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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The Invisible Line

I have told you before about one of my brothers who has been facing some challenges and I have done what I thought was in his best interest while trying to help him, but I have encountered an invisible line time and time again, the line between truly helping him and enabling him in a co-dependent manner (teaching a man to fish versus just giving him a fish) and I have to tell you, it is the most difficult, truly undefinable line that you really don’t even see it. Just like those trip wires that you can’t see as you look ahead and end up blowing you and everything within a pretty significant distance to either Heaven, Hell or just tiny pieces of biological matter. You can only look back and second guess yourself or see the end result of the codependency when unhealthy behaviors and crisis status is the current status each and every day. At what point does one admit that the task at hand is so far beyond their abilities that self-sacrifice will appease the gods that are so angry with my brother? Or do I just put myself, my mental health first and let the chips fall where they may, even if that means I lose a brother or maybe even two? Who am I to think that I have the right to cut the string of destiny to spare my brother pain that perhaps is his lesson, his karma? Where does my responsibility as a sister begin, where does it end? Where does my responsibility as human being with the ability to help begin and end or is that even a real thing?

The best that I can do is go with my gut, as Agent Gibbs on NCIS would say (thank you Netflix binge therapy!!) and do what I think is right at the time, with the resources available and with what I believe to be in his best interest.

There is always a kernel of a Life Lesson in each painful event of growth, so there is no win or lose, only try, but then I think of Yoda…

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So I keep putting my best foot forward, keep my mind focused and keep a sharp eye out for that invisible line.

Breadcrumbs

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As most of you know by now, I am big into planning, strategizing, researching and in general getting deep into the details of whatever I am thinking/planning/dreaming about. I tend to get distracted easily, like a small child walking through the forest I find myself not looking where I am going but instead my gaze is cast toward the sky, the treetops and the falling snowflakes; I am so enthralled that I lose any sense of direction, purpose or mission. My attention flits to follow every shiny object, butterfly or even just random thought and as a result, I tend to find myself off course a great deal of the time. Knowing this and experiencing the frustration of trying to remember the exact location where I zigged when I should’ve zagged, I have gotten in the habit of leaving myself a trail of mental breadcrumbs to help me find my way back. Maybe it’s not even about adjusting course; often times it seems to be the realization that the destination I had in mind was just a work of fiction; like Never Never Land or some would say, heaven. This is a hard truth to bear and even more difficult if one has accepted that vision as truth and invested in that vision to the point of exclusion of almost everything else. I have 99 different ways to sabotage any chance at happiness but sometimes it’s simply a matter of unreal expectations, turning a blind eye to truths that may not fit with the vision in my mind. I don’t know if that’s due to human nature, a survival mechanism or just the desire to believe in happy endings or something altogether different, but I once again have strayed off the course and need to get back to the topic of getting back to where I need to be. There is nothing wrong with seeing the good in people and wanting to be a part of something greater than just oneself; however, I personally have a very difficult time setting aside my primary need for independence to allow that to happen. It’s not a trust issue, it’s a lack of desire to be dependent upon anyone else other than myself. I don’t want to need anyone. I want to stand alone, stand strong, but I’ll also stand by my man, stand up for what’s right and stand strong in solidarity with my sisters or brothers.

OK – see? A clear demonstration of me going completely off track. So, back to my breadcrumbs. I set a series of goals for myself and have a specific calendar that I keep those goals, dates and any notes that I have regarding the goal, etc. When I check in with that calendar, those dates are my breadcrumbs. I set a lot of goals upon my return from Scotland this summer and looking back, I have accomplished zero of those goals. I set new ones shortly afterwards and strangely enough, they have little to do with me personally; they are about finding new ways to live, to allow another person into the bubble that I live in, into my world. How to allow people be who they are, not take things so personally and in general, compromise. Nothing wrong with those goals as they are skills that every human being should possess, but the reason behind those goals is significant. Did I make those goals for me or did I make those goals with a specific person in mind? Am I once again trying to “become” what this person needs me to be? Or am I just trying to grow and get outside of my solitary circle of comfort? I don’t know. That’s the tough part. I do not ever want to make a change for someone else. I have done that in the past and it never works out well. I have to make changes for myself, understanding that everyone around me will also benefit because I will not be resentful or be motivated by guilt for having made a change I did not willing wish to make.

I have brought out a new calendar, with new goals and new thoughts to ponder along the journey. I feel strongly that everyone who is in my life is there for a reason and I value them for that and for the incredible human being they are (all my homies are incredible human beings) and celebrate what gifts they’ve given me throughout our time together. Some have been in my world longer than others and some have been to places in my world others have not, but the important thing is that even though I choose to be single, I am not alone. Even though I appear to be somewhat happy and well adjusted, I am mostly not. I am terrified of  many things, although spiders are not one of them. I have learned and grown a great deal in the past year, but I know I am never done learning. I have laughed, cried and raged and will value those memories for the lessons they imparted, the good times they brought and above all else, the people that rode the tsunami with me.

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.