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Monthly Archives: January 2009

“The tragedy of life is what dies in the hearts and souls of people while they live.”  Albert Einstein

Isn’t that the truth? First of all, think about when you were a child. You had a sense of wonder about everything, because everything was new to you. Children believe in things that adults often don’t, because no one (yet) told them not to. As a child, we are trusting. We will smile at someone that adults would turn away from. We have not yet learned prejudice, judgement, or fear. Children are accepting. They will be a friend to those that the world scorns.

As a child, we are always learning, always asking questions, and always wanting to know more. There is simply not enough time to understand all we want to grasp.

Children have an innocence–a purity that is like freshly fallen snow.  And in that innocence there is such a freedom, to be who they are. The world quickly tries to steal that.

And think about the magic of dreams. As a teenager, we think we can do anything, be anything. The whole world lies before us, and it’s a time when we refuse to face our own mortality, because we feel completely immortal, and invincible. While it may not always be the wisest thing, perhaps it is necessary to see ourselves this way, in order to propel us forward into all that the future holds.

As a young adult, we do not fear extreme sickness or death. That only happens to old people, and we are vital and strong, full of hope and anticipation–ready to conquer the world.

Love is an ethereal thing, a feeling of pure ecstasy and passion. We think it will last forever, and throw all caution to the wind. We are not measured with our feelings, or careful with our show of affection. We simply blurt out “I Love You” every chance we get, and blow kisses on the wind.

So when did all this change? When did we become jaded about life? When did we cease to believe in childhood fantasies? When did we stop smiling at the outcasts of society, and start turning and running away? When did we stop trusting? When did we lose our sense of wonder and amazement about life? Who took our innocence? When did we begin to fear, and start to focus on our limitations?  When did words of love become fewer and fewer? When was passion replaced with indifference? (Which by the way, is truly worse than hatred.) When did we become cautious and guarded? When did we lose our dreams?

There is a time to grow up and mature–a time to put away childish things, but there is never a time to discard our childlikeness. We cannot even enter the Kingdom of Heaven (according to Jesus) unless we become like a little child.  He said “Of such is the Kingdom of God.”

I challenge you today– don’t let these things die, while you still live. Let a sense of awe remain in your heart all the days of your life. Be innocent and pure, without prejudice or arrogance. Don’t lose your childhood sense of freedom.  Be accepting of those that the world rejects. Crave Godly knowledge, for there is always something new to learn right up until your last breath (and even beyond.) Don’t be afraid to express your love, and do it today, because you are not promised tomorrow.

Believe in your inner strength. You can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens you. He tells us that as our days are, so shall our strength be. Always sufficient strength and grace for each new day–whatever we may face. Do not fear, but walk in faith.

Keep dreaming, keep trusting, keep believing! Keep searching for the Truth with all your heart and soul. Refuse to let these things die.  And while the way may be rough at times (as surely it will be) it will never be said that your life was tragic, because you truly lived each day, and knew what it was to be free…

In a recent post to a blog friend of mine, I reminded him of the importance of keeping a sense of wonder and amazement at the world around us. That’s why it’s so much fun to be with children.  They are not jaded by life; they are full of excitement, because everything is new to them.

As adults, we have to fight to keep that wonder, and to not view life as a continual rerun. Each day can have at least a moment of awe. It’s about finding the sacred in the simple things–the extraordinary in the ordinary. It’s there, if we’ll look for it.

Just because we’re getting older (and who isn’t?) doesn’t mean that we have to lose our sense of amazement at the world around us. Yes, there is the loneliness, pain, and grief, but there is also a blue sky, the wind, and the night stars. Don’t miss them for even a moment.

I was looking at the water one night recently, and the navy blue sky above it, when I noticed just one bright, twinkling star, shining as if even the moon didn’t exist.

There is so much competition in this world, so many ways to feel inadequate or overlooked, and yet we can shine for all we’re worth (like that star), and bring light to our corner of the world. The sky may be dark, but it just makes our light seem that much brighter.

Keep shining!

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”  Robert Frost

Choices…Did you ever stop to think how one choice can change your whole life?  Sometimes it’s who you marry…or who you don’t.  Sometimes it’s a choice of career, or where you choose to live at any given time of your life.  All the dots are waiting to be connected, but a single choice makes a decidedly different picture.

Perhaps there truly are no coincidences in life, only choices.  And a thousand solitary choices make the whole of life. And not necessarily the apparent “big” choices.  Sometimes a small choice can make a huge difference. Like who you sit by on a bus, or what car you choose to get into.

To some degree, for those of us who believe in God, we have hoped deep in our hearts, that if we are straying too far from the path, God (in his mercy) would gently lead us back, until the original road resumed. I pray that is true.

But I believe that there are roads to be chosen, that will only lead us farther and farther away from our destiny. However, we are free to choose.  How many lives have been derailed by such a choice?  How many books are not written because of that, and how many songs unsung?  How many children are never born, and how many dreams are never realized?

A lot hinges on our choices then, doesn’t it?  Best that we should pray that the Holy Spirit would lead and guide us, and not ourselves. For we do not always choose the right path, left to our own desires. Our choices are clouded by longing, ego, selfishness, and immaturity (no matter our age.) And sometimes we don’t even realize the seriousness of our choices, for they may mean sorrow or joy, success or failure, or even life and death.

The less traveled path was clearly the best choice for Frost. He said that it had made all the difference.

In order to fulfill our dreams, we may have to let go of the predictable–the well-worn paths that are so familiar to us. The unknown often brings fear, simply because it is so uncharted and mysterious. (Sometimes we fool  ourselves into thinking that the demons we already know are safer. But such is not always the case.)

A quote that I read lately seemed to fit my present situation in life. It said: “We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell

And I clearly remember that John Lennon wrote: “Life is what happens while we are making plans.”

At times, the choice is to choose to give up our “plans.” Sometimes we pull so hard on the rope, that fate lets go of its end. We’re left with what we think we want, but not what was meant to be. Are we willing to let go of our predictable life, just on the chance that there might be something more awaiting us?

Many times we choose the safe, secure path, but perhaps my most favorite quote says: “A sailboat in harbor is safe, but that’s not what sailboats are for.” Sailboats gotta sail. Fish gotta swim. And each of us has a destiny, if we’ll just get out of the way. Stop holding on too tightly to what feels safe and secure, and venture out into the open sea.

I am crazy enough to believe that an exciting life awaits me, if I will stop being fearful. The older I get, the less I have to lose, and that alone will make me more adventurous and more of a risk taker. Isn’t life and love all about risk anyway? There are certainly no guarantees, except that you can lead a sheltered, wrapped in a knit shawl existence, and die without a moment of excitement, though completely safe and secure.

Getting older has its virtues. It makes you more aware of time, and of all the things you’ve not yet done. That may be the secret to youth, if we’ll just hold onto it–to live every moment, and to become more daring with each passing year. To constantly try something new and adventuresome, without calculating every reason why we shouldn’t.

But seek above all, to be led by the Spirit. God is always speaking to us, but we are not always listening, or we may not recognize His voice. We can only know His voice, by knowing Him. He will show us the way, if our hearts are just open to His leading, for it is He who has planned our destiny.

He will lead us to the road less traveled that will make all the difference.  But in the end, the choice is ours…

My mother’s shadow still looms large in my life, even now. The pain in my heart from all that has transpired never leaves. And still I love her, as I always have. When I feel too sad, I remind myself of the things she said, and how she made me feel.

I love her, and I miss her, but I know that this cannot be fixed. I can never go back to that situation, but the ache in my heart never leaves.  I cared for her, as if she were my child the past 3 1/2 years, and it is impossible not to feel the loss of our togetherness. It’s almost like I lost a limb, and daily feel the phantom pain, of a part that is no longer with me. But I could no longer survive the heartache, pressure, or pain that came with loving her. And now, I grieve her absence like a death.

I wonder if my life would have been vastly different, if I had moved away from her many years ago, so that she could not influence my life in the ways that she  has. She moved away from me once, but not all that far. She and my step-dad journeyed to a small seaside town (where we still live), to try their hand at deep sea fishing, after a lifetime of  hard work  for both of them. They were not successful, because the fishermen were a tight knit group, and they greatly resented anyone honing in on their territory.  And it was much harder work than they had imagined. (But much like our venture with the Christian coffeehouse, it was something they wanted to do, and never regretted trying.)

I was married to Gary then, (my first husband), and times were rough for us. We were attempting to make a living at singing (our dream) but it was very difficult, and finances and jobs were tight. I had talked my husband into trying it, because he would come home every day from the gypsum factory, where he worked, covered in a white powdery substance, that couldn’t be good for his lungs. He was a fairly good guitar player, and loved to sing. I did also.  So we decided to give it a try. We were young, and anything was possible then.

Eventually, we made our way to my parents’ home, and for a very short while, lived with them, until we could afford a small, very “bare bones” apartment. We were not that difficult to please, and could make a home most anywhere. We were of the generation where material things were not the highest goal, and we were more of a mind to pursue our dreams.

But that is not my story tonight. I am just wondering what my life might have been like, had I not followed my mom here. But I think that it wouldn’t have made much difference, because Atlanta is not far away enough, to change the dynamics between us. And besides, if I had not moved here, I would never have met Rob, or married him.

 I became my mother’s shadow. For the longest time, I embraced her very thoughts. She did not look favorably on disagreeing with her opinions. They were not just her opinions–they were the right ones. I absorbed her take on things (like a sponge) for many years.

But as I grew older, I realized that I did not at all think  like she did. I was a very different person. I was much more conservative (eventually). (I think one has to mature into conservatisim.) I was much less confident, less rebellious, more sensitive, and much less daring.

As an adult, I can still remember being very concerned about what my mother would think about things. This influenced the way I would dress when I was around her, the way I wore my hair, and sometimes the things I did. (Not always.)

I think what I disliked the most, was her criticism. She was (and is) very vocal if she doesn’t like something, and she doesn’t seem to care if it’s none of her business, or if her comments will hurt. I therefore, seemed to always be trying to avoid her displeasure. I would always try to keep the peace. If she was mad about something, then I was too. I tried to come to her defense,  or to support her in her rage, but often I couldn’t understand why she would get so upset and hyper about some things.  She would often hold a grudge. I thought she was being childish, but I never said so. (As long as her disapproval was not directed at me, I was thankful.)

But I could never expect any such support from her. She could never seem to see my side of most any situation. I longed for her encouragement about some very troubling things that I was going through, but I never received it.  She was incapable of that kind of empathy.  So I felt very alone.  Always the encourager, but never encouraged.

Emotional abuse is a somewhat insidious thing. Sometimes it can be very blatant, but other times it is subtle and understated. Sometimes it was what I wasn’t getting from her that hurt the most. I don’t remember ever falling into her arms for comfort, or receiving understanding or compassion. Yet those were the things that I offered her continually.

So here I am, still in her shadow, but slowly making my own. It hurts to realize all that was missing, and wonder why it wasn’t there.  For so long, I thought it was some deficit in me, some unworthiness on my part,  but now I understand that  it was a deficit in her capacity to love me  like a mother should.

In these later, recent years, I would hold my true feelings in, until I thought I would burst. And then I would often go home in a horrible mood from being around her. (Rob noticed this often. I was either very angry or very depressed.) I had tried to be a “good girl” all my life, but her insensitivity to my feelings as an adult, drove me to the brink. If it was bad when I was younger, it was a thousand times worse when I was older. It was always about her, and only her.

Rarely would she ever seem to acknowledge the effect that she had on me, though I think she definitely knew, and sometimes enjoyed it. As an afterthought, she would sometimes thank me for things that I had done for her, and I would hang onto those words for days. I was so hungry for any sign of her appreciation or approval. She, on the other hand, worried constantly about my brother, and never wanted to inconvenience him (or my husband) with any of her errands or chores. But sometimes I could not physically endure all that there was to do, and would have to let my husband  (or one of his secretaries) run an errand now and then, but greatly fearing her disapproval.

Sometimes I would say to my husband, “She won’t like this.” (As if the world would crumble if everything didn’t just suit her.) But my world often would. She rarely (almost never) had any grace toward me, or seemed to care how tired or sick  I was, or that I wanted to be with my husband.

What is it about getting old that makes a person think one child can do everything? I was trying desperately to live two lives, and not doing a very good job of it. I was doing everything that needed to be done for her, but my life and health was falling apart. My house was disintegrating, I was becoming wildly disorganized (something I’m generally not) and I felt like I was going to have a mental and physical breakdown. But I could not stop. There was no one to do the things that I was doing. I was in this thing alone. I cried out to my cousin (who was like a brother to me) and to my uncle. They are really the only family we have left, for the most part. I didn’t feel like I could reach out to my brother (for more help than the groceries, or having lunch with my mom-his almost total contribution.) I felt overwhelmed every day of my life, since my dad died. What was I supposed to do? Keep on until I fell dead?  I could not continue on, and I knew it. But coupled with her mistreatment of me, it was beyond impossible. I not only desperately needed help, I needed a long break. And then one day the bow broke, and the cradle fell–Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall, and the Dish ran away with the Spoon. I could not take it another day. She said things that hurt me deeply–called me names after all I had done for her. It was the end, and not a very pretty one.
 
Still her shadow lingers, and I cannot stop caring about her. I wonder if she ever thinks of me, with anything but anger?  Does she remember how much I loved her, how kindly I treated her, the times we laughed together, and how much I tried to please her?

I’ve been missing for awhile now, because Chelsea has come home from England, and I wanted to spend some time with her. She crashed at our house for about 3 days, and got some much needed rest. Jet lag was really getting her down, not to mention that I don’t think she went to bed before the early morning hours, the entire time she was gone.

When she got off the plane, she stepped into an “uncivil” war between her birth mom and grandmother. The grandmother (hereafter called Nana) even refused to spend Christmas with her daughter (Chelsea’s birth mom.) Their feud has been going on for years, and the grandmother was exhausted from all of M’s scenes and actions. (But Chelsea hated that she was in the middle of this–with each one talking badly about the other.)

Her trip was nice, but the relationships were rugged, and often disappointing. She stayed with her grandmother first, who was very generous financially, but who smoked like a chimney, and never stopped talking.  At that point, early in the trip, she desperately wanted to come home. Fearing she could not survive much more, she went to the house where her birth mother was staying (rent free) with an old man, who was a friend of Nana’s. (I know, this gets complicated.)

But her birth mom turned out to be a drug addict (mostly prescription drugs, for a disease that Chelsea’s grandmother swears she does not have.) Nana says that she was there, when the doctor anounced that M did not have MS, and that M actually seemed disappointed. Apparently, she has convinced some doctor that she needs the drugs, so she has them supplied (also free) by the government medical program. Chelsea reports that her birth mom likes to drink and flirt with men. And she does this on a daily basis.

For Chelsea’s 20th birthday, she took her to a transvestite bar. (No, you can’t make this stuff up.) Chelsea called me in the early morning hours (their time) to share her birthday adventures. What kind of mother takes her daughter (who she hasn’t seen since age 3) to a transvestite bar? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

As the days wore on, the relationship between Chelsea and her birth mom soured daily. She made several calls to us, sounding very distressed and hyper, and said that her birth mom had commented, “It’s just like looking at myself at your age. Your parents think you’re great…but you’re not.” Etc. Etc. Etc. This surprised me, as we were very honest with her  (in a phone call before Chelsea went to London) about the problems that we have had with Chelsea, and told her that she was a difficult child to raise, but that she had lots of good qualities, and many talents. So we didn’t at all make it seem like we thought she could do no wrong. We certainly knew better than that.

I never could quite get the chronological order from Chelsea, of how it all went wrong, but before the trip was over, she was so angry at her birth mom, that they were barely speaking.

Chelsea said that she seemed to be competing with her, when they were in the pubs, and that her birth mom would indiscriminately give out her phone number to strangers. She seemed very angry that her mom didn’t have a steady job, and that she used drugs that she didn’t need. She said that her mom just wanted to talk about herself, and she also talked incessantly.  (She is a diagnosed narcissist, according to Chelsea’s stepdad, who has long since left her. Chelsea says that she has been married 4 times.)

Before the month long trip was over, Chelsea returned to her grandmother’s house, and was angry that her birth mom “bailed” on her for New Years Eve. They had plans to go to Trafalgar Square, but her birth mother texted her that she didn’t want to go, and later used the excuse that Chelsea wouldn’t want to be with her “mom” on New Year’s Eve. This really made Chelsea mad, and she told her not to pull that, because they had made plans, and her birth mom didn’t show. (Chelsea went out with her newly acquired friends.)  So it seemed to be one let down after another.  At one point Cheslea apparently told her that she clearly wasn’t “mother material.”

She did stay with her aunt in Bath, (her birth mom’s sister) who had a five year old son. She is much more stable.

Chelsea says that everyone in London walks, or takes the tube. Well, not everyone–some have cars, but she walked a great deal, as do many there, apparently. I feel that she was not supervised properly, because she recounted often walking after getting off the tube, through a very dangerous area to get home. Chelsea is not all that street-wise, after growing up in a small seaside town.  Of course, she is of legal age, but still very immature in so many ways. You know how it is when you are young–you think you’re invincible, and going out takes precedence over all the dangers of finding your way home. And so it was…

She did get to see many historic places, and she made friends of her own, which I knew she would, in a very short time. She is a survivor, and this was a LOT to survive.

What was the effect of all this? Chelsea got some of the answers that she needed, and her love for us grew. She told me after she got home, that she loved me, not only for adopting her, but for who I was. She said that I had always been consistent, and I could see that the instability of her birth mom had her feeling very insecure. I got a text message yesterday that she described as a “love letter” just for me. She said that she loved me more than my best home cooking, and her tatoo. Then she added, “And that’s a lot of love.” What more could any mom desire? LOL!  Truthfully, it made my day!

In the long run, this has turned out to be a very positive thing for our relationship. She seems to be truly grateful for the life she had with us. She appears to have a greater appreciation for the way she was brought up, and she genuinely seems to be thankful for the life she leads now.

(There are no fantasies anymore–just the cold, hard facts that are very hurtful.)

At one point, after Chelsea got home, she said she didn’t want to see her  birth mother again, but later changed that to say that she would see if there were any changes, but she doubted that she would ever change. This was very sad to me, as I could see that Chelsea had been hurt by her mother a great deal. (There are times when you love someone very much, that you take no pleasure in being right about a situation. I had hoped for the best for Chelsea’s sake.)

Her grandmother was very happy to see her though, and she had saved her christening dress, and some of her baby clothes, all these years, and sent them home with Chelsea.  I thought this was very special. Chelsea wanted me to have them for now, and display them in her room. Her grandmother spent a lot of money on her, and even provided the money for her airplane fare, souveniers, and one month’s rent (for the time she was out of work.) Chelsea lives and works about 45 minutes from us, in a nearby town.  Her grandmother is a retired barrister, but is by no means well to do. She lives in a small flat, in a not so great part of town, so her generosity meant that much more. I know she truly loves Chelsea. She’s a character though, and before Chelsea left, Nana purchased a motor scooter!

So that is Chelsea’s journey, and we have come full circle. Well, not completely full circle, because now she wants to find her birth dad….

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html