Make Room for Joy

A positive attitude can improve the quality of our life, often leading us to heights of joy. However, in finding our way as human beings, we are also vulnerable to emotional pain; even on the road to joy we become derailed by times of sorrow. One day when I asked my elderly mother a question about the past, she said, “I don’t want to remember the past, honey. It hurts too much.”

Now that I’ve reached my own twilight years and more fully understand my mother’s pain, I’ve also discovered something else. The things that hurt the most to remember now are the pains I numbed myself to when they were fresh. Even though I had this terrible ache inside, I refused to grieve. I told myself that, like Scarlett, I would deal with it tomorrow.

Some hurts I even denied, burying them so deep I’m shocked when they release fresh arrows of pain from the past into my heart. Others I rationalized by telling myself how lucky I was, that the hurt could’ve been far worse. That I had no right to feel pain because other people had it so much worse than I did. Counting my blessings.

I do believe in counting my blessings. Not by denying or ignoring my pain but doing so while also acknowledging that I have a right to grieve for my loss even while I feel grateful for my blessings.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalms 30:5
So, when your heart is heavy it is better to allow yourself to experience and express the grief until it has wrung itself out. The tears of grief are cleansing your soul, making it ready to once again receive joy.

Find Your Own Truth

To be a person of truth, be swayed neither by approval nor disapproval. Work at not needing approval from anyone and you will be free to be who you really are. — Rebbe Nachman

It sounds simple. To be a person of truth, be who you really are. But what if, one day, you realize what you’re reflecting is other people’s truth, not your own?. First it was your parents truth; you were thrilled by the light of approval in their eyes. Well, of course! What are parents for, after all, but to teach us their own truth. We have to start somewhere.

But deep inside us is our own truth. Which may conflict with our parents truth. You are not your parents; you are growing into your own person. Only you can know the truth of who you are. And the only way you can know your truth is by examining your beliefs. Where did they come from? Do they have the ring of authenticity or are they things you were told and accepted without question?

If you find some shreds of old beliefs that don’t have the “ring of truth” do you dare to explore the possibility they are wrong? Are you willing to modify them into what does ring as true to you? And then are you willing to resist being influenced by other opinions?

Rebbe Nachman says “Work at not needing approval from anyone and you will be free to be who you really are.” The key word is “work” because finding our truth is not easy for most of us. We have to dig for it, defend it, even suffer for it.

But in the end, to know your truth is to know pure happiness.

Yes, Mr. Sagan, We Are Made of Star Stuff

You know how the clichéd light bulb goes off in the middle of a thought? I had such a thought this morning, about how the real meaning behind a word can get lost when the word represents something controversial.

Take the word astrology, for instance. I won’t go into the misconceptions the word evokes for many people but go straight to the nitty-gritty: what astrology really is. It is proof that we are all connected; the earth, the planets, the cosmos. Even Carl Sagan, who pooh-poohed astrology, said we are made from star stuff. And as my dear mother quoted to me “the proof is in the pudding.”

What brought this thought to me is that someone dear to me has been experiencing difficulties lately that sent me off on an investigation. I finally turned to the solar and lunar eclipses we had last year, and saw that three of them were conjunct planets in his natal chart. I noted the dates the transiting Sun and Mars triggered the eclipse degrees and those turned out to be significant dates for the evolving problem.

Other such transits to those eclipse degrees are on the horizon, as eclipses are effective for an extended period of time. They indicate, at least to me, since I’m an optimist, that the problem is working its way out and will be resolved.

I mulled this over last night. So…..big deal, right? He already knew this problem existed. This is not news to him. But the big deal (and to me, the big deal with using astrology) is that it verifies once again that we are not separate from, but part of, the Universe. Perhaps God created us to be observers of the mighty wonders He created. Perhaps we are meant to study, not only the stars as astronomers do, but to observe their connections to each other and their connectedness with our own lives, in order to understand how we are all a part of the same equation.

In our birth charts, the positions of the Sun, Moon and planets at the time of our birth documents our connectedness to the stars, the planets and all that is. Through Astrology we can find a pathway to Divine Truth.

WHO Are YOU?

“And WHO are YOU?” the older man in the black tux and argyle socks said as he shook my hand. I was being greeted by the father of the groom after the wedding ceremony.
“My name is….” I said, not feeling quite as ridiculous as I might’ve if he hadn’t been wearing the purple and pink socks.

He raised his eyebrows at me, Groucho Marx style, and I moved on. I figured he wanted to disconcert people with the socks because he was a psychiatrist, and liked to do unexpected things to see how people would react, but I was disconcerted because I had no ready answer to his unexpected question.

The thing was I was nobody. I’d been invited to the wedding through a friend of the bride, whom I didn’t even know. My friend had arranged the invitation for me, including my pre-school daughters, believing they should get their first look at a true-to-life fairy-tale bride. I’d set aside my discomfort to appease her but had felt completely foreign in such exalted company. My friend had been disappointed when Terry and Tammy, instead of being excited, watched the elaborate ceremony with a detached air.

So – who was I? Should I have said “I’m a friend of a friend of the bride?” or “I have an invitation but actually I’m a party crasher because I don’t even know your son or new daughter-in-law?” It’s bewildering to be asked “WHO are YOU?” and trying to think of an answer.

Perhaps, I thought later, I should make an appointment with him. Tell him he got me to thinking “WHO am I” as if I’d never thought to ask it before, and that I’d been searching for an answer ever since. I was lost. I didn’t know who I was. Wasn’t that what psychiatrists were for, to help us discover who we are? But psychiatrists cost money, and besides I kept seeing those wild argyle socks with the expensive black tux. How could I trust him?

So I decided to find myself, myself. Still looking.

God Makes No Mistakes

I was an arrogant child. I thought I was smarter than God because I could see where he’d screwed up. While my mother prayed every night with us children sitting on the floor around her (since we didn’t have that many chairs) I blasted God in my mind for the early death of our dad, for our poverty. Later, knowing God could read my mind, I feared the hot cinders of his wrath raining down on me from the sky.

But rebellion boiled inside me, where I secretly sneered at the preacher’s daughter while envying her for her pretty blue Easter dress. I softened my pain by wrapping it in anger and built a wall around my vulnerability. My anger was not allowed to be expressed in the face of my mother’s prayers of thanksgiving for God’s love and tender care (ha!) so I kept it between us two.

One evening while my mother was thanking God for getting us a load of coal to get us through the winter, my teenaged brother Andy called from the kitchen after having refused to join the circle, “I’m the one who got us that load of coal!” Mom did not acknowledge his outburst but I was thrilled by it. “There,” I thought. “There, God.” And I was content to know I was not alone

Of course I would grow through the bruises and heartaches of living to become grateful for the life I had, to recognize that it was granted to me by a loving God. Who also let me find my own way to exist in this strange life on his beautiful planet. But also to realize that his love knows no limits, that he loves each and every one of us.

My gripe today is not against God but against a society that doesn’t value its people as God values us. We have groups called minorities who have been bullied and excluded due to their differences from the mainstream of society—people who even dare to use the supposed words of God to justify their insufferable actions.

Some progress towards equality has been made with the larger groups of minorities but one group that has been blatantly excluded includes gays and lesbians.

In the beginning of my realization there were such beings in the world I too felt uncomfortable with them. It just didn’t “feel” right. But having learned to question my feelings since my first run-in with God, I asked myself how it would feel to love someone of the same sex in the same way one loves someone of the opposite sex, that merging into a couple that makes the world glow with an intense joy that lights up our spirit.

How would it feel to be born with that difference, yet be told I must “have” or “pretend” to have that feeling for someone whom I can’t love? Otherwise to be told I’m bad, depraved, and out of favor with God. Because gay people recognize early in life that they’re attracted to their own sex even if the full realization takes place much later, it is obvious to me that when God created them, he did it with love. He did not make a mistake.

Just Call Me Scrooge

Just call me Scrooge, but I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. I love the love but hate the hate. Don’t preach to me about it being a celebration of Christ’s birthday. I know that. That’s the love part.

And I don’t hate the Santa Claus and gifts part either. It’s the memories that part brings up and the realization that many children will soon learn too early there is no Santa. That’s what I hate. And don’t preach to me about that part, either, about Santa being the spirit of giving, blah, blah, blah.

The memory of those children from the past blend with knowing that many children in the present will have no Christmas this year. They’ve joined the little ghosts that walk in the back of my mind. Like a Greek chorus. A mute one— because what can they say?

So now that I’ve made you indescribably sad let me add that phrase the elitists like to use: it’s the human condition. Distance yourself from it. What else can you do? Provide for your own and put some change in the Salvation Army’s bucket after you buy your Christmas turkey or ham.

But for God’s sake, don’t whine and carry on about it. If there’s anything I really, really hate it’s a whiner! Merry Christmas.

Is Your Soul in Touch With You?

A few years ago a trusted astrologer described a long-term natal transit I was having by telling me “Your soul is trying to get in touch with you.”   Intriguing.   But what did it mean?  I’d assumed my soul was an integral part of me, not something that could get lost – or, wait a minute – am I the one who’s lost?   How is that possible?  I thought I and my soul were one, inseparable until we both leave the body when I die.   We both……

So, okay.   If my soul is trying to get in touch with me then I should try to get in touch with my soul.  Maybe the astrologer is talking about that voice in my head that tells me I should or should not do things.  Although I thought that voice was my conscience, and it’s still there.  I hear it plainly, even though I sometimes ignore what it has to say.   Especially when it puts me on a guilt trip for things I’m not responsible for.   In fact, we argue quite a bit.   I believe much of this inner battle is due to changes in my beliefs.   When one has begun questioning old beliefs because they’ve become outdated or one realizes they were never true— the old beliefs will persist on arguing with the new.   Because the old beliefs have become a matter of habit.

 And we know how hard habits are to break.  Take smoking, for instance.   When I began smoking cigarettes as a teenager it was considered the cool thing to do, and I became addicted.  For many years this voice in my head told me I had to quit and I did, about fifty times.  But while I was quit the voice would switch sides and encourage me to have a cigarette, telling me it was okay.   So, in this case, it was not my conscience talking but my habit.

Finally, almost four years ago I was able to stay quit (although I did sneak a cigarette from time to time for about three years) through the use of nicotine gum.   But what gave me the power to stay quit was the desire to see my youngest grandchildren grow up, and the realization that my smoking may not only cut my life short but could also make my last years so miserable that I couldn’t be a loving grandmother. 

But what, I wondered, does that have to do with my soul?   My search continued.   In the meantime I’d established a goal of living as healthy a life as I could.   I already had old age problems, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  Due to the possible side effects of medication and my desire to seek natural cures, the only medicine I felt comfortable taking was for high blood pressure, as it was most likely responsible for an eye occlusion I had.  As I was determined to control my diabetes and cholesterol through diet and exercise, I researched online for the right foods, quantities, and supplements that would help in doing so.

Not only did I get my latest A1C reading (three-month glucose test) down to 5.8, and my fasting glucose most mornings below 100, I also got my cholesterol down, the LDL (bad) to more acceptable levels plus I raised the  HDL (good) to a high level.  Since, simplified, the LDL lines the arteries with placque and the HDL cleans them out, the doctor is pleased with these results.

I get my daily exercise by walking Winston, my little Pooh-Chon.  Many times I’m reading or writing and don’t want to stop, but a sad look in his big dark eyes keeps me active.   I know just a word from me will make him jump up with a smile.  “Walk?” I say, as I grab his leash and we’re off.   Luckily, we live less than two blocks from the entrance to a beautiful park with trails, a large pond, lovely flowers, trees and foliage.  As we walk in the park my heart soars and I thank God for my many Blessings. 

And I feel I have found my soul.  I believe it wants me to be more authentic, to be myself both inwardly and outwardly.  Which sounded simple until I examined myself.  For many years there was the outer me, yielding to circumstances , afraid to reveal thoughts and beliefs others might not agree with, might criticize.   The outer me that wanted to keep the peace at any price.   I had to gain the courage to be myself.

As Blessed Mother Teresa said “Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.  Give the world the best you have anyway.  Because in the final analysis, all of this is between you and God….It was never between you and them anyway.”   God Bless.