Friday, September 21, 2018

Vulnerability, fear, and shame

I've been listening to a book titled The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connection, and Courage. I'm entering late in the game considering she published this book in 2012. My therapist recommended this author sometime last year. I find that it takes me time to follow up on her recommendations. Anyway, I find this topic quite fascinating and the author's storytelling is so authentic and entertaining. I can relate to her in many ways. The book can be intense if you use it to truly examine yourself. I was overwhelmed by the amount of information that I'll probably listen to it several times and maybe even take notes.

The book and my past experience with vulnerability, fear, and shame came into play at work of all places. We had a staff meeting which was arranged to fulfill our mandatory, annual requirement for diversity training. The staff lead, who was also the facilitator, showed three TED Talks on vastly different and unexpected (for diversity) topics:

  • Invisible Diversity: A Story Of Undiagnosed Autism | Carrie Beckwith-Fellows | TEDxVilnius
  • I was an MS-13 gang member. Here's how I got out. | Gerardo Lopez | TEDxMileHigh
  • I am the son of a terrorist. Here's how I chose peace | Zak Ebrahim

After each showing, the facilitator invited us to share our thoughts. I hate sharing thoughts in a group, especially on such sensitive topics. I find that my emotions can be so intense that it's difficult to clearly express myself without anger or another strong emotion.

Surprisingly, a couple of people shared that their children have autism. One mother had an intense incident recently at home and when she shared that her son had autism, she started to cry. I sat next to her. I felt incredible sadness and empathy. I wanted to hug her and let her know she's not alone. I handed her a napkin to wipe her tears. The woman sitting on the other side of crying mother handed her a second napkin and held her hand as tears continued to stream. Other people averted their eyes. There was awkward silence. A couple of people continued to share their thoughts while the silent crying continued.

After the three videos were shown and the meeting ended, the mother, the woman who held her hand and I stayed. The facilitator came over to apologize to the mother. The mother also apologized for crying. I said there was no need for either to apologize. These things happen and we ALL have problems but don't talk about them. We encouraged the mother to seek professional help. I told her that my years of therapy has helped me in many ways especially with providing ideas and suggestions for other resources. 

There's this illusion that everyone else has perfect, dreamy lives and we are the only ones with messy, imperfect lives. Bullshit. We ALL have problems and I'm more than happy to talk about mine especially if it helps someone else to let go of the shame of carrying that "secret". We're so afraid of being vulnerable, appearing weak, seeming like we're screwed up or don't have ourselves together that it takes an emotional toll on our spiritual being. It takes courage to say I don't have it together. I need help. This is painful, shameful, and I'm afraid. I wasn't ashamed or embarrassed by the mother's display. I felt she was incredibly courageous and needed support and help. I offered to listen to her any time she needed to talk. We're all in this together and we need to support and uplift one another and not criticize and tear down. It's hard, I know. But it's vital to forming a more caring society and a better human bond.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Why get married?

Now that I'm at this age, I wonder why get married again? I'm not yet a senior citizen but I wonder why do people get married in their middle ages? What's the reason and purpose?

The way I see it, people get married to legally bind their commitment to one another. That's not a very romantic description but it's accurate enough. Psychology Today has an article about marriage commitments. This commitment can be an elaborate show in front of many people (in a wedding) or a quiet affair in front of two people (at a courthouse). Then they get to live happily ever after, right? Wrong. That's where the fairytale fails us. The story needs to continue to show how two separate individuals with different life experiences, expectations, values, fears, goals, and outside influences try to form a partnership that's intended to last to the end of their lives. It's far from easy and we don't get advance prepping to the real life situations and struggles we'll face along the way as a couple and how to overcome those.

How can we find our way when many of us come from broken or dysfunctional homes? We don't have examples of healthy relationships. We don't know how to set and adhere to boundaries. We don't understand mutual respect, support, and encouragement. Take two people with those emotional backgrounds, they get married, and then see how it's difficult to find a way to happily ever after? But the woman in me who looks through rose-colored glasses knows it's not impossible for that happy ending. It just didn't happen for me.

I have friends who have been married for decades and they've had it rough. There were times when they considered divorce but didn't. Life isn't easier; they still negotiate conflicts and disagreements. Sometimes they live in the same house but essentially separate lives. It seems that some settle into complacency. It's easier to continue down this path then take a different path. Then again, some may consider themselves or actually be happy.

I have a friend whose wife divorced him after 30-something years of marriage. He seemed surprised, really blindsided. But I don't understand how something like this is a surprise. Usually there are clues, signs, and maybe even billboards along the way. He wasn't happy for decades but he stayed married because he made a commitment. His parents stayed married until their deaths and that was his example of being married. He accepted his unhappiness in marriage because his commitment was more important. They didn't do anything together. He secluded himself whenever his in-laws came over. He formed friendships with others online as an escape from his life. He accepted this was his fate for the rest of his life. But, for some reason his wife decided it wasn't her fate and she filed for divorce. That angered and hurt him tremendously. Again, I found this curious. He was so unhappy and this was his way out. But, he felt betrayed. It took months for him to recover and sometimes he has flashbacks that anger him. But, I think he's on the path of acceptance and recovery. Now I hear he lament about the years he's wasted and regrets. It's sad. It's heart wrenching. But, what do you do to fix something that's been broken for so long when one or neither party acknowledges the need?

I need to let this sit for a while.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Dating in the middle ages

Dating in the Middle Ages will be the name of my book where I describe my experience dating in my 40s and 50s. At this stage I expected men would be mature, responsible, "woke" adults. Sadly, that has not been the case. I've met mostly emotionally stunted, damaged, less than complete males who don't know or want to know that they have a lot of work to do. Their maturity stopped at 17. They may be responsible enough to have a job but they can't manage their money. Or, they don't stay at a job long, have a history of multiple jobs, or don't have enough stability to be prepared to retire comfortably when the time arrives. Then there are those whose only concern is themselves. They don't have a sense of a greater community, community involvement, compassionate living, or giving back.

I'm far from complete or completely healed but I realized early on that something was wrong within and I needed to address it. It has taken decades of work with the help of professionals and sometimes pharmaceuticals to get to a place where I think I'm a wonderful human being who has a lot of offer and who deserves genuine love.

What is genuine love? That's tricky. So many of us have accepted the popular, media-fueled idea of what is love. We don't know how to truly express or appreciate genuine love. That, coupled with not being able to show one's own vulnerabilities and authenticity, leads to a love life fraught with anguish, complication, turmoil, and emptiness. Then we wonder why our love relationships aren't like the ones in the media? Where's our perfect happily ever after?

I struggle with the idea of being single versus part of a couple and apparently I'm not alone. This 2016 article shares reasons why it's difficult for a woman in her 40s to date. Then this article espouses the benefits of being single in your 40s. I must say that those benefits are compelling. I found this entertaining opinion piece about men in their 40s who lament about not finding a partner. Within the article you'll find a link to the NY Times article about single men. Based on all these articles, it seems the grass is greener on the other side, no matter what side you're on.

I'll shelf this decision for another day. Maybe the answer will come along as I continue my journey.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Striving For Simplicity, Part 2

**I came to check on my blog, after it's been dormant for many years. I cleaned up outdated links and found this post that I forgot to publish 5 years ago. Wow, things changed. This post resonated with me and allowed me to appreciate how much I've grown since then. I hope it helps someone out there too.**

The funny thing about maintaining, it's a facade. No one knows what's really going on. Everything seems fine. Why wouldn't it be? I'm married, have three wonderful children, a huge house, and good paying job. What more can anyone ask?

My problem deep down inside is that I wasn't following the purpose God set for me. It was a constant, slow rub against my soul. I ignored it for years and my unhappiness continued to grow. I used things to pacify my unhappiness. I bought more stuff as a temporary fix and distraction. Eventually, we accumulated enough things to fill our 5,000 square foot house.

When I decided to leave that lifestyle behind and move into a two-bedroom, 1,000 square foot apartment, what do I do with all of that stuff? We sold as much as we could and then gave a lot away. I was sad and at the same time relieved. It was a strange state of mind. Even after all of this, I still moved with probably three full bedrooms, dining room, living room, studio, and full size kitchen worth of stuff. There was STUFF everywhere.

I looked into renting a storage unit but thankfully the price was outrageous. A unit about the size of a walk-in closet went for $60 per month. I couldn't see myself spending $720 per year storing STUFF. So, instead I sold even more stuff for practically nothing and gave more away just to get it out of my place. Another benefit of getting rid of stuff beside freeing up space was being able to let go of the memories associated with those items.  I was freeing up my soul and purging my emotions as each piece went out the door. It was liberating.

I got rid of just about every piece of furniture I brought from the house. I also ended up buying furniture to replace some of those pieces, like beds, chairs, and tables. It started to be a revolving door. Stuff went out but more stuff came in and then eventually I accumulated too much stuff, once again.

My heart began yearning for simplicity. My soul was quietly protesting the state of affairs. I had to clean out my house--literally--of too much stuff. I usually have a bag or two that I'm filling up to donate to Vietnam Veterans of America or the Lupus Foundation of America. I also donate paper crafting supplies and handmade cards to Scrapping For Soldiers. This time around, I decided to also donate household items and a video gaming system to my church, Lighthouse Baptist Church.

I met Kristie Lippert, a co-founder of Scrapping For Soldiers, this morning to donate seven large and one small shopping bags of paper crafting supplies and handmade cards.

I get a high from donating. I love that my stuff is going some where it can be used for a good cause instead of collecting dust and causing me angst at home. I'm hoping in a couple more months I'll have another large donation to give her.

This is all leading up to my desire to move at the end of April. I have a contract on a 1,377 square foot house near where I currently live. It's a short sale which is a bureaucratic nightmare to buy. Even though the home owner accepted my offer right away, his mortgage company has to approve the sale. That's taken 2 1/2 months for them to approve a price which was supposedly "pre-approved" by the seller's bank. Then I found out that FHA needs to approve the sale too since they've insured the mortgage. What a mess! Thankfully, my mortgage broker advised me NOT to get the house inspected or appraised until all of these hoops have been passed. If I had proceeded with having these performed and IF FHA does not approve the sale, I would be out the cost of the home inspection and appraisal. I'm thankful that someone was looking out for me.

Here's the rub. My lease is expiring soon and I need to give a 60-day notice to vacate, which will be by the end of this month. After that time, my rent will go to a "market" rate which they estimate to be $200 - $300 more than I currently pay. Did I say this was a mess?

Please pray for a quick resolution to this home buying mess I'm in.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thanksgiving Cards

I made two different Thanksgiving cards which I wanted to show you.

I apologize for the photography and angle. I wanted to take pictures before these got sent in the mail.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Handmade Fall Greeting Cards and Scrapbook Pages

... just Laura: Bella Blvd & Kerri Bradford Studio Team Up: Harvest Party

How should I use this blog?

Time goes fast. Life is a whirlwind. It's been a while since I've posted anything on my blog. I'm wondering how should I use this space? Originally, blogs were used as an online diary. That's so personal. I'm not sure I can share so much of my life to the world--not that my life is so unique.

Young people today are so willing to put it all out there. I'm a little old school when it comes to that. It's easy for me to share the sordid details of my life with my personal friends. But, to the world? I'm not so sure. Somehow, just for the moment, I'm feeling the need to share myself with the world. Where is this coming from? I won't question it for now, at least I won't try. It'll be hard since I tend to be analytical and at times obsessive.

I love the web. You can learn about and explore the world from your seat. You can connect with so many people and maybe share your experiences and encourage one another. That's what I'd like to do. I'd like to encourage someone else. I'd like for them to obtain the peace and joy I've found, even through the trouble I've had in life. It's a weird state of being. It's an oxymoron of sorts. Peace & joy along with a troubled life. How can that be? I don't know, but it is. I guess that's where my faith comes in. It's helped me endure so much while grace and mercy has seen me through to the end and I'm here right now.

I guess that's all of the sharing I'll do for now. I hope to post again soon.