I am respecting his wishes and I have left him alone. I will not lie to you, or myself, and say that I don’t want him back; I do. But I refuse to be one of those women who won’t let go. I will not be one of those women who makes every attempt to insert herself into a man’s life because the idea of living without him is greater than the idea of once again being alone. Besides I’ve already tried to convince him otherwise and that failed attempt didn’t dissuade him to change his mind. Yeah, that’s right. I shed tears; I begged and pleaded for him to reconsider, and at the end of the day (yesterday in fact) he didn’t budge, so I walked out of his residence licking my wounds. After I had finally calmed down, I resolved in my spirit to seek God’s face and to give the man that I love space to determine if a life without me is better than a life with me.

Again, here is what I’ve chosen to do. I’ve chosen to dry my eyes and seek the face of God. The irony in all this is that I’ve been on the run from God because I couldn’t understand how the last man I’d fallen for could end an eighteen-month relationship with me, and just three weeks later propose to another woman. Crazy right? Yes, that’s my “ish”. Anywho, here I am (ironically) running to the face of God for solace–once again because of yet another disappointing attempt at lasting love.

However, here is the conclusion I have drawn from this last disappointing outcome. I know; wait for it! Yes, I have finally reached a point where an epiphany of sorts has entered my cranium. The light bulb is vibrant and brilliant. And the crowd collectively sighs! Nearly every time a man has shown interest in me I lose my head. I never stop to consult God about the man’s intentions or whether he would be good for me and not just good to me. Never have I stopped and prayed for discernment before I got wrapped up in the moment, in the man. Yep, that’s right. History has shown that I lose all sense of control when a man expresses interest and I reciprocate his interest. Worse still, I fold into a nice little napkin that he can trample over. I get so caught up in the idea of love and a lasting relationship that I become the proverbial doormat. Instead of maintaining my rough exterior, I melt and turn into this woman who will do whatever it takes to make the relationship profitable. I stop being inherently who I am—the fiercely outspoken and independent woman because I want to cast aside the stain of being a super-single (thirty-eight year old woman who has never been engaged or married).

Despite my formal education, I have been stuck on stupid (SOS). I recognize that relationships are work. I get the fact that nothing is promised to last forever. But I want to embark upon a relationship that defies the mundane. Perhaps I am delusional about the prospect of a lasting love where two people respect each other and make a conscious decision, each day, to work together instead of separately. I thought I had been doing that with each relationship, but maybe I wasn’t. Perhaps I was deluding myself into believing that I was making conscious attempts at working in tandem with each man for whom I had fallen. The last man I fell for said that the decisions I made lacked the consideration of his feelings. I countered that his decisions and plans rarely, if ever, did the same.

I’ve tried to rationalize my actions as well as his. But nothing seems to matter because one of us got fed up to the point that it seemed best to walk away. I want to believe that he’ll come to his senses and realize that despite the bad we experienced there was more good to latch onto, and he’ll come back to me. I am not going to hold my breath waiting. I am going to get myself together so that the next time a man shows interest I don’t lose sight of God. I will use discernment and wisdom to determine if he is for me or for someone else.

Undoubtedly, I’ve been charged to “…not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of my mind [to God’s word]—Romans 12:2

Don’t Quit!

I had a wonderful conversation with a small cadre of ladies yesterday that has left me pontificating about men, love, life, and relationships—the subjects of our engaging chat. There is hardly a conversation that I’ve been engaged in where the topic of men, love, life, and/or relationships didn’t surface at some point. It doesn’t matter if you are at work, school (and for some of us those two are one in the same), church, at the park, or on the beach, these topics will at some point be in rotation. Does that mean that women have little else to expound upon? I daresay that is true. But I will confess that I never tire of talking about any of the aforementioned topics. Does that make me predictable and/or boring? Perhaps. And I’m okay with that. I’m okay with being a woman and never tiring of “girl talk”.

What has stayed with me from yesterday’s conversation is a matter of character. One of the ladies spoke of a rift that had recently come between her and her boyfriend. The two have been in a relationship for the past fifteen months, and as of late, a couple of incidents have forged a gulf between the two of them. This woman, whom I had just met, wasn’t necessarily seeking advice from any of us, and none of us sought to provide her with any relational “pearls of wisdom” to be quite honest. It was more about lending an ear to a sister who was going through an experience (and for a couple of us, a relatable experience). I’ll be the first to admit to never trying to give anyone relationship advice given my history of unsuccessful ventures with men. And quite frankly, that’s what I shared with the woman I met yesterday. I hardly ever feel confident telling another woman what she should (or shouldn’t) do when my relationship report card is full of failures. Nevertheless, we were analyzing the circumstances and at some point I said something to the effect of actions saying a lot about a man’s character. To put this into context, the woman had mentioned that her boyfriend hadn’t really been speaking to her and their living arrangement had begun to be awkward. However, he admitted to struggling with some things internally, but wasn’t comfortable and/or willing to talk about these issues with her. So the woman suggested that her boyfriend talk with her pastor. After some reflection he accepted the offer. And that’s when I made the point about his openness to speaking with her pastor as a positive sign and being a reflection of his character as a man. The fact that he was responsive to talking to her pastor, and had maintained an open line of communication with her, says something about his character—in my humble opinion. And when it comes to finding a mate, character is without a doubt an essential quality (a deal maker or breaker).

And as I left the beach I began to think about my series of unfortunate events with the male species. I mulled over one failed relationship after another. I thought about the role I played in those failures. And I came to one conclusion: I want a man who is brave enough (or crazy enough—given one’s point of view) to stick around when the “ish” hits the fan. I think most of us want someone by our side who won’t run at the first sight of turmoil. Personally, I know I give men (friends and lovers) grief because I’ve been trying to find that one man who can handle the heat in the kitchen. I know that I’m far from perfect and will never reach such a state, but I do admit my shortcomings and try not to allow them to rule me. But I am adamant about acknowledging my vices. I am convinced that relationships are work, hard work. Perhaps they are even more work that our jobs/careers. That being the case, I’m okay with that. But I can’t be okay with someone who doesn’t recognize this truism in life and isn’t willing and/or able to buckle down when the storms of life come. All that being said, I’m in search of the man whose character proves that he has staying power—the power and desire to stay around when I get ugly (physically, spiritually, and emotionally—just naming a few here). I’m holding out for the man who realizes that life is about change, and neither one of us will be the same people we are (were) when we first met, but he’s a man who is interested and invested in knowing who I’ll become in a year, a decade, or even longer. I’m waiting on that man whose motto is “I ‘Don’t Quit’!” I don’t know if they make them like that anymore, but there remains a glimmer of hope that he’s somewhere out there, and one day our paths will cross.

No woman (and I would presume the same may perhaps be true for men, but I don’t dare assume anything) whose invested time and emotions into a relationship for any extended period of time wants to throw in the towel at the first sign of struggle. If anything, we (the tenacious) tend hold on never wanting to let go even when we know in our heart of hearts when we’ve lost the battle (and perhaps the war). So many of us hope beyond hope that there is chance for redemption—be it our own or our mate’s. We remain hopeful that even when the terrain on the road of life has become treacherous. We don’t want to give up, to throw in the towel. We strive to make it work in the face of imminent failure. But that’s what tenacious men and women do—we try as we might, but we just don’t quit.

In closing, I am reminded of a well-known poem I fell in love with as a young girl. While the author remains anonymous, the spirit and message of the poem have become familiar friends of mine. I leave with you the words of one of my all-time favorite poems, “Don’t Quit”.

Poem, "Don't Quit"

I Lost God; He Didn’t Lose Me

People lose all sorts of things: keys, money, books, track of time, socks, memories, games (contests), their minds, etc. Funny thing (in an ironic sort of way)—I seemed to have lost God somewhere over the past year. I know it sounds like an extremely strange statement, but it’s my truth. I’ve never spoken with someone who claims to have lost God, but I’ve had countless conversations with people who have lost one or more of the aforementioned items. Nevertheless, over the course of a year I have lost God—lost my ability to talk to God, to feel His presence in my life, to believe in/have faith in God, to pray to/speak to God, to meditate on His inspired word, to commune with other believers, to trust His word(s)—in short, I’ve simply lost Him.

 

And yet here I am wondering: is it even possible to lose God? Seriously, if we take God’s inspired word, The Bible, as Truth, then perhaps I’m delusional in thinking that I’ve lost God. But bear with me as I attempt to rationalize my current situation. In The Message translation of the bible, Deuteronomy 31:6 states:

 

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them [doubts, circumstances, setbacks, shortcomings] a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”

 

If God, my God (because at one point in time I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior), is striding ahead of me, is right there (here) with me, how can I have lost Him? But I’m being real here, being completely honest and transparent.

 

I have lost God.

 

If I accept Deuteronomy 31:6 as Truth, then God hasn’t left me, hasn’t lost me—I’m the one in this relationship who has lost Him. And yes, it is a relationship. Despite the fact that I cannot touch God like I touch/feel other human beings, cannot have a conversation with Him as I do other human beings, cannot see Him like I see other human beings (or can I?), that doesn’t necessarily negate His presence, nor his being real. Yet and still, therein lies my dilemma. I want to believe God’s word. I want to believe that the words of the “Good Book” are true, but much of what I have seen and/or experienced over the course of my existence on this planet has left me questioning the truth of His word.

 

Let’s get back to business. If God is all and in all, then God is everywhere. And if God is everywhere, how can it be that I have lost Him? Again, let’s look at what His word says. Colossians 1:16-17 in the King James Version (KJV) reads:

 

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”

 

Again, let’s break this down. If God is the creator of all things (present in heaven and earth, visible and invisible), then He exists in all things and that means that God is more than a “presence” one feels in a church (house of worship) and there is more than one way to feel him, see him, commune with him, to know Him.

 

But I have lost God.

 

Seemingly out of nowhere, I broke down in tears this afternoon in the midst of a conversation I was having with a close friend (in her car of all places—I guess where shouldn’t matter, but it was just odd how it all happened). She was sharing her walk with me when the flood of tears escaped my eyes. We were reflecting on life, being raw, being honest about our feelings when I simply allowed my truth to come out. I said:

 

“I’ve lost my way; I’ve lost my peace and I don’t know how to get it back.”

 

My friend looked me in the eye and said something that touched my heart more than she may ever know. She said . . .

 

“We all have to find our own way to God.”

 

Such simple words, but words with such a great impact. She went on to say that she has found God in nature and in a fiction book. She told me about this book that she had once read. The book, The Shack, by William Paul Young, had forever changed her relationship with God, had changed her life. And it was then that something inside me “broke”. All my life I had been trying to find the magic formula to make situations and circumstances in my life bend to my will. I would look at a person and try to figure out why things had seemingly come together for them and pattern my attempts at life after theirs. Still yet, I would gaze upon another and try to emulate their formula and all to no avail. My friend was right; we all have to find our own way to God. We all have to find our own path to peace and perhaps that peace doesn’t come instantaneously, or after a confession to a priest, or after our first, second, or ninety-fifth prayer to God. Perhaps our path to peace, our path to God happens after a lengthy uphill trudge full of stops and tasks along the way.

 

So here’s my truth: I’ve lost God. But I’ve heard that it only takes one step to once again find him.

 

Maybe I’ll find him in the midst of meditation (another suggestion from my great friend), maybe I’ll find him in His word, maybe I’ll find him in nature, maybe I’ll find him in a work of fiction, maybe I’ll find him in the spirit of another human being. Right now it matters more that I find Him and not so much where it is that I find him. Today, I’ve made the decision to seek Him; won’t you do the same? Isaiah 55:6 (The Message) urges us to:

 

“Seek God while he’s here to be found, pray to him while he’s close at hand.”

 

So despite the fact that I’ve lost God, I am going to do everything possible to find him.

 

One last thing. Before my friend drove off today she said that we (she and I) were going to commit to verbalizing His word even when we don’t completely feel it with our whole heart. Though I seemed to have lost God, I’m going to try and find my way back to him through His word. And if that doesn’t lead me to him, I will try another route. Truth is, I’m determined to find my way back to him and I won’t give up until I’ve found the peace that is associated with knowing Him.

 

I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, but I’m trusting that:

 

“. . . the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your [my] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (KJV).