…AND THAT’S OKAY…WORDS THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

If you are like me, being non-judgmental towards yourself has probably been next to impossible for most of your life. If you are like me, I suspect you were often unable to rid yourself of those pesky “transgressions” that go unnoticed by others but somehow managed to become a spotlight on your “perceived” flaws…all 1,137 of them!

In the past, it didn’t seem to matter how full my day was, somehow I would find that the one thing I didn’t accomplish and it would rise to the top of my “why I am such a loser” list.. and once discovered…I would hang it out on the line for the world to see and judge. Unfortunately, for many of us, we fail to be kind and cut ourselves just a little slack.

So that’s why, when I saw this idea online, I swooned. Finally, a way out of my self-imposed “SHOULD’S” and onto a more carefree way of thinking.

It is my hope that you benefit from this wonderful phrase as much as I have. It might even be my next tattoo.

Empathy and Tattoos

 

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And…The First Fire-Related Lawsuit Is Filed. Compassion Is Needed.

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Tonight six more individuals were added to the list one never wants to be on…deceased. Dead due to a fast burning out of control wildfire. This brings the number killed to 48 with hundreds still missing. It is a sad day for our state but especially for the towns of Paradise and Concow where most of the victims resided.

Paradise is not a compact city. There were many folks living down miles and miles of long country roads. People spread out far and wide surrounded by tinder dry forests. As I read over the list of the missing I couldn’t help but notice that about 90% of them were over 70 years-old. Grandparents who couldn’t run fast enough, couldn’t drive, or maybe even hear any warnings that might have come their way.

Tonight it was also announced that the very first lawsuit was filed in court with the fire still raging and fault not yet determined by fire investigators.  The defendant in the lawsuit is PG&E, the local electrical utility. Right before the fire became an inferno, the utility emailed an individual requesting access to their property as the PG&E’s transmission wire was sparking. This is most likely just the beginning of a long list of suits that will surely follow.

While I realize that many will want to see someone held responsible for the deadliest fire in California history; I am hoping people will not turn on those who did their best during a chaotic situation…the first responders. Having lived through several emergencies, I can only believe that everyone did their best to save lives while a fire was swallowing up land the size of 8 football fields every minute. With hot embers flying through the air driven by radically changing winds which were being pushed faster than a person can drive, it seems to me that to try to point fingers is a game in futility and one that degrades our collective humanity. Yes, looking back we always find things that could have been done better and faster but when calamity strikes we all do what we can and  we do what we can to the best of our ability and with the knowledge we have at the time.

Unfortunately, we all have noble ideas of how we THINK we would react in certain situations, often playing those scenarios out in our minds at different points in our lives. But life isn’t that simple. We often find in an emergency that our previously good ideas no longer work. Trees fall, lines are long, folks stay behind for one last thing, we fail to heed the warnings soon enough or we don’t have enough gas in our car.

Unfortunately, I suspect that there will many people who will go to their graves second guessing themselves for failing to act in ways that were impossible to implement when there are so many lives to save in a cataclysmic event. It is truly one of those moments that you can never totally prepare for. The notions and ideas that survivors had about themselves and how they would react in life changing events can often snare them. Then the “if only’s” may begin to slowly eat away at them until they are but shells of their former selves.

I hope this does not happen. I hope people will look at one another and not point fingers but will show compassion and understanding. Perhaps one of the greatest things folks can do for themselves and others in this type of situation  is to stop, breathe, and say:

“I know you are suffering. That is why I am here for you.”

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The “end” of an emergency is really just the “beginning” of a new normal. It isn’t easy. Anger appears out of nowhere and despair can rob us of moments we formally enjoyed. Yet, compassion and forgiveness (a blame free environment) can go a long way towards bringing a community back together and re-building it in such a way that it creates a long-lasting atmosphere of vibrancy, restoration, and love. May everyone impacted by this fire remember that blame creates suffering which only causes further suffering for ourselves. And may those involved look for the best in each and every person and not assume the worst; so that seeds of compassion planted now will flourish in the future creating Paradise once again in this amazing mountain town.

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View of the area around my home

 

 

What Is Right With Me

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So often in life we concentrate on what is wrong with us – the things we cannot do, our shortcomings and our foibles. We examine our “issues” so often that we can recite them in our sleep and as the list grows sometimes it feels like there is so much “wrong” that we don’t know what we can possibly do to change what we have told ourselves is “fact.” So what if today, we changed things up a bit and decided to concentrate on all that is “right” with us. How would that influence our beliefs about ourselves and make a “so-so” day into one that shines and puts little skip in our steps.

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Here is my list for today in no particular order. I would love to see yours in the comments section.

  1. I am a good researcher. I find things others can’t.
  2. I am a good friend. I can keep a secret better than anyone.
  3. I am interested in others lives and enjoy being attentive to their experiences.
  4. I am interesting. I have a breadth of knowledge about many things and I try to keep up with current events.
  5. I am a fierce Momma Bear and advocate for my children and march on in my efforts when others would have given up.
  6. I fight for the things that I love.
  7. Family is important to me and I try to make sure that those I love know that they are valued and loved by me.
  8. I love to travel, meet people, and learn from my experiences.
  9. If a puzzle needs to be solved I am your gal.
  10. I am not afraid to walk up to a person and start a conversation.
  11. I am fun and do the unexpected like take photos of my friends who could not attend our group event, blow their pictures up, staple them to sticks, and carry them through the city with me photographing them at places like the CHEERS BAR in Boston.
  12. I am smart.
  13. I recognize and honor my intuitiveness.
  14. I work hard when something needs to be done.
  15. For the most part I am content with what I have and have no need to “keep up with the Joneses.”
  16. I know how much that I really don’t know.
  17. I am compassionate with loved ones and strangers.
  18. I am a good writer.
  19. I try to stay in touch with others and send cards and letters to others so that they know that they are on my mind.
  20. I work hard at preserving my family history so that my family can learn from our past.
  21. I am able to self-hypnotize so that I can quickly relax and get to a peaceful state of mind.
  22. When I do get down in spirit I work hard to lighten the load so I can return to a place of happiness.
  23. I do small things for myself (like a warm candle-lit bath) on a regular basis.
  24. I read on a regular basis.
  25. I exercise often.
  26. I am a seeker
  27. I sing well.
  28. Integrity is important to me. I try hard to be fair and honest.

Hopefully after making this list you too will see that there is so much good in and around you that when things become challenging you can whip out your list and give yourself a boost to face the coming day. We all have our gifts which need to be acknowledged and celebrated far more often than we do. In remembering what is good about ourselves we can offer it to others or wrap those things around our own selves like a blanket on a cold rainy day. For knowing ourselves gives us the ability to live freely so that what we do aligns with who we are. Amen!

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One Man’s Obsessions Are Another Man’s Quirks

For the past six months Andre has decided that he will only wear the color blue in a particular hue. Heaven forbid, the shade may not be a Navy blue, dark blue-gray or even Robin’s egg blue. No, Andre’s blue has to be bright, brilliant, and leap tall buildings in a single bound. So today while I was waiting to pay for Andre’s all things blue, the clerk chuckled: “You’ve certainly got a lot of blue there!”

“It’s for my son,” I said with a sigh. “I wish I could get him into something else.”

“Is blue the only color that your son will wear?” asked a 50-ish man dressed from head to toe in black waiting for the clerk to locate something for him.

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“Well blue is his favorite and, yes, it is the only color he will wear. Why do you ask?”

“Sounds to me as if he has OCD,” said the man with a gentle smile.

“Do you know someone with OCD?” I inquire.

“I have it,” the man in black says with a grin. “If you notice I am dressed in all black from my head to my toes. Once in a while I will throw in some gray but for the most part black is what you would see me in every day of my life. In fact, people keep trying to get me to wear color ALL THE TIME.  Friends and relatives keep giving me shirts that are bright red or green but in all honesty they go to the nearest thrift store without ever being worn.”

“Why is that? Why does color bother you so?”

“It isn’t the color per se, it is that I know that in order to keep my anxiety down, black is what I need to wear. If I wore blue I would obsess that I was wearing blue all day long. I might feel itchy because I was so uncomfortable. I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on much of anything except the fact that I was wearing a blue shirt. Do you understand?”

“Yes, I think I am beginning to.”

“Think about it this way. Let’s pretend that you see a gorgeous pair of shoes that you have always wanted. An outrageously expensive pair of Jimmy Choo’s. The only catch is that in order to have them you have to wear those Jimmy Choo’s 8 hours a day… and they are two sizes too small. How would that work for you? Sure for the first five minutes you might be happy with them but as your toes began to rub together and cramp pretty soon you wouldn’t be thinking about how glamorous the shoes were instead you would begin to spend your time obsessing about how much your feet hurt. The next morning the thought of putting on those shoes would probably be almost unbearable and the closer the time came to put them on the more your anxiety would rise just thinking about having to put them on. So the question is, why would you start your day full of anxiety when there is no need to do so? Instead, you just go find a pair of comfortable shoes and suddenly both your physical and emotional selves are soothed. That is how it works for me. It is silly for me to try to wear something that is going to totally mess up my day and make it impossible to get anything done due to my obsessing about it.  Who cares if I wear black everyday and why should it matter to anyone else if I do so anyway?”

“Thank you,” I tell him. “You have given me some valuable insight into my son and what you have said makes total sense. You have scratched out another line on THE LIST OF THINGS I HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT IN LIFE and for that I will always be grateful.”

At that moment the clerk called the man over. He had been on the phone searching for a particular pair of black shoes for the man and had found them.

“How many pairs do you want?”

“Five”

As I turned and walked away it was then that I noticed…the man wore black sandals out of which popped his painted black toe nails.

“Why black,” I wondered. “Why not brown, or yellow or green? And as I walked back to the car I began obsessing about…why, blue not black or, why, yellow and not green? And that’s when it hit me….none of it mattered…. and neither did Andre’s blue shirts. All that mattered was the I continue to try to seek and relate to Andre in ways that acknowledged the uniqueness of who he is and that I continue to honor those things that made him feel comfortable in his own skin. For in the end the why’s really just don’t matter.

Last night I walked into Andre’s room and headed to his closet.

“What are you doing mom?”

“I getting rid all of your shirts that are not blue. No sense in filling you closet with them is there? We both know you won’t wear them anyway, right?”

“Yep”

“Okay, well if you ever decide you want to wear another color let me know, okay?”

“Sure mom. And thanks for doing this. I feel like you really heard me and even better you showed me that you did. Who cares if I don’t wear red, yellow or green. Who cares?”

Indeed.

 

 

Saying YES To The Ring

I have been pondering for the past couple of days how to write this post. I have started it, deleted it and started it again many times. For at this point, what I am about to write is embarrassing, very confusing, and probably tiring to all who read my blog.  Frankly, I know that if this on-and-off again relationship was happening to a friend or my daughters I would say, “Get the fuck out! You deserve a man who wants all of you all of the time!”

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Yet, sometimes life is not that cut-and-dried no matter how hard we try to make it so. Over thirty years of marriage is a long time together. It is doubly hard when you have two boys with autism and who do not do well with change. Add to that three children who have already lost their original families and splitting up becomes fraught with minefields that just are not present in most families.

Now to tell you this particular story I have to take you back to October. It was then that B asked me what I wanted for Christmas. At that time I flippantly told him a commitment ring but frankly I thought that the possibility of receiving one was nil. Winning the lottery had better odds. And anyway, who doesn’t like a ring, right, so what was the harm in asking?

Fast forward to Christmas night. As we were winding down from the days festivities I told B I thought we should tell the kids tomorrow that we were separating. Tears came to B’s eyes and all of a sudden he called the kids down to do THE board. You see, every year on Christmas day and July 4th, we measure our kids to see how much they have grown (seems we will need a longer board for Andre next July.) Then, just as the kids were about to go upstairs B told them to wait and proceeded to say. “Hey, guys, there is one more present here and it is for your mom.”

With that, he walked over to his briefcase and pulled out a jewelry box and in it sat a woven silver and gold ring. Nothing elaborate (that is not who I am) and nothing too expensive (not me either). As I looked at the ring in shock he said something to me and the kids along the order of:

“The silver in this ring represents our Silver Anniversary (25th) while the gold represents striving toward our Gold Anniversary (50th). In this ring there are little breaks and holes that represent life and how during our lives we have to navigate through them, around them, and out of them; to get back on the path we have chosen. So I am giving your Mom this ring to show her that I am committed  and will continue to try working together to reach our Golden Anniversary.”

My first thought: Maybe he really does love me…and tears

My second thought: I am not sure I want this. Maybe it really is time to be out on my own.

My third thought: Why did he say this in front of the kids?

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Luckily, the next day was Tuesday, the day I see my therapist. She said:

“I’m confused.”

That made two of us.

So we talked about the conflicting feelings this brought up. About how for the last week every time we talked about leaving and splitting up our family we both cried. How our guts were both twisted in knots and how discussing dividing children, assets and animals was devastating. And that in this heartache we had gotten closer at least for the past few weeks but that it should be viewed as temporary.

In the end, I decided to accept the ring…for now. Instead of deluding myself into thinking this ring is a piece of jewelry that signifies B’s commitment to me for life; I have decided to view it as a day-to-day pledge until I decide otherwise.

Last night we went to our joint therapist and I asked for clarification regarding the ring, the commitment and why he said what he did in front of the kids.I will say that I received some very well thought through answers to my questions and that we both acknowledged that we have a long way to go to save this marriage if it is even possible.

At this point I have no real answers about life or the status of my marriage. What I do know is that every day we manage to make it is one more day our children have had a chance to grow older and more mature. It is one more day that we have successfully re-committed to working hard and to trying our best to listen to what is in the others heart and act accordingly. And it is one more day that we have attempted to let love win, move towards acceptance of both ourselves and the other, and its one more time that we have had the chance to try to find peace in a relationship that once had little.

Sometimes life is hard.

Sometimes life is isn’t.

And maybe, just maybe, given a little more time, the hard times will decrease and the good times will grow more frequent and blossom. And maybe someday I will realize good times and bad are just part of life and that is just the way it is and I won’t take it personally. And maybe, just maybe when the good times are abundant I will be able to rejoice in them knowing that I have done everything humanly possible to make them happen….with or without him.

 

 

 

A Love Story

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A story courtesy of my therapist with quite a lot of embellishment on my part.

Once upon a time there was a couple, who like most couples, were as different from one another as night and day. The man was sturdy and pragmatic; a man of few words. He loved to take things apart to see how things worked and LOGIC was his middle name.

The woman had an openness with people and was sentimental about those things she deemed important. She was a lover of words and was as bohemian and adventurous as her husband was stalwart and they lived together in a rather small house, that was dominated by a rather large hutch, that the wife inherited from an uncle she met once when she was four years of age. As often happens in these cases, a large piece of furniture like a hutch can rarely be left to stand empty; so the wife slowly began to fill it with cups, which after several years became a collection of sorts.

The first cup that was bought came from a grand old lodge in the Adirondacks where the couple spent their honeymoon. It was a good solid cup in a rustic and homey sort of way. It cost $20 which seemed wildly extravagant in those days but she loved it and so her husband surprised her with it when they got home so “our honeymoon can continue forever,” he said.

The second cup, the one with a small chip on the handle,  was picked up at a flea market at a small country church. The couple had stumbled upon it on their way home from the annual pilgrimage to his parent’s farm which was located in the boon docks of the state. It was a place people rarely visited and home to more cows than people but the imperfect cup needed a family and so it came home with them and their new puppy, a mottled brown dog that they named Boonie.

About a year later the third cup was won at the local county fair by the husband after he successfully threw a ring around a bottle. It surprised them both because neither had known that the man had a talent for this particular kind of endeavor. It was an ugly pea-green color that was too big to hold a decent amount of coffee without going cold and it was too small for a pint of cold beer but nevertheless it was given a place of honor on the shelf.

And so it went…a fourth cup soon joined the third and the fifth came after the birth of their first child. Soon the top shelf was filled with cups of all shapes and sizes and every morning the wife was delighted as she opened her hutch and studied the cups pondering which one she would use that day.

As the years went by upon occasion the wife began to ask her husband  to buy her a cup when he was away on business. But he was a pragmatic sort of chap and didn’t see the need for yet another cup in the house. He always used the same cup day in and day out and saw no reason to change. He was baffled about his wife’s cup “obsession” and began to resent the money she spent buying them and the time she spent taking each cup down for a decent dusting and so he refused to indulge in his wife’s request for more cups.  But sometimes when he went out-of-town on business he would remember her request and bring her home a piece of homemade candy or something that the area was known for instead; but he never brought her a cup. And while the wife appreciated his gesture it sometimes hurt her feelings that he would not give her her hearts desire…a cup that he had taken the time to pick out just for her just as he had on their honeymoon. Then after a while she began to wonder if he even loved her at all because he wouldn’t give her a cup when he knew how much she desired this of him. And while she knew her worth could not be measured by the appearance of a mere cup sometimes it felt as if its absence spoke volumes about how her husband saw her and it validated her belief that her husband didn’t love her enough to do something as simple as buying her a cup. Slowly their connectedness to each other began to diminish due to her resentment and his withholding.

One day, as the woman was dusting her collection, her husband asked her, “Why is it that you seem to delight in taking each cup down and dusting it? It is a lot of work to keep those cups clean. Why do you do it?”

“I do it because everyday when I open the hutch our story together continues. When I reach for this one, she said, pulling out a dark purple cup covered in roses; I remember the first time we went to the public gardens over by the shore. I bought it because it reminded me of how you picked that lily and handed it to me with a flourish. Then we left immediately, afraid we would be thrown out of the gardens forever and hauled off in the paddywagon. We laughed hysterically as we made our getaway….remember?”

Her husband chuckled. Yes, he too had fond memories of that summer’s day.

“And this one with the hearts on it is from the time you surprised me with tickets to see my favorite band.”

“Let me guess. Was that the time I took you to see Heart?” he said with a laugh.

“Of course” she said with a smile.

As his wife shared her memories about each cup her husband realized that he had not understood his wife’s delight in each cup because he did not understand the story. His unit of measurement of love was different from hers. While he had just seen cups; she saw more and she remembered the closeness and the joy she felt when she was with her husband and bought a cup in remembrance of those special times together. To her the cups were proof of their love story and for that reason she treasured each and every one.

The next morning the man watched as his wife opened the doors to the hutch and pondered which cup she would use that day. Her face lite up with delight as she removed the tiny white one adorned with four-leaf clovers and his did too as he remembered the trip they took to Ireland for their 20th anniversary.

Several weeks later the man headed off on yet another business trip. But this time when he arrived home he decided he would surprise his wife with a cup. So he searched high and low until he found the perfect one at an old antique shop on River Street. It reminded him of the weekend they had traveled the South searching for the perfect painting to go over their mantle but brought home a four-poster bed from Georgia instead. A bed that had brought each so many nights of pleasure since the day they hauled it, huffing and puffing up the stairs and through the hall to their room which lay furthest west from the front door.

As she unwrapped the box her husband felt a kind of happiness he hadn’t felt in a long time. It was a sort of hungry anticipation for seeing the delight he knew his wife would feel when she saw the cup and he wasn’t disappointed.

“Georgia?” his wife said as she admired the cup and her husband’s good taste.

“That was one special weekend, wasn’t it?”

“I think about it every night we lay together in our bed,” she replied with a shy grin.

These days, when he goes away, the husband, upon occasion,  looks for the perfect cup to give his wife. Sometimes he comes home with one and other times he doesn’t because he hasn’t found one that would be meaningful to them. But when he does arrive with the perfect cup in hand he savors the simple delight of his wife has when receiving her cup, while his wife savors the connectedness she feels with him as they discuss each of his finds. Because once the husband understood the entirety of the story sitting within the hutch it allowed him to give his wife her hearts desire and she began to see the other things her husband did to nurture their relationship. Their story was no longer about the absence of a cup. Instead, it was a story that morphed into the connectedness and delight  the couple felt towards one another that was renewed once each understood and appreciated the other’s story and soon they begin living with hearts wide open towards each other just as they had when they were first married .

It never really was about the cups after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confusion

I have been thinking a lot about why my life seems so confusing at this particular point in time, at this particular age, and in regards to my marriage. Recent instances of confusion have included:

1.Why my relationship with my husband is so confusing and hurtful after over 30 years of marriage.

2. Why I give away my power so often.

3. What I should be doing with my life knowing where I am at in the present time and where I would like to be in the future on my life’s journey.

The dictionary defines Confusion as:

1.disorder; upheaval; tumult; chaos:

The army retreated in confusion.
2.lack of clearness or distinctness:

a confusion in his mind between right and wrong.
3.perplexity; bewilderment:

The more difficult questions left us in complete confusion.
4.embarrassment or abashment:

He blushed in confusion.
But I am not convinced that this is the complete definition of the word. I think it encompasses more and I think we have to get at our own truths in order to minimize the distraction that confusion brings.

I am beginning to believe that when you are confused, it is the result of attempting to cling to an illusion, faced with seeing your own truth standing right in front of you.  So these two images “Illusion/Truth” collide producing confusion. That is because one part of what we see is based on wishes and the other is based on the truths that we recognize deep within our souls.

All too often I think we ignore our truths or change them to fit what it is we think we need. We keep these illusions because they are easy or less painful than what we might have to do to be living in a way that is authentic for ourselves.  Eventually, I think that if you keep examining the confusion; you will find the clarity you need. But this will only happen if you are being true to yourself and honest about what you see.

As I struggle during middle-age I am beginning to think about how the confusion I am feeling might be the result of ignoring my own truths. How it might arise because I worry about what everyone else’s truths are and try to take them on as my own. How I try to FIX instead of just observe.

There are so many things I am discovering at this point in my life and confusion reins supreme. But one thing I do know is this: Confusion will stand right in front of you, blocking your way to the future and towards greater clarity, when you are not being true to yourself.

So here’s to truth. And here’s to vodka. I’m going pour me a drink because my head hurts with all the confusion floating around in it. And who knows maybe I will find that vodka brings about clarity quicker than being mindful of all this confusion.

Bottoms Up! It’s five o’clock somewhere!

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Childhood Trauma

Quieting My Soul

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It used to be that for my husband’s job we would move about every 2 years. I loved the excitement of it all. The new house, new town, new things to do. I loved purging my life of all the un’s … the un-used, the un-wanted and the un-needed. I loved starting life “over.”

For the past 10 years we have lived in one town but moved to three different houses. We have been in this one 5 years. About the longest we have ever lived in one place and to tell you the truth…I am ready to move. This wouldn’t be a problem except that it is…B refuses to move again. I get it. It is a pain to move….so much to do…taking apart, putting together, cleaning, painting, and organizing, Yet, I was good at it. Amazingly so. In fact, I got so good at moving I would have all my boxes unpacked within the first 72 hours. No boxes sitting in the garage waiting to be unpacked for me. I took that as a personal affront if things were not in place where they belonged…soul included. And for a while my soul would be at peace while it explored and planned and painted.

My soul is a nervous one. One that craves excitement, changes and challenges. My soul has a hard time sitting and staying in one place. And when my soul gets itchy I know that it is time to move. Yet, I can’t. B no longer wants to buy and sell houses; no longer wants the bother.

So how does one feed an itchy soul?

I am not sure. I am meditating which calms and centers me but still my soul is restless. I am working on my novel but still my soul wants to wander. Sometimes it feels as if my soul is akin to a ghost wandering the halls of an old mansion looking for a way to get back into herself. And I am just not sure how to quiet her.

Will it quiet when I am living where I really want to be? Will it quiet when my marriage is good again? Will it quiet when I know what the future holds for my two autistic sons? Or do some souls never quiet because they are always looking to stir things up and invite chaos into their lives?

People say doing things for others helps quiet the soul. I haven’t found that to be true yet but I am hoping to start volunteering for a local hospice program and perhaps that will help…being close to death often reminds you how precious it all is and plants seeds of contentment in your soul.

Or perhaps quieting the soul it is more ominous to me than I truly want to recognize. Maybe my soul believes that quieting itself means I have given up… that I no longer am wanting or expecting change, that I am content and therefore complacent, that I am accepting of whatever comes my way; no longer carving out a life of my own. Done. Finished. Bricked up like a fireplace in an old house so as to eliminate the drafts. And if this is what quieting the soul is all about then frankly it scares the crap out of me.

Sometimes I wonder if I am doomed to have a wandering soul and sometimes I wonder if wandering is better than a soul lost to complacency. I’m sure there must be a middle ground but I have been unable to find it. For now my soul wants a change but perhaps this time the change will have to be within me and not through external circumstances. Looking inward instead of out. I am not sure but I know without a doubt that change is acoming’.

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