Monthly Archives: July 2011

Searching for Significance and Meaning in an Ever-Changing World

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Some people find their meaning in creating and raising a family. For others it is the creation of a career and a hot pursuit to the top of the ladder. Still for others it may be the acquisition of material possessions, having all the right “things” and going to all the right places. For many others it may be achieving the highest possible reflection of physical beauty to be shown off in beauty pageants and modeling careers. Others aspired to and became a movie or rock star and enjoy the celebrity lifestyle of the rich and famous.

What is your search for significance and meaning? How is it working for you?

Not all events and purposes in life are what we think they are or what we think they ought to be. Many of us women in the 80’s and 90’s grew up believing that being married (or not), having children (or not), or having a career and all the right possession would make us whole thereby bringing us meaning and significance.

I am a product of that generation. I am a seeker of my own significance and meaning in life. The world has changed so much from when I was a child in the 70’s. Now, in 2011, I look at the world with a huge sense of disillusionment. I feel betrayed at times and downright lied to in other ways. I am a product of a generation sold out to self-gratification and indulging our children with possessions rather than the love, attention and care they so desperately needed. Women were encouraged to work and have careers while we sent our children to daycare. We could have it all; a family and a career! I found this to be too difficult and beyond my most well intentioned abilities. Nothing is perfect, we all did what we thought was best for ourselves and our children.

I had this idea of what life meant, of what my significance was in it and what I would be able to have. I went to college, got my degree, and sacrificed everything, only to be met now with a $104,000 bill for the student loans I can’t pay back, in debt to my eyeballs and unemployed due to my stubborn insistence of not wasting my time and talents at a stressed out, hectic, seemingly profitable job at the expense of my own sanity and morals. How could I not feel betrayed by this world? I believed that if you grew up, went to college and got a good job everything would be alright. Even though it is antiquated, I believed that my knight in shining armor would ride up and whisk me off to the suburbs where we would paint our picket fence white, plant flowers, have children and BBQ on the weekends. Instead I married a heroin addict that I had to divorce. I am too much of a product of that generation; I have come only remotely close to achieving any of those things. But, does that mean I have no significance or meaning? After many tears over loss, kicking and screaming while everything I had worked so hard for slipped through my fingers and sitting in sack cloth and ashes cursing the day I was born, I have come to accept many new beliefs about life, living and happiness.

I graduated in 1995 from college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. The world was my oyster and I was ready to claim what was mine. I had worked hard to earn my degree and was so elated when I got my first ‘real’ job in a psychiatric hospital. That is when I fell in love with the mental health population. It was the most broken group of people I had ever laid eyes on and a group of people that lived without hope. I wanted to help them find hope, to cheer them on and watch them overcome all the odds. In many ways we were all the underdogs in life.

Our days there were filled with hourly events. Meal-times, medication times, group times and grooming were spaced at hourly intervals all of which were deadlines to meet. The lives of the residents were severely structured hoping to teach them, what? I am not sure as I look back. But, it was my life and theirs from 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday. I was a Mental Health Worker. I followed my group of residents each day, chatting with them, encouraging them, handing out their cigarettes and distributing the one dollar they earned for completing the list of to-dos from the day before. Then we walked to the corner store where they spent their money on their pleasure; it could be soda, chips, candy, or even an extra cigarette for the day. One day I saw a girl with a huge wad of one dollar bills. I asked her where she got all those from, she didn’t answer but my co-workers let me know that she had given sexual favors for those dollars.

This was the life of those that were severely mentally ill. It sickened me. I had so many feelings of sadness and despair for these wonderful, beautiful people who were imprisoned here due to the condition of their minds. I talked to residents as much as I could. I wanted to understand them, know them and try to figure out a way to help them. I was very good at that. I accomplished many career marking triumphs in those days. I could reach even seemingly the most lost among them.

Yet, I became horrified and disturbed as the months passed by. I saw the cycle of the system and the bondage they lived with. I strived to tell each and every one who could listen in even the slightest possible way, that they were loved, admired for their strength and valued just the way that they were. I succeeded. However, there was no sense of satisfaction with this job. I didn’t feel as though I was doing what I was destined to do or to become. The system had captured these lost souls in its net disguised as help. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried and despite all my efforts that the system could not be breached, they still remained in chains.

As time went on, I began to hate the system. People would become well enough to be released only to end up coming back within a few short months. I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. To me it was a person’s worst nightmare. The mental health system is touted by many as something so revolutionary and effective. I have a great deal of anger and disgust for those who perpetrate it and string it out like it is something worthy of praise. It enrages me that when people need help, if they cannot afford to see a private psychiatrist or therapist, they must turn to a county run system that is wrought with exploitation, greed and indifference. It is a trap, a vice and an imprisonment of the soul. That is the reality. Many would still argue against me. Due to a number of changes over the years, people are not housed in psychiatric hospitals as they once were; those times were worse, yes. Many people are now able to live within the community, but, they are still prisoners. They are just in their own homes, group homes, and in board and care facilities. Medication is great, when it is coupled with therapy and education. As a standalone, it is merely effective in allowing a person to not be hospitalized as much. The brokenness of many is reflected in the world and the way many people have experienced that world. The cycle remains.

The early pioneers of the field did their best I am sure. They came up with these elaborate and well thought out ‘paradigms’ that strived to scientifically explain human behavior. These paradigms were hailed as the newest and best in strategies to treat those with mental illness. Each major paradigm’s time came and went and there has always been a new brand name every few years to spice it up and make it sound appealing; otherwise known as a paradigm shift. But, at the same time, so few people are helped. Now, in 2011, it’s all about the newest medication. Maybe if people decided to treat one another with respect, dignity and be a little selfless fewer people may need all these medications or psychiatric treatment in general. I don’t know.
But, does feeling this way make me significant or provide meaning for my life? I am not sure.

I believe many young pioneers go into the mental health field because they want to make a difference. There was this moment when I walked across the stage to accept my diploma, I had no idea where I would go or what I would do, but I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. That moment in time was so surreal, as if in a dream. All this pomp and circumstance for this one moment that left me feeling a bit lost. One great achievement in life was ending and another getting ready to begin. I was full of hope and so happy when I got my first ‘Big Time” job as a social service worker in in child protection services. It went from hope to worse there.

I sat in this tiny cubicle with these huge files on my desk piled all around me, leering at me, looming over me like skyscrapers boxing me in, all the while screaming for my attention because there was an Employee Performance Review coming, a court report due or a child that needed attention. I had to develop a system of tracking the deadlines for the various reports and other monthly duties. These deadlines were serious; the reports had to be filed by a certain date or the county would get fined $250.00. I never had a late report, but I always wondered what was happening in the lives of the children. If something bad happened to them, would they be able to tell me?

Out of 60 some children on my caseload that had been in foster care for two years or more only a small handful of them were in good foster homes. I constantly worried about them. There were stories of children that were beaten, molested and even killed in foster homes. I saw faces on those files, lives that had been broken and forever shattered, innocence lost and hearts full of desperation to know a home and a family again.

The people I worked with would call these parents all kinds of filthy names. They were judgmental and harshly critical. There was always some stupid new “MEMO” about things like not spraying perfume at your cubicle. Another big event was on work place violence. This happened because a woman got pissed off at her supervisor and told the supervisor, “I have my weapon in the car” (or something of that nature) and went to her car to retrieve her Bible. Yes, it really happened.

Once again, disillusionment filled my mind as the staggering work load, the care and fret of the lives of the children and office politics sent me packing. It is a sad thing to see the worst in the people that you work with, those of us who are supposed to make a difference. Most of those I worked with thought the worst of those parents, but what did they think of themselves? I believe now that the ranting and raving of my co-workers spoke more of their inadequacy to handle the horrors of life; what can happen to some people and children. Maybe it was even their own fear of becoming horrible parents that was lingering behind every unkind judgment. I have always believed that you can’t judge a person unless you can walk a mile in the person’s shoes. If you don’t want to walk in their shoes, then know they lived through something that you never had to live through and you have the unique opportunity to choose not to, that person never had that choice.

I will never forget this one sweet child. I encountered her later on when I worked for mental health. She was all grown up and still a prisoner of the system. She had merely transferred from one horrible prison to the next. She had the sweetest face, such a beautiful smile and was really very intelligent. When she was a child in CPS she lived with her grandparents until her grandfather died and her grandmother was no longer able to care for her. Her mother died when she was 5 months old. The mother and father had both been arrested and taken to jail in a domestic dispute, while the child then went to live with the grandparents. The parents were both heroin users. The mother was found dead in her cell three days later having died during withdrawal from her substance abuse. That is where the story ended when I took over the case.

One of the tasks at hand each time a new court report was filed every six months was to try and locate any of the child’s relatives. I found this girl’s father alive and well living about 150 miles away. I was ecstatic. I thought, how wonderful that this father and daughter were to be re-united! I drove her to see her father for the first time. I was so happy and she was too; I thought to myself, “This child will not have to live in foster care anymore”. I believed I had done the greatest thing on Earth and this reunion was my Pulitzer Prize.

However, it quickly went from all that excitement to horror. The father, I believe, was unable to deal with the living example of his past mistakes that slapped him in the face when looked at his daughter. The child was born addicted to heroin and was a beautiful precious girl with many problems. She had behavioral problems, issues with authority and would even report seeing her dead mother and talking to her. I worked so hard for this little girl. I believe I saw something of myself in her. She deserved to have a good life just like anyone else. She was 11 years old at that time and the whole situation ended with her father’s rejection of her. It was a total rejection, he refused to speak to her or have anything to do with her at all. I was sick. I couldn’t believe that he had been so selfish. Now, she would be at the mercy of the system once more. I tried to understand where he was coming from and we both did our best to accept the final outcome. ‘

When I saw her years later she instantly recognized me and she ran up to me, hugging me tightly. Here she was now all grown up and taller than me! She was living in a board and care which is a bit like a psychiatric hospital without the locks. I absolutely adored the man that ran the place. But, it was far from perfect. She was still looking for kittens and puppies to love and take care of, the little girl I knew but in a grown up body, seemingly unaware of her surroundings. This is the stuff that grabs my gut. It makes me feel like crying because here she is an adult and her life, from my point of view, sucked. I vowed then that when I have my shelter, I am going to find her and bring her to live there. I plan on having a large group of animals for her to oversee, that was always her dream to be a zoo keeper I believe. Where is her search for significance? Where does she get meaning? Is she happy? I don’t know. I live with the hope that one day I can provide her with her childhood dreams, something no one else was willing or able to do, if that is what she wants. I would be more careful to ask her what she wanted instead of presuming that is what she would want.

I consider myself very fortunate because although I have lived with Depression and Anxiety for most of my life, I know what a failure the system is. My recent IQ test while trying to qualify for Social Security Disability is a good example. I worked for 24 years, so, I don’t know, I must not be completely incapacitated by my issues however, I am not exactly thriving either. So, what does an intelligence test have to do with any of that? It would be nice if I had someone I could talk to about the events I have been through in life. A better doctor would be a good start, but since I am in the lowest of standards of care, that is out of the questions. My saving grace is that I have the unique perspective that the system is not my answer. I can see that. I know what I am up against. I have the ability to think and reason. Many do not. They entrust themselves to this system because they have no other option. The system rapes and molests them for their medi-care and medi-cal payments for services rendered and only gives them medication for their time and trouble.

On paper everything looked great. We spent much time doing these assessments and plans of care. They even had a mission statement that read out fabulously on paper. I made my job more difficult than it should have been; I wanted to know the people and what they really wanted out of life. Many said they wanted “to be well”, “to go to school”, “to have a job” or “to get married”. These are wonderful goals for us anyone, however, they are not really measurable by mental health standards. The best that can be hoped for or achieved in this setting is a reduction in the frequency and intensity of symptoms. The goals had to measurable. If someone went to the hospital 6 times in the last 6 months, then you look to reduce that to 5 or less times in the next 6 months. It’s as simple as that for them. Lofty aspirations left me wading through red tape up to the top of my head and we all got lost in the system.
I finally got it and I finally got out.

I realized that I was kicking against the wrong brick wall to get to where I wanted to be and to move the clients toward what they wanted for their own lives. With out of control caseloads, not enough workers and set standards that are already in place, everything was being held together by a looming bureaucracy at helm and that boat is headed for troubled waters. There is no hope there, no light at the end of the tunnel and no real help. What does exist is a system that tracks and catalogs people and their troubles, provides a place for them to get medication and a way for the county to get paid for doing what it can for people. Now that I am out of the system I can see a ray of light in the sky. Actually on this side, the wall doesn’t look as tall or as thick as it seemed from the inside. I have moved on, it was the wrong wall all along. I cannot find my meaning or significance in giving my life to something that has no real value to me.

All of these situations, circumstances and very memorable events have shaped me over the years. My search for meaning and significance has led me down the road to having my own program where I call ALL the shots. I don’t ever want to see another beloved soul walking the halls of a mental institution trailing their fingers along the wall, checking the door handles and talking to people that I can neither see nor hear. Nor will I ever see another employee grab a resident by his throat and slam the resident to the ground for calling the employee the “N” word. That was horrifying. The man that called the worker the name was very, very ill. However, this is yet another problem in working with mentally ill people, the quality of the staff is just as important as the person being treated. Yesterday, I found the video of the woman that died in a waiting room in NY; it was on the news and on YouTube. Anyone who watched that video actually watched another human being die, she died right there in full view of the camera and the people that were standing or sitting around her. None of us that would have done something were there to help her. I was horrified and enraged.

This precious woman was first of all a human being! Second of all she was a mental health patient and most of all deserving of far more than she received there. What a sad testament to how our society has become so indifferent to human suffering. What a sad statement about how people with mental illness are devalued and mistreated not just in that situation but in many situations in life. If anything I hope that we could all learn something from that so that her death watched by over 3 million people as of yesterday would not be in vain.

My search for meaning and significance has turned, shifted and evolved from the starry-eyed dreams of a girl to the realistic outcomes of an adult perspective. If people are to be treated well, then someone has to make sure of it. If they are to realize whatever dreams they have in their hearts, they have to be given an opportunity to find the dream and live it out. If I am to realize my own dream, I have a lot of work ahead of me. I have some of my own struggles to overcome. With this shifting of my own dreams I have had to come to accept poverty for the time being. I am thankful that we have the money to pay the bills and buy food. My own soul must be the unleashed of frivolous pursuits. I have ceased to be what I am doing and I am learning to embrace who I am.

I would be lying if I said that I came up with all of this on my own. I was given a vision 13 years ago when I first became a Christian. At the time, still starry-eyed, I was so excited that God had given me such a worthy pursuit. I have been through many more situations that have challenged me and humbled me since then. I realize that it is perhaps the most difficult pursuit anyone could undertake. It requires extreme “GRIT” as I call it, fortitude from the not so faint at heart. I feel so incapable of doing this and so inadequate to handle the many challenges. But, that is exactly why I will do it and I won’t be able to take the credit. Everyone should know that it was only God in me that made it possible. Can you imagine? I think I am getting closer to my meaning and my significance.

My time is now. I have to stick to my guns and see this thing through. I beat myself up on the days I don’t write. The days I do write, like today, I am thinking I should be working on my book. However, I tell myself that being instead of doing is the bravest most meaningful part of the journey. I am not nearly as distracted as I would be if I were back working in one of those “dream” or “Big Time” jobs. As I search through the meaning of the past I find the future.

My search for meaning and significance is still en route. Each day as I continue my ‘think tank’ on the shelter and the book, I am growing as a person. I am learning to love and accept the being and not the doing. It is easy to get caught up in that. Having already lost what I had worked so hard for I no longer need to keep clamoring to maintain it. I live a sweet simple life. Not the one I had hoped to be living, but one of the hopes still in a better tomorrow, one of writing a book and seeing it on the shelves in the biggest book stores and on the best seller list. It is a life of the hope of taking the money from those book sales and buying the land and materials to build the shelter. It is a life of the hope in opening the doors and providing an opportunity to others to realize their hopes and dreams. This whole journey, thus far, is my search for meaning and significance.

In all that you do, ask yourself what you love most or what you really want to be doing, most of the time nothing goes according to plan. Millions of people did not plan to lose their homes when the deceit and greed of the last housing boom came crashing down around them. Most people did not plan on funding a war that went on for almost 10 years. No one figures in the loss of their job and sometimes their identity due to economic turn down. No mother planned to lose her son or daughter, no woman her husband, no man his wife, no father his children and no person their dreams. We must grow and evolve with our lives and the changing of the world around us. We must continue to fight “the good fight” in the face of a million naysayers. We must march forward without regret and even, at times, in solitude. We must never forget those events that shaped us and we must always be willing to take another chance to make our search for meaning and significance come true by realizing the dreams in our hearts.

Examine your life, figure out the meaning of it. Don’t let others tell you what that meaning is, know the meaning of your life is in your “being”. Don’t live a life of “quiet desperation”; never let anyone tell you what you should be doing or what your value is. “Doing” will not bring the satisfaction of knowing your meaning in life. Your significance is in the gifts you possess and your expression of those gifts in the lives of others, whether that is with your family (who could be more important?) or strangers. We are all a part of the family of human beings. Our lives have become lost in “doing”, achieving and striving. We become over run by our responsibilities and are drowning in the sea of what this world is trying to tell us to be and what we need to have in order to be significant.

Part of my dream is to see the return of community. I hope to inspire a whole generation to consider their fellow man, to move towards one another instead of away. So, that in the end, if a woman falls to the ground in an emergency room that someone would rush to her side and unleash a wrath of fury until someone paid attention. My hope is to give an entire population something that the world would not give them; the help they need to discover their purpose, to be loved for who they are and to respect them so that they can respect themselves. I want to teach them that their worth and value is not because of what they are “doing”, but because of who they are and the gifts that they hold inside them. All people are my brother or my sister and I am in essence their keeper. As a person who understands a couple of life’s mysteries I have the obligation to use what I have to make a difference in the lives of the people around me.

That is where my search has brought me so far. Where will your search begin and end? How much more time will you let pass you by before you realize that your meaning is in your “being” and not in your doing? Will you “go to your grave with your song still in you” or will you stop to hear the song inside you so that you can bring it to the world? Take some time to reflect. Change the things you can change now and know those things that you cannot change. Take courage to change what you can and find resolve within yourself when you find the wisdom to know the difference. Find out what your true meaning is, develop your significance in expressing your gifts to the world and don’t be afraid to change to adapt to the world around you.

You are indeed the captain of your own destiny. You are the great dreamer with the will and know how to achieve that dream. Believe in yourself for who you are. You are valuable, lovable and precious just the way you are today. There may be areas of your life that need adjustment, but you will get to those in time. This is the journey we are all on. Take time to enjoy your journey. Let your gifts loose on the world and find your peace in “being” who you are. Love yourself and care for yourself, so that you can love and care for others. If you don’t know how, you can figure it out. I have confidence in all of you. But, don’t be satisfied, if you really aren’t and don’t be content with doing something that doesn’t make you feel alive. Keep striving and keep fighting for the battle is worth the outcome. The outcome may just be the discovery of your true self, learning to embrace and express your gifts and living out your dreams.

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News Update…

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My husband has agreed to critique my writing. He will be adding his comments, using stickers and stars and has been instructed to write A++ on all my posts he reads. what a good an wonderful husband. I let him know that I will be sending my writing to my Aunt Francis from here on out for her thoughts on them. She was my writing mentor as a teen-ager. She is a really great lady that really believed in me. I look forward to sending my installments off to her and getting her input.
When I was a kid, she said she would interview me when I got my PHd. Maybe I can talk her into interviewing me when my first book comes out.
My next installment will be entitled “Pain and Mutilation for Beauty and Toddler’s In Terra’s”. Look for that over the next couple of days.
Any other activities I was doing trying to make money online are done… tired of being jerked around and need to focus on my writing. I still have my non-profit. United in Truth and Love which I have a website for, a blog and a fan page. Please visit those is you like. The book I am writing will have partial posts on my Homeless In Middle America Blog.

A Big Fish In A Big Pond

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The other day I was thinking about life in general and what my various options for the near future might be. I love to write. It has always been my first passion. As long as I can remember, I have been reading and writing. When I was in grade school I would practice my spelling words over and over exceeding the expected amount of times as I was also trying to perfect my handwriting. I started keeping a daily journal when I was 13. Thank-God most of those were lost in a horrible storm over 15 years ago. I was tremendously unsophisticated when I was younger and other than trying to recall a few key events in my life with a date attached, I wouldn’t really find those journals useful. I’ll just have to use my memory.

Now, when I am trying to write, with a specific purpose in mind, I am not satisfied with my performance. I lack the focus and dedication it takes to complete the manuscript I would like to be working on. Long gone are the days of college writing where a topic and research were easily at hand and an A always returned on the paper. I am famous, to myself, for great starts that dwindle quickly as the wave of ideas rushing through my mind play themselves out and something happens; I’m not sure if it is just writer’s block or if, ultimately, I decide that it just ‘sounded’ like a good idea.

I started writing my blog so that I would develop the habit of writing every day or almost every day. I do enjoy the freedom of writing about ideas that are immediately pertinent to me. Writing in short doses allows me to run my idea out in full force until exhausted and then move on to the next ‘big’ idea. Publishing is nearly instant. Those are the perks.
I have been reading a number of blogs lately as well. There are many good writers out there and people who have these amazing blogs with pictures even. There are all sorts of wonderful, creative, colorful and appealing sites. I have also been looking at a number of different, supposed, online jobs and work from home opportunities. I tried a few and it began to all look futile as I saw the sheer number of people attempting to market various items and ‘opportunities’ through the internet. I began to wonder if I was just “a small fish in a big pond”, as the saying goes.

To top it off, one day last week, I had to go take an intelligence test. Many years ago when we studied these diagnostic tools in college, I quickly developed a loathing distaste for IQ and Personality Tests. Outdated, antiquated and biased. That is how I found these tools of my chosen profession. How could you just ask a bunch of questions and think you know anything about a person? All you really know is how they answered a set of questions on a certain day. These tests were standardized in order to keep the bias of the test administrator’s perceptions and thoughts at bay. Intentions may not always equal the intended outcome. It is a diagnostic tool, although it has been portrayed as something of a bench-mark for those that score in the highest levels at the 160 to 200 range. Those people are called geniuses or profoundly gifted; I really don’t think they are diagnosed as geniuses. Anyone scoring under 90 is diagnosed as mentally retarded or mentally disabled at varying degrees to a score of 1 which would be profound mental disability. From the perspective of seeing many people over the years embrace their diagnosis as an identity, I simply cannot condone these barbaric and uncivilized practices. I am not saying I am either one of these extremes, although I may have qualified on either end at different points in my life. I am only saying that a test does not dictate who I am as a person or a citizen of this country or as a child of God. It shouldn’t for any human being. I am ultimately no greater and no less than any other human being.
The test I took was the WAIS IV (4). Also known as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. “Wechsler believed that intelligence involved a number of different mental abilities, describing intelligence as, ‘the global capacity of a person to act purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his environment’.” (; “History of Intelligence Testing: The History and Development of Modern IQ Testing” By Kendra Cherry) (I Googled that. See what you can find out with Google. I mean I love the guy that made Google.) (This is a free add encouraging people to Google facts they don’t know so they can find them out.)

One result that The Doctorate (pronounced Dr. to those who don’t know that he has a Doctorate Degree in Clinical Psychology and is not a Doctor that went to medical school) proudly announced to me was that I scored average in verbal comprehension skills (on the verbal comprehension Index); I knew instantly that this test was everything I always hated. I was really very pissed off. This sense of indignant irritation rose up in me and it threatened to overwhelm me. I cannot let a test or anyone else tell me who I am. Isn’t it hard enough already? Don’t we already have to wade through a tremendous amount of bull crap and insanity just to survive, let alone thrive?

Confidence or at least believing it is worth an attempt is what we need to have to overcome the many adversities of life and even success. Unprecedented success only happens to 5% of the population. YIKES!!! Without confidence it is very hard to go above all odds and accomplish the seemingly impossible. Did anyone ever do anything great without first having the confidence to even try? I decided to not let that effect what I believe. I know what the real purpose of that test was. I presume it didn’t make me out to be mentally incapacitated nor a genius, as I am still in my own home with my family and not locked up in some facility nor have I been propelled to star status by scoring a perfect 200 or above 200 which would have made me an ‘immeasurable’ genius whatever that is. I have decided to move forward from there. By the way, does anyone know who the president was during the Civil War? I think I got that one wrong. The correct answer should have been, “let me Google that…” and then answer with whatever my search turned up. There is one thing I can assure you of, if I don’t know the answer I can find out.
What we believe about ourselves is so intensely important. If I do not believe I can change the world, then how could I do it? If I don’t believe I can write a book that will become a best seller or at least a contender, then why would I write it in the first place? If I don’t believe I have a voice, then why would I ever speak out?

My background is an ugly one. I have always thought that my past, psychologically speaking, would qualify me for a one way ticket to the basement of a nut house in a strait-jacket biting off my own lips or on death row for being a serial killer. Now, that is graphic and I do apologize for that, but however, it remains a potentially realistic truth to me. It is, in fact, my greatest fear. That is why I can’t let the facts dictate my fate; I must be the captain of my own destiny. A point on the serial killer thing, I have never wanted to actually harm anyone… the thought is incomprehensible to me I believe that is why I hurt myself and not others. I was just making a broad assessment based on psychiatric practices. The FBI does not need to show up at my house. OKAY? Okay.
There were certain times in my life that I thought I would never make it through. There have been certain events that challenged me so completely that I was left feeling utterly lost. I have these oscillating times in my life. There are phases where I am going so strong that it seems nothing can stand in my way and periods of despair so deep that I have lost the will to live. I have prayed fervently for God to take me home, because I know I can’t’ commit suicide and I just don’t know how to move forward. For all the begging I have done in my life for help, there has never been anyone there except my mother, cheering me on and telling me that I am special and wonderful which makes her so very proud.

The psychiatric community, on the other hand, would label me as Bi-Polar, Depressed, suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. If I left my life up to them, it wouldn’t be any kind of life at all. It’s bad enough with the medications that I am on that make me really sick if I don’t take them. I managed to survive. This encouragement from my mother in spite of all the failures I saw in my life is how I survived multiple attempts to take my own life before becoming a Christian. Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Counselors are out of the budget most of the time. I paid $90.00 an hour, every week for 6 weeks and then every two weeks after that for 6 months one time for counseling. The lady was amazing and she seemed to be the only one that really ever helped. However, on top of that, I paid $95.00 a month to see a Psychiatrist. Then there were the medications which I paid cash for after I lost my insurance. Finally, the financial stress became too great for me to bear. Now I get the same substandard care I came to hate when I worked for county mental health. Things that make you go “hmmm”.

I would like to make an important point here, contrary to popular belief, discovering religion is not a cure nor is it an excuse for any behavior or rationale. Since becoming a Christian I have had many low times. Yet, I still survived many bouts of begging and pleading to God for Him to take me home, but I haven’t harmed myself in years. I actually just emerged from one of these times. I may have a harder time than some, but life in general is very tough, not for the faint at heart. I don’t know any follower of Christ that lives an easy life. Sometimes being a Christian can make things more difficult because you must choose between doing what is popular and doing what is right. Many times the journey is worth the battle. In the end I am stronger, smarter and more aware of many things that I hadn’t considered in the past. I will take the road with God, He walks with me there.

After spending the last year struggling, not well physically and staying 5 months in a homeless shelter, bed bugs and all, everything finally took a toll on me. Arriving back here to California in April I began feeling more depressed and in despair. My grandson was born since then which has helped tremendously. My outlook has improved, but I am still wondering what I will do with the next few months of my life. I know what I want to eventually do, open a homeless shelter of my own, but not knowing what to do next can be depressing. Especially when all my attempts to find a job have failed and I have interviewed and been rejected for a NUMBER of volunteer non-profit positions with an organization that would enable me to eventually pay to go back to school.

During this process I decided to start writing my blog. It helped me feel better to know I needed to get up and do something every day. I also started writing the initial information and program for the non-profit that I would have one day before I fully came out my depression. I also started my book. Yet, I remain distracted by poverty and life circumstances.

I have difficulties like everyone else. I have always been transparent about my struggles. I know the mistakes I have made. I have gone back and forth into Church, while people I know have remained faithful. I’ve had several relapses in my battle with alcohol and drugs, the latest being last year. I have been married three times and my two youngest children live with their fathers. I just got a call yesterday from my youngest son that his father and brother were mistreating him which has sent me into a tail-spin of what to do about this. I am not in the situation to take him back to live with me and it pains my soul to no end. To hear him crying is like a stab in the heart. Regret and guilt consume me for letting him go to live with his dad in the first place.

I watch my oldest son indulge in alcohol and smoking pot, which were the drugs of my choice. He offered me a margarita like three times last night. I finally told him, “I am a Nazarene. I don’t drink alcohol or do drugs”. He replied, “Then why do you drink coffee, eat sugar and smoke cigarettes? I thought people who say they are Nazarene don’t do those things?” He had a valid point. However, I know myself too well. One drink for me can lead to many and I have to abstain completely or it just goes from bad to worse. To top it off I missed a prayer meeting to take care of the baby so they could drink. That wasn’t a good enough reason for me to miss, obviously I NEED TO GO, but I had committed myself to it before I realized what day it was or what I was supposed to be doing.

I see the legacy my father left for his children; all but one of 9 children have had alcohol abuse issues and also drugs. One is in San Quentin Prison for life I believe and I don’t know why exactly. My father went to his grave an alcoholic. He drank until the very last day when he was admitted to the hospital for something more serious, I believe in the end it was Prostate Cancer, but I will never know for sure. Regret and guilt attempt to take a further hold on me for what I have left so far to my children. But, I refuse to yield to their power and I move forward.

Life has not been easy and poor decisions have ruled the last 30 years of my life. I have made some really good decisions in the recent past and one of those has been to keep going on matter what.

Since 1997, the one thing that has remained constant is my relationship with God. That has pulled me through every single time. I believe that it was God’s love for me that ultimately did not allow me to die the many times I tried to end my own life. I was an atheist or agnostic for the most part and a New Age Spiritualist for a good 10 years. I didn’t give Him the time of day let alone allow the possibility of His existence in my own mind. When I realized He loved me, yes little old me so very much and I missed it I cried tears of joy and sorrow at the same time. I have never regretted that decision. The greatest question of all is that if I am not here for some great reason, some purpose greater than my own being, then why am I here? Why have I endured such a grueling life?

I have come to realize that what I believe is infinitely far more important than what the world would want me to believe or what some test would label me as. For all the hardship and pain that I have endured through the years I can say it has made me stronger, more sensitive to others and more compassionate.
My last boss told me I was too compassionate. It enraged me and made me intensely hate her. I could not stand the fact that I was angry and hated her. I was in constant conflict. But, if that were true, if I am too compassionate, then it didn’t matter whether or not the woman who was dying of end stage colon cancer got to go stay with her daughter and grandchildren during her last few months on this Earth. It also didn’t matter that the woman who was being abused by the man she lived with finally got help. It was only by my continual insistence on it. I worked tirelessly and the doctors at the hospital ended up hating to hear my name. The agreement to hospitalize her was made a couple of months later after I had already gone on stress leave the first time.

If those two women could say what it meant to them, I don’t think either one would say that I was too compassionate or worked too hard to help them. The woman that eventually went to the hospital may hate me. However, the real possibility of her dying or being killed was avoided. Her mother was finally allowed to feel the relief of knowing that her daughter was getting proper care. Everyone said she was just a drug addict and a prostitute. But, I saw a daughter, a mother and a woman that was very ill no matter what anyone else thought. I will never know. I am sorry that Dawn Milton believed that about me. I am not sorry that I did what it took to make what seemed right happen. I never will be. That was worth more than any dollar amount that would have been collected for my services. It turns out that doing the right thing can’t always be billed to insurance. That ended up being a big deal. The day I returned from stress leave I was written up. Yeah, those are times I don’t care to repeat. By the way, when I finally quit the county, I got a letter letting me know that for the last 6 to 9 years, there was a person in accounting that had stolen many people’s identities and had used them to gain credit. I worked for that unit just over a year. You mean she never got written up? Things that make you go, ‘hmmm”.

So, after considering all of these events over the last couple of weeks, I decided that I am A Big Fish in a Big Pond. There may be other big fish, but the pond is big enough for us all. Everyone has their talents; their gifts from God. That makes each and every one of us valuable and indispensable in this world. We each have something to give and it is ours to find out what that something is.

I will never let anyone tell me I am average at anything. My life has never been average and it never will be. I plan to replace as many non-average bad events that have happened to me with as many above average good events as I can. I believe that should be my compensation for living through what I have lived through. I plan to go for each and every dream in my heart and to make a difference in this world and keep making a difference until the day I die. I have come to this commitment with much thought, tears, joy and revelation.

So, to ‘The Doctorate’ who sits in a chair all day, he can keep giving his outdated tests. I rudely reminded him that he went to school for a very long time, 9 years, to just be giving these tests all day. I could have given myself that test and any other person that needed it. Can I say, it doesn’t take a genius to give you and IQ test? What I said to him was, “It seems like someone with that much education should be doing so much more”. Oh wow, when I write that out it seems even ruder than when I said it. Well, I would apologize to him but I will never see him again. I know he has worked hard to get where he is and is more than qualified to make the amount of money he does. He is an older man and he seems to enjoy his job, it doesn’t seem stressful. I am sure that he will do that as long as he can and many more will sit in the chair that I sat in. If that makes him happy, I am happy for him. His test however, can take a flying leap into oblivion exactly where it belongs.

I am A Big Fish In A Big Pond!

I have opportunities, ideas and worth! I am infinitely valuable to God! I am the apple of His eye! He has given me a life with a plan and a purpose! I have a voice! I have a story to tell! I have a gift for writing! My grammar may not be perfect all the time, but I know enough to know that it makes sense in the end. I am who I say I am, not what the world tries to tell me about who I am. I will never lead a life of quiet desperation and I will not go to my grave with my song still in me. (In opposition to the quote, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them” – Henry David Thoreau) I will lead a life that is full, intentional and purposeful. That is not positive thinking it is survival!

I am A Big Fish In A Big Pond!

NOTE: Editing and grammar correction by the girl with the average score in verbal comprehension skills and Crayola Crayon in RED. (I couldn’t find my pen!)

Pain in the Soul

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Many people are unaware that we are a tri-part being. This means we have a body, a soul (which is our mind, will and emotions) and a spirit. Although these parts are separate and distinct we are one whole being. It’s like an egg with its shell, whites and yoke. It goes without saying that we are infinitely much more complex than an egg, but the analogy in demonstrative.

Our soul is where the battle rages. It is the battle for sanity, for recognition, acceptance, to feel good about ourselves and to feel loved. That is a battle that is lost for many. We are stronger than we will ever know. However, if you don’t know and accept your power, you will never feel powerful. Knowledge is power. It is when we are kept ignorant of facts and concepts that we lose the battle. We become a slave to our emotions and it seems that our reasoning and will no longer have a say. We feel trapped, caged and powerless. This is the saddest of all human conditions.

Most everyone carries a scar of emotional pain. When we are harmed by another, a scar is wrenched in our emotions, in our soul. Those emotions can sometimes be so overpowering that we cannot break loose and break free from the pain and it seems to permeate us. We become encased by it and often feel that we can’t do anything but try and stop the pain. Suicide, addictions and other harmful behavior become a way of life for many. It is a tragedy that plays out in the lives of many people each day.

Where knowledge is, there is power. It can bring freedom to the soul from certain attacks against it or even the enslavement of powerful emotions that we hold deep inside. Powerful emotions are what they are and sometimes we must just process the pain for a while in order to let the intensity subside. However, there must come a time when we can interject our mind and will to become an overcomer. Prolonged periods of intense emotional pain are deadly.
The serenity prayer is a powerful tool in dealing with emotional pain because it helps us to remember the key to dealing with ourselves, others and circumstances in our lives that we feel powerless over.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

There are many things we cannot change. The list is so long it would take from now until forever to list them all. That is the kind of news not everyone likes to hear. We would love to change family members, bosses, co-workers, systems and many other things that I will tell you right now that you can’t do anything about. It is our job as the owner of our body, soul and spirit to become knowledgeable. To put our mind to use in knowing what we can change and what we cannot change.

First of all in evaluating what we can change… it is important to note that we can try to influence people but we cannot change them. Influence is different from control. Many people try to control other people. Some are not even aware that this is what they are trying to do. It is a horrible feeling to know that someone is trying to control you. We will rebel eventually towards that person. We may even initially rebel against them and stay away from them completely which is, by the way, an example of what we CAN change.

That is the first step, to realize that there are circumstances and people that we cannot change. What we can change is whether or not we have contact or interaction with that person or continue to expose ourselves to that circumstance. The best choice is often to make the choice to remove yourself from that person’s presence or that circumstance and never return. People who are controlling like that are interested in control; they are not interested in you so much. So, it doesn’t really matter if they say they love you, what they love is that they can control you and both of you have misinterpreted that for love. A controlling person is only interested in whether they can control you. Let that person fly away and you walk the other direction. A controlling person will steal your soul and therefore your power. It is such an ugly way to be towards others. The only real control we have in our lives is over ourselves. What you do with yourself is that most important thing to understand and remember. That is where the ‘wisdom to know the difference’ becomes so profound.

So, we can’t control other people and what we can control is our choices and actions. That is good news. It means that you can disconnect yourself from the people that are hurting you, no matter how painful that is. It is either leave or continue to suffer through the pain. If you chose to stay, know that is a choice you are making. They are not making you stay, you CHOSE to stay. If you can’t accept that you have choices and the power over those choices then you remain powerless. If you want to become powerful take ownership of your choices. This is inevitably the only thing you can own and control.

If there are people or situations in your life that you feel powerless over, go get a piece of paper and a pen. Write down each of those things. Then write down how those things make you feel. Decide if you can change them or not. Be really honest here because this could be your moment of freedom. You can rip this up and throw it away after you are done, no one has to see this; it is for you.

Now let’s evaluate:

Can you change it?

Do you need to accept that you cannot change it?

What can you do for YOU to make a change within yourself?

Are you hurting others with your choices? If you wouldn’t want something to be done to you don’t do that to other people. Otherwise you throw yourself into this equation and your name may be on someone else’s list. Change is possible only if you believe you have the power to change. Forgive yourself because before this you weren’t aware. Ask other’s for forgiveness, if they can’t give it now that’s ok and they will have to work that out on their own.

Write down the serenity prayer and read it every day until it gets into your mind and you can come to own what already belongs to you.

The second part of the prayer is up to you to take. I know some people are Christian or religious and some are not. Once again that is a choice we all make. I am not telling you to make a choice so you can take it or not. I find that it helps me. This prayer has helped me through thick and thin. I focus on the first part because it is the first step in freedom. I believe the second part is a second step for many.

Now, make the choice to stop hurting others and yourself. Make the decision to get help if you need it. Get out the phone book and make one call. Talk to someone about it. Take ownership of what you can change and give the problem back to those who deserve to own that for themselves. If you can make one choice, one change today it can change the rest of your life.

Love Yourself By Louise L. Hay

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Today has been such a difficult day. Today I had to think about all the crappy stuff that has happened in the last two years. It leaves me feeling so angry and helpless. I have so much anger towards the people that have made my life difficult. Most of them I have gotten away from and I never have to look back. Others I have to live with everyday.
So, a NORMAL day, not like today… I don’t think about those things. I think about what is positive, up-lifting hopeful and full of joy.

So, today I found this on my wall and I wanted to share this with you all. This is how life is sometimes, it can leave us feeling drained and defeated. But, loving yourself is the first step to a number of great things in our lives. So, I share this with you all.

Remember, loving ourselves has nothing to do with vanity or arrogance—these emotions are only expressions of fear. When we love ourselves, we cherish and appreciate the wondrous beings that we are. Loving ourselves creates a life of joy and fulfillment.

It’s hard for other people to love you when you don’t love yourself. Even if someone else does love you, you’re most likely to discount it by wondering, How could they love me? What do they see in me? When you don’t love yourself, it’s hard to believe that you deserve good things in life. Therefore, you miss out on the abundance that’s available to you.

If you find it difficult or scary to accept love and to let love into your life, it’s only because you haven’t been willing to love you. Open your heart to yourself and it will become easier to let others love you. Stand up now, open your arms wide, and say out loud, “I’m willing to let the love flow!”

You might say, “I do love myself,” and that may be true. But how much more could you love yourself? Look around in your life and see where you’re lacking love. Look at your relationships, your work, your finances, your health, and your ability to express yourself creatively in ways that are fulfilling to you. If any of these areas are lacking, then you need to love yourself more.

Stop criticizing yourself—now and forevermore. Love and accept yourself as you are right now. When you do, you’ll blossom in ways that you can’t even imagine. Love will heal you, I promise. Your love for yourself will work miracles in your life.

Louise L. Hay

The Chameleon and The Butterfly

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These two would be an odd couple if paired together and honestly the chameleon would eat the butterfly, so that’s not really where we are going in this comparison. Not only are they very different as far as species goes, there are also some very profound differences in their development from conception to adulthood.

Let us consider here some of the very key characteristics of each one. Those differences are so unique that they are profound and worth taking into account. We should, for all intents and purposes, skip over the obvious and move straight to the point.

First, the Chameleon has the ability to change its appearance to match the surroundings in its environment. So strange a feat yet, it is what ultimately allows it to survive. If it cannot be seen, it cannot be eaten. Apparently they are quite tasty to birds and other animals. In the animal kingdom survival is the key.

The Butterfly, on the other hand also uses camouflage, but mostly in its second developmental phase as the larvae or caterpillar. The Caterpillar spends and inordinate amount of time devouring leaves. So for the most part it is the same color as the leaves, but not always. Apparently caterpillars can be quite nasty tasting in some cases so that also helps them to be left alone.

From many different species, genus, families, orders classes, phylum, kingdoms and domains there are many similarities that ring true in principle and can transcend the order set forth in differentiating among the creatures on Earth. Nature is a great gift that we as humans will do well in preserving, because it is the interaction of all of these phenomena that makes life in general possible. We also do well in preserving one another, because there is always a part of us that is dead if we are not social.

However, for our point here the two differences that we will pin point is that; 1) the Chameleon changes color to blend in with its environment; and 2) The Butterfly goes through three distinct stages of development and undergoes a very dramatic change that we seldom see elsewhere in the world in general.

Many people can mimic the characteristic of changing (not their color so to speak) but their personality to fit in with their surroundings. Human behavior is so complex that it would be impossible to cover the more specific dynamics for this purpose, but to make the point; many people do this to survive socially.

There are people who in fact may not have a true identity of their own because they must change in so many ways in so many different settings. This is a tragedy. We have been created uniquely as have many other species. However, survival in social circles is critical to our being. As with many other species we are social creatures. Cultural, socio-economic, familial, educational and environmental factors merge with our genetics and sometimes the song that emerges is of tragedy and sometimes it is a symphony. Having said that, our intelligence and ability to transform ourselves can transcend such barriers and as a human being we can have tremendous power over our life.

Secondly, let us consider the butterfly. The butterfly starts out as a caterpillar and through one of the most unique and stupefying feats enters a cocoon and emerges an altogether different looking creature than the one it started out as.

When we parallel the life of the butterfly to our own lives, we can make the association to our own path in life. We may start out in life as something we did not choose to be, in a place we wouldn’t want to be and in situations and circumstances that we wouldn’t choose, even if somehow we may have some type of reward for putting ourselves there on purpose.
However, there is something greater to observe, that is, what the butterfly will become is what it will become. No one can stop that process. If we as humans interfere with the butterfly’s developmental process it will die. We would do well in taking this to heart when dealing with our fellow man. Left to nature the butterfly will emerge a beautiful winged creature that spreads those wings once it emerges from its pupa. In fact the wings must be spread to dry. If that process is impeded the butterfly will have crumpled wings and will not be able to fly dooming it to death as well.

Finally, Each one of us has a path, a developmental process that we must go through and emerge from. At any point along that path it would do us well to remember that we are all on that path and do even better to not interfere with another’s development; just as we should have the courtesy to develop unencumbered. As the human race, if we think about these points we can become aware of these processes in our fellow men and allow and encourage a person’s path and development. There are many crushed and broken souls in this world. But, those souls have hope as they have not yet emerged and can enter into their pupa and heal. While encased in a protective coating that is unaffected by the outside world the can receive healing and change. Once made whole that person can emerge spread their wings and fly into their destiny. Unlike the butterfly, we may have several of these pupa stages in our lives. It is our healing; it is our solace form the world around us.

The story of the butterfly is so beautiful and the parallel to our human path so profound.
If you are wounded and hurting build your pupa and heal. Decide that you will be what you were created to be. When you emerge and your wings have dried know that once you can fly you can easily escape many troubles that may come your way. Not only that, you can move about unencumbered by the inhabitants of the ground, the earth dwellers, soul killers and beasts. As you fly high in the air soaring in your destiny your freedom will be apparent to everyone. Just as we may catch a glimpse of a butterfly passing by our own way and marvel at its beauty, let us encourage and comfort one another in healing and developing into being all we were created to be. Let us marvel at the sight of our own soaring and do the same for others.

You can be a chameleon, ever changing and never knowing who you truly are eating up and all the caterpillars and various creatures. Or you can choose to become a butterfly. The most important concept to remember is that you are the one who has that power. Don’t give that power away to anyone else; guard it as you would your most precious belonging because it is. We only have one life to live. Spread your wings and fly butterfly for the entire world to see.