Lead Me Not Into False Expectations

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” -Semisonic

It’s another New Year, another time for new beginnings, resolutions (if you’re into that sort of thing) and a blank page in a yet unwritten book. I am wary of making resolutions due to the fact they are usually slightly unrealistic. If I were to make a resolution that I wouldn’t go all Hulk-like in traffic, but I had done nothing to change my frame of mind or manage my emotions, then I’m fairly certain my effort would be met with failure, or at the very least an inability to magically transform my commute from December 31, 2016 to January 1, 2017. When you think about it, it’s really just a change from one calendar to another; from a Sunday to a Monday. If my resolution is to not drink but I have a full cupboard of alcohol that I see every time I reach for a glass, it will be more difficult to not grab that bottle and have “just one” drink. If I haven’t dug deep to find out the “why” behind the drinking then my resolution is dependent upon my mood; if my mood goes dark and dangerous and I haven’t developed any healthy coping skills, then guess what? Chug-a-lug. Another great reason for my resolutions to fail is that I make them based on what I think I should do, not what I really want to do. Making a resolution to lose weight, so that the hot guy I have a huge crush on will notice (and hopefully fall in love with) me. Making a resolution to start attending mass on a regular basis because my parents (God rest their souls) would be pleased, as they look down upon me from Heaven. Or even better, so that I can get in God’s good grace and therefore avoid the fiery alternative. These are all great resolutions, as great as resolutions can be, but they are doomed to be unsuccessful if I haven’t invested in them long before January 1st.

I prefer to set intentions rather than resolutions. They are much more forgiving, loosely defined and honestly, give me an out if things don’t go according to plan.

in·ten·tion
inˈten(t)SH(ə)n/
noun
1.
a thing intended; an aim or plan.
“she was full of good intentions”
2.
MEDICINE
the healing process of a wound.

– Google Search

I love the second definition because the majority of my intentions do involve the healing and recovering from wounds, be it physical or emotional. My intention is to forgive those who have wounded me, but that may take not days, but years. My intention is to forgive myself for the wounds I have inflicted on others. My intention is to accept my faults and failures and love myself unconditionally, which will be my intention for every New Year until my Last Year.

I feel the danger in resolutions is that they lead us into false expectations; by changing my physical appearance, I will find love. By doing things for others, I will be accepted and loved. It’s not the resolution so much as it is the expected outcome. Realistically losing weight will not guarantee that the hot guy falls in love with me, especially if he’s gay, married or simply not interested. Not drinking alcohol is a great resolution, but there is much more involved than just not raising a glass to my lips. Forgiving others is a great idea, but that means letting go of old hurts and grudges. If they have been your constant companion for years and help you to feel righteous in your belief that they are in the wrong, then it will take much more effort than simply thinking you forgive them. One must take personally responsibility for their role in what happened and own up to it. My dad used to say, “It’s not the making of a mistake that should embarrass a person, so much as their failure to benefit from it.”

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Learning from mistakes so that we don’t make the same ones over and over is more helpful (in my experience) than making a resolution that is unrealistic.

So, Happy New Year to one and all! May this year bring you comfort when you’re distressed, company when you’re lonely, a hand to hold when you’re frightened and a safe harbor during Life’s many storms; the courage to face your fears, the strength to slay your dragons and the faith to believe that there is more to Life than just crossing days off the calendar and making unrealistic expectations. Peace and love to you all!

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Words of Wisdom

Just wanted to share some words of wisdom from my dad, which I didn’t appreciate enough at the time.

Two wrongs don’t make a right

I was really upset about a Mean Girl at school and came home in a black fury, spewing venemous threats of violence against her and how she was going to pay for that. My dad heard all the ruckus and asked what on Earth had me so upset; I explained the situation and through my tears of hurt and anger, I plotted my revenge and the bloodlust drowned out any humanity I may have possessed. My dad (used to this and thus unfazed) explained to me that just because she was mean didn’t give me license to abandon my morals and “get in the gutter” with her. He went on to explain that evil works that way; it appeals to the ego, the vanity of the person and lures you down a road of hate, violence and loss of compassion or reason. “Two wrongs don’t make a right, Michelle, no matter what your reasoning. Be the bigger person; turn the other cheek and forgive them or you will be the one who suffers, not her” were his words of wisdom to me. Easier said than done, which leads me to

Anything worth having won’t be easily gotten 

I wanted to learn how to work the speed bag (always trying to keep up with my brothers) but it was difficult; my knuckles were red and sore, my arms were tired and felt like lead. I was two seconds away from bursting into tears when my dad came in. He took one look at me and told me to come outside with him so we could talk about it.He explained to me that the things that come to us easily are not necessarily good things; anything that is worth having will require hard work, dedication and a desire to overcome all the obstacles keeping us from what we want. He said this will help me to realize what is important and what is not. If I am not willing to the hard work, I will only make it so far before I encounter some difficulty; if I turn around and go back, I have accomplished nothing but taken a leisurely stroll and then came back, empty handed. But if I dig in and do the hard work, get through the obstacle, I will reach my goal and I will have the confidence that comes with overcoming obstacles, facing fears and standing strong. A half an hour later, I went back into the family room determined to master the speed bag, no matter how bloody, bruised and painful my hands became. And I did.

There are many, many more but these are the ones I find truth in even today, especially after the events around the world that have been unfolding and will continue to do so.

“Resentment is like drinking poison then hoping it will kill your enemies” -Nelson Mandela

I am Anita’s Daughter

My mother has been my hero, my dearest friend and my biggest fan. She was also the one who was (unfortunately) the recipient of my rage, toxic mood swings, the childish behavior. She has witnessed first-hand the destructive powers of the demons that dwell in my unquiet, brilliant, mad, mad mind. She has seen me through thick and thin, even when I have tried to hide the dark times, the times when there was no light, no way out of the darkness. Her faith, unconditional love and absolute refusal to give up on me are the only reasons I am here today, alive and relatively well. Mom did not allow me to feel sorry for myself, nor did she allow me to use my “magical mad mind” to be an excuse for not realizing my potential. She could see the woman I had the potential to be, she knew the gifts that had been bestowed upon me and believed I had strength in me that would carry me through whatever life gave me, so long as I kept faith.

I have said before that she was the strongest woman I have ever known and that still holds true. Sadly, dementia came in with silent steps and stole her away from all of us. Slowly at first, leaving us with questions that had no answers, until one day, I was not recognizable as Michelle or even as her daughter. But even with that diagnosis, my mother remained loving, caring, gentle and pleasant to all those around her. We don’t know what happens to our loved ones who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s or any other memory-related disease/disorder, but I prayed that she was in a good place within her memories. Now I know that she is where all God’s faithful children go, where she will be reunited with those who have gone before her. You can call it Heaven, call it The Other Side, call it whatever you like, but I know that all of the sacrifice, all of the turning of the other cheek, the prayers, the sleepless nights and the rosaries and penance she offered up are now being returned to her on a grand scale. She believed with all of her heart and soul that by living a good life here on Earth, she would be rewarded in the afterlife. I can’t say that I understood that philosophy growing up, but as I grow older (and hopefully wiser) I tend to think I understand a little better now. It’s not even so much about going to Heaven, but is more about looking within to discover your riches; extending your hand, not in asking or demanding something, but in giving. Giving comfort, giving the touch of human kindness; living by the Golden Rule –
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
That means when you see someone who is having an absolutely horrific day, instead of jumping to judgment *hugely guilty of that, I am* give that person the benefit of the doubt; they had a hard day, lost a loved one, found out they have cancer or just feel like they are unloved. Make the effort to put yourself in that person’s place and know that the last thing they need is to be judged. They need understanding, compassion and yes, even love. Not to say that you need to go up to the person and be all, “Hey baby – how ‘bout I rock your world and make you forget all your troubles??? but just to think of sending them love, peace, calm and acceptance. It sounds like cheesy, new-age goofy stuff, whatever. The bottom line is – it works.

I can’t tell you how many of my friends who met Mom told me that I was so lucky to have such a loving, accepting mother. They were not so fortunate; their mothers competed against them, made them a real-life Cinderella (without the ball, the fairy godmother and prince) or punished them for being beautiful, intelligent and kind. Seems like one of those Grimm fairy tales, but I have witnessed such interactions and always feel so sorry not only for my friend, but for her mother, who I think may be simply repeating what her mother did to her. My mom was a breath of fresh air to these girls and her kindness is remembered to this day. Not to say that Mom was a saint; she had a wicked temper, a sharp tongue when needed and rue the idiot who thought he could mess with her children, any of us. I remember her telling me that she had that same response when anyone messed with her brothers. I guess I take after Mom in more ways than I had thought. That fierceness is born out of love, absolute, unconditional and pure. There is no substitute, nothing can take its place; it can’t be faked, it is something that comes from within.

Money can’t make it, power can’t take it, hate can’t break it. Let us not forsake it.
Love.
Love is all we need.
Love is what I think of when I remember Mom;
Love is the legacy she left us all.
Share it, speak it, tuck it in your heart and keep it.

Mom was the best example of what true faith, unconditional love and a mother’s devotion looks like, lives like and loves like. If I can be a shadow of what she was, my life will be an absolute success. I will strive to be more loving, less judgmental; I will strive to find forgiveness, not only for others, but for myself. I will continue to learn what it means to be a good person and not turn my eyes when I see someone in need. I won’t be perfect, I won’t always bite my tongue or hold back those snarky thoughts, but I will make the effort. When it seems the task is too great, I will remember you, Mom. I will remember your sacrifices, your strength of belief, your faith in God and your family. I may falter, I may find myself off course and I may even fall, but then I will remember that I am Anita’s daughter and I will get back on my feet, dust myself off and keep moving forward. I know you are with me, your words are in my mind, your love is in my heart. I am never alone.

Clean Up on Aisle 23

One of the things that I dislike the most about getting off track is cleaning up the mess that I’ve made whilst (great word, isn’t it?) being off track. Getting behind in my assignments for school, putting off things that shouldn’t be put off, such as filing tax returns, getting the oil changed in my car and taking care of myself. That encompasses a huge part of my Eternal To Do List, as I’m sure it does for every person on the planet. How best can I plan so as to ensure success? That is the question of the moment for me. I’ve tried with varying degrees of success before but situations, times and attitudes change, so I can’t keep using the same tactic every time.

Exercise has long been the one thing that I cannot seem to successfully make a part of my every day life and it is without a doubt one of the best things I can do for myself and my mental, physical and social health. I’ve tried many times, but always with a half-assed effort and the petulant attitude of a rebellious 9 year old asked to clean the toilet. Not exactly jumping with joy and enthusiasm. Well, now I am a little more willing to admit that I do not always know what’s best for me and if my past performance is any indication, I should really seek assistance in this area. So today I am calling about some ballroom dance lessons I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I’m going to see if they offer something in the summer I could take since I won’t have school. That will also get me out of the house, so that would be doubly-good. (Not a real word, I’m pretty sure but I like it)

The other part of the clean up goes to forgiveness. As I told you in a previous post, I ran into someone that used to be a friend and I am still feeling the ripples of that episode of Freak Show Comes to Your Life and it had reignited some smoldering flame of Yuck that just needed a little stoking to once again become a raging wildfire of Bad Feelings in me. More like Unresolved Issues that I have zero desire to face, put to rest or especially forgive, if it involves me communicating with said group of Ill Will bearers. But I also know if I don’t forgive, I will be the one who suffers, not them. So this is one of my big clean up items. I look forward to it less than I do cleaning a toilet in a frat house of 20 guys with chronic diarrhea. Sorry for the visual, but that sums it up.

I look at this like laundry or dishes; you will always have to wash clothes and clean dishes. I will (by nature of being human) always have clean ups on Aisle 23 so I might as well suit up and get to it. I’ll let you know how it goes.