The search for static security – in the law and elsewhere – is misguided. The fact is security can only be achieved through constant change, adapting old ideas that have outlived their usefulness to current facts.”- William Ostler

 

It’s nearly 11:30 on an August night as I sit on a veranda in the southern United States musing about the turning point that is my life of late. Cicadas are singing some bedtime medley that the pianist in me recognizes as being in the key of C. I feel a heavy shroud of humidity clinging to my body; a stickiness forming on my exposed arm skin. An unique scent wafts through the black sky of this beautiful rural space. It seems to be some sort of botanical amalgam of various deciduous trees. And I can just make out the scent of the marigolds and zinnias that inhabit the planters scattered among the nearly thirty acres this romantic farmhouse sits atop.  It’s a far cry from the more arid climate of my home out west in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It’s just the sort of respite from the rigors of my crazy life that my soul–and body for that matter–needed.

Sometimes we all need vacations from the life we have. Little jaunts into these worlds–literal or figurative–that allow us the opportunity to see that what has been isn’t all there is.

That things can be different; if only in our imaginations. There’s hope in that.

There’s this exhaustion that seems to seep into my heart and body sometimes that makes me feel a little like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. You know when he gets stuck mid motion and creaks back to animated state only after having his joints greased.

That’s what this vacation has been for me; an opportunity to re-animate my soul from its slumbering state.

So, while I think it’s safe to say we all love a getaway, I think the greater challenge for most people lies in the returning-to-normal-life portion of it all.  And this seems especially pertinent as the too-short summer draws to a dreaded close, I thought I’d see if there weren’t some pointers for employing the all too necessary return to our real lives.

Envision:

The key to success in any arena lies in our ability to envision that success. Conversely, this is also the key to failure. What we see in our mind, we will create in our lives. Call it the Law of Attraction. Call it whatever you like. The reality is that our mind and its many facets therein, need a set of instructions; a pattern to follow. If we imagine insumountable obstacles and constant discouragement, our minds will assume that that’s the path it’s destined to follow.

Plan:

You’ve heard it before: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Cliche, but true. I really think plans show the Universe how serious we are about our intended goal. Just remember the next thing on this list. Without it, the plan is useless.

Be flexible:

Flexibilty is essential. Have you ever had a plan (and I think this is more often the case than not) only to have it lead you down some competely unexpected path that you would never have thought of initially?

A mind’s like a parachute: it works best when open.

Recruit and delegate:

Don’t try and do it alone. No matter how incredibly adept you are at just about anything, there is nothing to be lost by sharing some responsibility with others. It works well to employ the gifts of those around you in bringing these goals to fruition. Just think how beneficial it is to have the gifts and abilities of several people at your disposal. Strength in numbers and all that.

It does not diminish your success in the least to share it with others. In fact, I’d say it grows exponentially.

So, I take a cleansing breath; allowing the intake of night air to rush my lungs and rejuvenate me. I feel a tingle of excitement at the prospect of embarking upon a new season–taking with me the strength and experience garnered over the last several months. I invite the Universe to lend its ever- present hand and give me its gentle nudges toward the future that lies around the proverbial  corner.

“I do not claim to have the answers. All I claim to have is an open mind that is willing to adapt to new information as it becomes available.”- Leif Ericsson 

 

 

 

 

 

“Raising a kid is part joy and part guerilla warfare.” -Ed Asner

 

Hahaha. Well said, Ed.

I’ve often reflected that there is nothing on earth for which an individual would be completely unprepared if he/she had first had the opportunity to be a parent.

Child-rearing requires an extensive personal resume consisting of various skills; everything from tolerance and patience to impressive ingenuity.

We parents have admirable mediator skills and are intuitive psychotherapists. We act as motivational speakers, executive chefs, CEO’s, tutors, nursemaids, professional organizers and more.

There is no vocation requiring a greater range of abilities or a more diverse skill set.

And the hours are ridiculous! No nights off. No free weekends. Forget a forty-hour work week.

And don’t even think about calling in sick. I’ve tried. For some inexplicable reason, children still need parents regardless of your inability to hold your food down.

Go figure.

Despite that, there’s NOTHING I would rather do. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a firm believer in having a rich diversified life replete with varied interests and pursuits of personal growth outside of my role as mother. Few things make you a better parent and partner than becoming a more fulfilled person. Embracing the opportunity to evolve alongside your children, each of us can be stronger, more complete individuals and thus better serve our posterity.

These are things I often find myself thinking as we near the end of summer. The lower temperatures and abbreviated periods of daylight, are harbingers of the coming autumn; a time of resumed school schedules, wardrobe replenishments and all the social milestones this period provides.

It’s a reminder that time is fleeting. That childhood doesn’t last forever and that each day is but a brief expanse of time that all too quickly tumbles into the next.

The days are long, but the years are short.

At the beginning of each year, I choose a box and scrawl the year and school grade on the side. Initially, it’s nothing but a box–a six-sided, cardboard structure bereft of physical contents; holding nothing but expectations for the coming year. Slowly over the years I have composed a structured wall of mismatched boxes bearing the labels kindergarten through fifth grade.

And now, I’m writing the words, “2011-2012. Sixth grade,” on another box. I could invest in a plastic one and have them all be beautifully coordinated, but I am nothing if not a gifted re-purposer and I love anything old. There’s something lovely and romantic about knowing an item had a life before I found it.

Yes. Even a cardboard box.

But, I digress. This year’s box will house fanciful short stories, homespun craft projects, artwork composed of diverse and likely unexpected mediums and highly-informative reports.

You know–all the things that really only mean something to the actual biological relations of the child.

But to me, these things are possessions valued above almost everything else. They’re memories in a more tangible form. My memory alters the inanimate nature of these things and turns each of them into these vivid recollections I have of the numerous bygone eras her life has already presented. These items are representative of all the various stages of growth I’ve seen as a mother.

Not only her growth but mine as well.

So each year when she returns to those hallowed halls of the local elementary school, I pull a special journal out of my desk drawer; one dedicated exclusively to my yearly fall resolutions. They’re a more evolved version of New Year’s resolutions. The preceding months have honed my perspective and the pending emptiness of my home reminds me of a need to school myself in whatever courses the Universe sees me in need of at that time.

I am, after all, currently working toward an advance degree in Awesomeness from the University of Life. I just recently had a grueling final in the form of cancer. For those of you who are curious, I aced it! FYI.

So I’ve decided to dedicate many of September’s blog posts to this whole experience of educating oneself for the sake of self improvement. Developing some good, ‘back to school,’ habits in the interest of graduating to a better version of ourselves.

And, because I’m hyper-aware and super-sensitive, I’ll shed more than a couple tears as Allie returns to school and my life shifts from the lazy, relaxed days of summer to the more rigid, ordered days of the school year.

It’s also yet another opportunity for the Universe to remind me that I’m a work in progress. Just on the offchance that I had forgotten that. Not likely.😉

“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” – Tom Bodett

“Every tree has got her root and every girl forbidden fruit
And has her demons.
And the path I chose to go,a different girl so long ago,I had my reasons. In all the black, in all the grief… I am redeemed.” -Charlotte Martin

Are all sins or mistakes ones from which we can gain redemption? Are there ones that are so malicious and so far-reaching; negative actions that affect so many that they are beyond the parameters of gaining any sort of redemption? Can anyone be saved or is it just not in the nature of some?

I’m inclined to think that nearly everyone can be redeemed; that everyone can change. But, let me qualify that statement with the following: everyone can change, but not everyone will. An important, albeit slight, differentiation.

There actions perpetrated by others that have caused me immense pain; that have left an indelible mark on my psyche and have colored the eras that proceeded them. I suffered painful and searing betrayal, deceit and abuse. There were years that I found myself fighting a constant inner battle to wrest control of my life from the victimizations of my past.

Like an exhausting tug of war, I strained myself for years before I gained any semblance of well-deserved peace.

And then there were my own wrongdoings. Now those were demons that required every ounce of my inner fortitude to surmount.

And it’s a process. It’s not overnight. It’s not instantaneous. It’s an arduous, ongoing, time-consuming, growth-inducing experience that involves days, weeks, months even years of your life. It’s the journey that makes the ultimate destination less and less predictable and less and less relevant.

This is what I do–literally–daily:

I look in my mirror and I imagined myself garbed in some sexy–albeit highly-effectual warrior costume composed of some mystical leather-esque material capable of deflecting deadly onslaughts from my wily, demonic enemies.

Something very Lara-Croft-meets-Keira-Knightly-in-King-Arthur.

I give myself a rallying pre-battle pep talk. It entails a list (some days I come up with longer ones than others) of my greatest attributes; of all the trying hardships that lie conquered in my past. A sort of, “Hey, Holl, you can totally do this! You’ve already been through so much more, etc. etc.”

Then I imagine myself slaying these metaphorical dragons and mounting them on the imaginary walls of the great trophy room in my mind.

A current dragon, cancer, has a place already awaiting its anticipated arrival post-battle.

This visualization makes me giggle, it ratchets up my confidence, it induces strength.

I find the process of overcoming my trials and flaws gives me perspective; it allows me the opportunity to gain forgiveness for myself and others and that–I’m discovering is the key to finding peace.

The years are great teachers, so are our enemies. Struggles and trials serve an effective, though mildly- irritating, tool for growth. And, ‘growth,’ is just another name for happiness.

So I work on redeeming myself from my past wrongs and simultaneously endeavor to offer that same courtesy to others when my human heart can. I am not always successful; in fact as I write this I’m somewhat mired in a place of mild self-criticism. But it’ll pass. I’ll work through it.

I am nothing if not resourceful and tenacious. Some call it stubborn. I call it adorable.;)

So, because I can’t over-state it, let me publish again–forever to nestle its place into the world of all things cyber:

I am a work in progress.

I’m growing increasingly more comfortable with that.:)
XOXO

hollie

“For my part I believe in the forgiveness of sin and the redemption of ignorance.” -Adlai E. Stevenson


“Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.” -Jawaharail Nehru

Change. It’s not a word we all embrace. Sometimes we make conscious attempts to change: we resolve to lose weight, go back to school, get out of debt.

And sometimes, life makes the changes for us.

The Universe throws us that dreaded curve ball and we find ourselves grappling for some semblance of control. Life’s daunting and inevitable hurdles become flung in our determined paths and seem to thwart our most valiant attempts to control our destinies. That preceding statement is perhaps even more relevant to those of you out there who might suffer from a chronic need to control most–if not all–aspects of your lives.

Life recently made a change for me.

Two weeks ago, Friday, March 4, 2011 at 4:48 p.m. I received a phone call that rattled me. It changed my life in the truest, most literal sense.

It was a radiologist who was calling with the results of a recent breast biopsy. “We got the pathology report back on those lumps you found. The tumors are malignant. You have cancer.”

Cancer.

Whoa. I did not hear that correctly. Malignant? Cancer? Those are not words that have any right being attached to me. I don’t want to have my own cancer. I don’t want to be in possession of tumors. Yeah, even a girl who has everything doesn’t want that.

One minute and seventeen seconds. That’s how long the conversation with the radiologist lasted. That’s how long it took for my life to change. Completely. Irrevocably.

I am 33 years old. I am in very good overall health. And I have cancer.

What a stupid thing to have. What a lame addition to my life’s resume.

I have an abundance of highly-supportive family and friends; a surfeit of loved ones. I understand now with unerring clarity the most poignant meaning of the somewhat cliched term, “outpouring of love.” There is not better way to describe the glut of concern, love and affection I’ve received from wonderful people. I am so infinitely blessed to have such a wealth of remarkable people who band themselves together to form the world’s best cheering section. And yet….

I am completely alone. Cancer is isolating. I am in a solitude that this disease imposes upon me. It’s not unnerving most of the time; it’s just inescapable. You can’t ask other people to carry the baton. You alone receive the diagnosis. You alone fight through the uncomfortable tests and anxiety-ridden doctor’s appointments.

Even knowing that, however, I am consumed with a most surprising sense of peace; a reassurance that all these truths of cancer’s tendency to segregate me from the society of caring loved ones who encompass me, will be nothing more than a  blip on this portion of my life’s radar.   That despite cancer’s propensity to alter a person’s view of relationships, mortality, wellness, love and purpose; it does not possess the ability to rob you of your spirit.

In fact, I’m inclined to think cancer might just be helping me find more of mine.

It’s not that cancer’s not–even in a best-case scenario–utterly terrifying. It’s just that it’s eliciting a change in me that is not unwelcome. I feel like I’ve wandered through a debris field and that suddenly–by way of a conversation that last just over a minute–I watched as a plume of darkened debris fell sharply to the ground leaving nothing but a clear, halcyon sky in my view.

That moment was one of those that changes you; that changes your core. It altered my perspective on everything. Everything. And not for the worse. For that I am phenomenally grateful. I like what this has contributed to the architecture of me; the inner structure of my soul.

There’s a lot more to come on this subject and I will be covering the details of cancer–it’s detection, treatment, and the details of my journey through it–on a companion blog dedicated specifically to it. I will include a link here.

XOXO

hollie

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” – Fredrick Douglass

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams; live the life you imagined.”-Henry David Thoreau

Inspiration is everywhere. Everywhere. It lies dormant in every fragment of the human experience and in the simplest, most mundane of interactions. I found a sliver of it recently at

Taco Bell.

Recently my hunger-ravaged tummy found itself jonesing for a Beefy 5-Layre Burrito, so I took Agnes, the Rover, for a short drive to the nearby Taco Bell. (Spelling layer, “layre,” makes me feel like I’m eating foreign fare rather than something that is likely laden with trans fat and sub-standard ingredients. Is it obvious yet that I have a tendency toward over-thinking?)

Because the drive-thru line was abnormally long, I ventured into the establishment in hopes of procuring said burrito. Made nearly opaque with grimy fingerprints and smears of heaven knows what, the glass door presented a germophobe, such as myself, with a serious quandary: do I forgo burrito bliss in an attempt to avoid touching the handle that without a doubt harbors at least as much bacteria as the door’s windowed surface? Or do I chance dying of some communicable disease spread by people who at best wash their hands every other day then go to public places and insist on spreading their disgusting germs for all of the rest of us to contract? Yes it’s mean, but so is spreading E. coli.

I felt like I was in a “Choose Your Own Adventure,” book (which, consequently, I consider to be some of the finest American literature to ever hit bookstores) and was faced with a decision that could either lead me to the unraveling of a sordid and exciting mystery, or guide me to a certain death.

I decided to take a chance and enter the fast-food, “restaurant.” Does anyone else think that when fast-food establishments are referred to as, “restaurants,” that perhaps that’s a liberal use of the term? I generally reserve the term, “restaurant,” for places where the “furniture,” (another liberal use of the word) is not composed of some hard plastic that likely will be discovered to exude copious amounts of carcinogens.

At any rate, after braving the door handles of not one, but two doors (why do they have to have double doors? Is is just to ensure that you have double the opportunity to contract H1N1?) I headed in the direction of the counter. Bedecked in a color scheme of teal, mauve and a lovely shade of peach, Taco Bell was the perfect picture of late-eighties, southwest decor. Planters teeming with faux greenery that unsuccessfully attempted to “cascade, ” from their boxes, adorned the tops of pony walls designed to guide throngs of eager eaters into a serpentine line where they were expected to await their turn at ordering all the tacos and burritos their expanding waistlines could handle.

As I waited for the woman ahead of me to conclude her ordering, I watched as the employee struggled with the cash register. “I’m sorry,” the employee apologized. “It’s my first day.”

There are certain things that a person can say that will IMMEDIATELY garner my complete understanding and unparalleled sympathy. “It’s my first day,” is one of them. I have had enough jobs (I often tell people that short of pole-dancing and prostitution, I’ve done it all. Hyperbole, of course, but it certainly elicits an entertaining response.;)) that my heart goes out to anyone making a concerted effort to forge a path for themselves in a new, “career.” Again, perhaps liberal use of the word, but to each his/her own.

Once my turn arrived, the employee and I engaged in the banter of ordering and discussing the difficulties of beginning new employment when, out of the corner of my eye, I spied a woman–the manager–watching the exchange. I noted immediately the high cheekbones and fine brow of the manager. She also had the most beautiful eyes. They were a crystalline shade of smokey gray and had the most indefinable twinkle.  Her lips were this pale shade of mauve and curved to a perfect pout.  She looks like a she could be a model, I thought. I hadn’t noticed that she had been studying me as closely as I had her.

“You are such a beautiful young woman,” she said to me. “And you have amazing eyes.” Okay, so that was weird. She was thinking some of the same things about me that I had about been thinking about her. You know what else was funny? That the most flattering thing about her compliment was not that she called me, “beautiful,” but rather that she called me, “young woman.” I guess my vanity’s leaning in the direction of preserving my youth at this stage of the game.:)

We began a brief, but enlightening conversation in which I returned her compliments with even greater emphasis than she had delivered hers.  Then things became decidedly unexpected. Delightfully unexpected.

After I told her for probably the third time how beautiful her eyes were, she said matter-of-factly, “I used to be a model.” Well duh, I thought. Of course you were. That much seemed obvious. The trainee who had rung me up, however, found this little revelation to be shocking and made no attempt to disguise that fact. Her mouth parted and her eyes widened and the surprise her face wore was nothing short of insulting. Turning to address her subordinate, the manager spoke with an amusing sense of irony.

“I haven’t always worn a Taco Bell uniform,” the manager said, her voice barely able to contain a cynical laugh

I haven’t always worn a Taco Bell uniform. The words bounced around in my brain like an echo in a cathedral. Sure, that was clear, but there was something in the way she said that incredibly obvious statement that made it seem so much more poignant. Something only her voice, her tone, her inflection could convey.

And I walked, then, my steps heavy with thought. I absently planted myself in a hard, plastic seat enmeshed in layers of filth and bacteria and assimilated the story that I had just heard. I cannot look at people and not wonder at their stories. I can’t help but find my mind meandering down silly paths of, “I wonder if…” But this woman and her life, the twists and turns it had taken that seemed nothing short of unexpected, they somehow struck me with a surprising impact.

As I waited for my number to be called, I watched a man and two sweet little boys arrived. With eyes the color of ash, there was absolutely no mistaking the parentage of the boys. The man and two children were the manager’s family. She beamed at them as she took a break from work to enjoy this unexpected surprise and I watched the scene with rapt attention. There was no wistfulness, no regret, no insecurity in her gray eyes. If there was ever a doubt as to which path she should tread, it seemed to have flown with the arrival of her children.

I just found myself feeling sad, not because I would be arrogant enough to know what’s best for someone else, because the older I get the more that becomes a moot point. And, as I’ve blogged in the past, I would NEVER trade being a mother for anything. The thing that was just a little heartbreaking was that she seemed to have given up on her dreams; that she had written off any life that diverged from her current one.  I think that anyone who works hard to make an honest living is someone to be respected and Lord knows that I’ve had far crappier jobs than nine out of ten people you’ll meet (not, unfortunately, hyperbole) but, I just hate seeing people discount their ambitions and relegate them to a place of impossibility. The annoyingly persistent optimist in me refuses to let that idea go. I understand the need to be realistic and to put food on the table, etc. I have made sacrifices I would never want anyone I care about to have to make . But I know–I know–that there’s something more; that life is more than some pragmatic need to live hand to mouth. It’s not easy–I know that better than most–but I just want so badly to see people move in the direction of their dreams.

At any rate, I guess I just had throw this tale out there into the great recesses of the cyber universe; to know that other people had heard the story of this beautiful woman and her current circumstances. I suppose I just had to express my hopes that, whatever her life becomes, that somehow her dreams find some small place in it. Maybe I’ll be able to use it as an effective reminder to make room for some dreams of my own.:)

XOXO

hollie

“Even if I don’t reach all my goals, I’ve gone higher than I would have if I hadn’t set any.” -Danielle Fotopoulis


“Autumn to winter, winter into spring, spring into summer, summer into fall,– So rolls the changing year, and so we change; Motion so swift, we know not that we move.” – Dinah Maria Mulock

I experience life with all of my senses. I even taste it with each of the seasons possessing, to me, a distinct flavor. I imagine winter, with its cool crispness and evergreen symbolism, is rosemary. Spring is caraway seed; tangy and fresh. Summer, of course, is saffron–earthy and warm and the color of sunshine.

And autumn–my season– is cinnamon. Rustic, warm and full of surprising depth.  It’s funny how we can find ways of relating one experience to another. Every time fall rolls around, I anticipate its smells and sights and somehow, I guess, even its taste. The seasons pass like the experiences of life; my brain stubbornly clinging to the memories of both like the hindmost autumn leaves that desperately clutch at the branches of the maple tree outside my window each year.

I don’t observe fall, I feel it. It seizes me; tugging me into this ethereal place where the earth shifts and the air that envelops me is steeped in some sort of otherworldly sensation. Autumn is tactile and alive and I allow it to draw me in like a good book. It is the enchanting phase of the earth’s yearly cycle in which the world sits in somber silence waiting for winter to strike bringing its tendency to strip the trees to their bare, skeletal forms and brush the canvas of the sky a chilly gray hue. The world seems to change its clothes, shedding the bright long days of the prior seasons, and casting itself in a woolen coat full of warmth and weight; eliciting a feeling that is somehow both familiar and enticingly enigmatic.

I<3 autumn. It. Is. Magical.

But as neither life nor my blog would be complete without symbolism, we venture into metaphor here.

Life being likened to the changing seasons of the year, is not a new analogy, but I think it bears significance and perhaps therein lies its tendency to be cliche. To further expound upon this ages-old allegory, I imagine that life not only has seasons, but that for each of us they are so individually subjective. That, like those living in various climes, that the seasons of one person’s life maybe drastic, consisting of dramatic differences from one season to the next with frigid winters and blistering summers. Others might have lives that mimic the climates where the year-round temperature is consistently balmy with only subtle distinctions between each passing season.

I am the former, not the latter (as if any of you had any question regarding that.:)) I have seen periods of such startling contrast so as to be distinguished from one another with remarkable ease. One season, which my blessed mind endeavors daily to blur to a distant, if not non-existent state, occurred during my twenties. I don’t remember them too well as it was fraught with a great deal of despair and more than my fair share of heartbreak. Confusion and unrest were the earmarks of this time and I often–as I have in this forum–referred to it as my Dark Ages. A time replete with darkness, a lack of clarity and an inhuman coldness that seemed wont to follow me.  I felt a tiny bit like Eeyore. Woe was me.;)

Winter can be tough. It does seem to drag on, threatening to smother us each within the confines of its persistent chill. The quilt of downy snow that blankets the earth often starts out cozy, but can become oppressive and stifling after it seems to continue for an inordinate amount of time. I felt as though, as a result of life circumstances, the Universe was unfairly expecting me to traverse through the suffocating brume of my life’s winter. It seemed endless and bleak and without reprieve.

Then came my spring. My world awakened with a startling sense of lucidity and purpose clearly defined. I felt as a rush of warmth danced its way across the sleeping ground and tickled the thawing earth to life. My world had awakened from the weary slumber of my darkest winter (knock on wood:)) and I felt…

renewed.

Summer followed in short order and I found myself embracing the evolution of Hollie. Like a fine wine, I’m enduring my seasons as I age to my own personal perfection. Not perfection as in, “flawless,”  but rather my own take on the word: perfection as in, “fullness.”  Me being the best Hollie I can be. I have, after all, no desire to be flawless. I find my imperfections are becoming an endearing part of who I am. Sure, I endeavor to improve myself, but I’m okay with me and I like myself more and more with each passing season. And besides, in the words of Nietzsche, “In heaven, all the interesting people are missing.”;)

So as I stand on the cusp of both the literal Autumn and my own metaphorical one, the question begs, do I dread a coming winter? No, I really don’t.

It’s kind of like the Pilgrims’ first winter in America. They struggled so much having been ill prepared and lacking the skills to cope and endure the onslaught of the harshness of a New England winter. But with the passing seasons, they enacted a system of adaptation and preparation that made the subsequent winters bearable and perhaps, even pleasant. I feel the same about my life.

I feel fall as it creeps into the world again. It stretches its fingers out and clasps the bright drape of summer that shrouds the sky. Pulling the curtain of August back, it reveals the pewter-gray sky of early autumn. The smell of decaying leaves permeates the air as a tiny bite nips at my skin. I feel the temperature as it slowly dips to a more boreal state and the world seems to emit a sleepy yawn. I gather a shawl of experience and, hopefully, wisdom around me and relax as my life continues to evolve. I watch as a peaceful hush settles over the landscape of my life. Who knows, maybe the next few winters will be mild and cozy or maybe I’ll skip them all together. I guess we’ll see…


XOXO


hollie

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” – Anne Bradstreet



“When are you gonna love you as much as I do?” – Tori Amos

Who’s worthy of love? If you answered, “everyone,” then congratulations! You move to the head of the class! And for the rest of you, looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us today. I suppose class is in session.

The topic of love is something concerning which I have an abundance of expertise. “Why?” You ask.  Well it just so happens that it’s been an ongoing issue for me. Yes, that’s right, Holl has her hang-ups. Who would have thought? (If you say you would have, then you can take your snarky self elsewhere;))

We’ve talked about the lack of self-worth so many people have and how that thinking can lead us to some pretty undesirable places, but I’m thinking more lately about unconditional love; about people hiding their true selves in an attempt to present the world with a facade. I think it’s probably a significant flaw of human-kind to feel so impelled to create persona’s for the rest of us to see and I understand the reasoning behind this thinking; we’re all afraid of people not liking us for who we really are. It’s fear that drives us to hide our precious selves from those who populate our circle; everyone from co-workers, peers, neighbors and acquaintances to the most valued loved ones in our lives.

It’s so interesting, this silly paradox of emotion. We lock away our secret selves in an attempt to protect ourselves, but what winds up happening, is we only throw tiny shards of ourselves out there for the world; these measly little bits and pieces that do not represent us accurately. It does us a disservice to withhold so much of ourselves out of fear of not measuring up; of somehow having deficiencies that outweigh our amazing-ness. (Yes, it’s been a while since I interjected some Holl-ebonix, but I knew you were all jonesing for a fix…;))

So Miranda*, a friend of mine I’ve had for the last several years, said something to me very recently amid a torrent of self-depreciating tears. It’s not an unfamiliar principle, nor is it something we haven’t already explored, but the fact that it seems so pervasive, only adds to the cogent nature of the statement. She said she didn’t know if anyone knew what she really was–all the mistakes she’d made and all the flaws she bore–if any of them would still love her. Really? I mean, don’t get me wrong I totally get what she’s saying, but I’d like to think the people closest to me have more to them than just some superficial appreciation of me. That they love me for all of me.

Here’s hoping that people won’t define me based on my greatest flaw; that I won’t be remembered for my most significant deficiency or my worst mistake.

Can y0u imagine if your name was forever linked to the fact that one time in the ninth grade you shoplifted? Or if people always associated you with the time you picked on a kid at school? I mean don’t get me wrong; these things are certainly not things to be proud of and actions that are harmful to others are likely to have a lasting impact on both them and you. The point of life is not to achieve some level of flawlessness and to live steeped in self-loathing and regret when that’s not achieved, but rather to grasp each opportunity for progression and affirmation as they present themselves, to reach out to those around us by first loving ourselves. It’s an invaluable lesson and an effective tool in building deeper, more enduring relationships with the people around you as well as healing the internal rifts caused by years of self-neglect and derision.

It’s kind of like when the flight attendant cautions you to not leap to the aid of those around you until you’ve first secured your own breathing mask. Wise words from the friendly skies.

This is, undoubtedly, easier said than done. I’ve been pretty blunt regarding my own inability to ease up on self-criticism. To give you an idea of just how insidious it is, I remember in the first grade attending parent teacher conference with my parents and listening intently as my parents discussed my scholastic progression with my teacher. My parents used a phrase that was then echoed by my teacher. I had never heard it until then, but it has chided me with regularity since:

“Hollie is her own worst enemy.”

Wow, I remember thinking at the ripe-old age of six. That doesn’t sound good.

No, Holl. It doesn’t.

It think it’s difficult not to scrutinize our actions and achievements and to often find ourselves lacking. In a world where a person’s worth is often measured by their resumes and people are constantly garnering respect and admiration by burning themselves at both ends, it can be challenging to remind ourselves that we’re each composed of something greater. That we’re more than our accomplishments and likewise more than our shortcomings.

To remind ourselves that as human beings, we’re good enough–sans resumes.

I think it goes without saying that achievement is crucial in contributing to the world around us and endeavoring to leave this planet better and the people in it improved for having humored us throughout the drama of mortality. Progression and productivity are essential in creating our best selves, however, to obsess about it–to feel inadequate when we don’t measure up to some ridiculous ideal of what makes a good man or woman–is counterproductive. I think it’s putting the cart before the horse.

Perhaps if we just concentrated on building character, then the accomplishments would fall naturally into place. We would find greater effectiveness in our pursuits, because we would be operating with greater intentions; motives of a better quality.

I think that God created each of us like vessels. That our spirits take on many forms. I imagine a table filled with crystal decanters, vases and glasses of varying sizes and shapes. And likewise of varying capacities. If you are represented by a small, eight-ounce juice glass and you fill it until it’s brimming wouldn’t that be a greater success than if you were a large, cavernous vase 14 inches tall with nothing more than several drops resting in its base?

Maybe we’re each just responsible for attaining the full measure of our own individual creations. That’s what I’m inclined to think.

I’ll extend a challenge–yes that’s correct–a challenge. When you get some time, flip open a newspaper and peruse the obituaries. It seems morbid, I know, but stick with me on this. Scan over the entries. Read the words of the loved ones of the deceased. Soak in the memories these people have of their friend/family member. Absorb the impact that life had on those around them. See what good people are really remembered for and the effect that a person’s life has on others.

I read one a couple of years ago that five children had composed regarding their beloved mother. I think of it all the time and I get that familiar sting in my eyes. Why? Because I’m a big baby who cries all the time when I hear something that moves me. The children recounted stories and memories. They listed some of the greatest, most relevant principles they had been blessed to learn from their mom. Then they shared the one thing she had provided that was of greatest relevance to them:

“She showed us the face of God.” they said.

Wow.

Not, “She made us do our homework. Or, “She made us eat our veggies.” Not that these things aren’t important. I’m a mother and I would feel no small amount of guilt had I neglected to set boundaries and be stern when necessary. But the greatest achievement this woman had was in rearing these exceptional individuals who, in turn, considered her greatest accomplishment to be instilling in them a deep appreciation for spirituality; a belief in something greater.

I’ve said it before: I don’t have all the answers. I am the Universe’s greatest work in progress. But there are things I know that resonate with me; that make supreme sense in an otherwise abstruse world. This principle, the idea that we are each distinctly unique and irreplaceable individuals, is likely the most crucial of them . Understanding this I believe is perhaps one of the great purposes of life; that our mistakes and faults may be facets of our life, but they are not what comprise us. Our humanity is more consequential than that. Our value is immeasurable. And yes, that does include each of you.;)

XOXO

hollie

“Each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against ourselves.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.







“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”  -Helen Keller

Pain and suffering: two things I can say with a great deal of confidence we human beings each strive with desperation to avoid. We engage in one activity after another designed with the express intent of guarding ourselves from the discomfort and anguish that result from–well–living. Sure there are those of us who are somewhat masochistic in our approach to life, but that’s a discussion for another day. Today I’m pondering the inevitability of agony of our existence and how we each assimilate it; how we absorb the pain and move forward in a very human attempt to endure and to heal.

As I sit here in the very early hours of the ninth anniversary of 9/11, my thoughts have led me to this place of analyzing the progression of our human souls as we run the harrowing gauntlet of life. Mulling it over in my tired brain has led me to wonder a lot over this question of healing; of mending broken hearts and restoring hope that so often is elusive.

I have no desire to wax philosophical regarding politics; I would never use this forum as a platform to foist my opinions regarding these things on my lovely readers any more than you ever witness me peddling religious ideals. It’s a deeply personal thing and I like to think I haven’t the hubris to attempt such an endeavor, but, if we’re being completely honest, I also lack the energy.  As always, I am attempting to be honest with you all, and it’s only fair to not allow myself to be portrayed as too very perfect as I’m sure you’ll reach that conclusion entirely on your own.:)

About the time I was in the ninth grade, I picked up a book and read it cover to cover in record time. It would forever impact my attitude and play a major role in shaping my perspective, even now. The book was Viktor Frankl’s  “Man’s Search for Meaning.” If you have not read it, you must. It is that life-altering. No hyperbole here.

Viktor Frankl Photo: Katharina Vesely 1994

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.” -Viktor Frankl

Frankl, an Austrian-born neurologist and psychiatrist, served as a pioneer in the burgeoning field of psychotherapy. His major contribution there being the founding of the psychiatric field of logotherapy. In an attempt to refrain from boring all my non-nerd readers (as I myself am a nerd) I’ll not delve too far into the explanation of this form of psychotherapy except to say it was existential in nature. Essentially Frankl believed that all things–even those of a grossly negative nature–bore meaning and that, upon analysis, we could each find something of substance and meaning in everything from daily minutia to the more sordid realities of life; that purpose could be shrouded in even the darkest of life’s rifts. His philosophy illustrates how we can, both individually and collectively, endure some trauma and take from it something of such overwhelming significance that it can bolster us to a place of enlightened ability. That we can create a momentum that promises to carry us to a more positive place with nothing more than a handful of bad memories and traumatic burdens, is refreshing and perhaps, at times,  more than a little daunting.

But, wait. It gets better. Well the story doesn’t. It actually gets worse– a lot worse. But where it leads us, now that’s a place we want to be.

You see, Frankl’s words garner a greater consequence as we discover the path his life would follow. Frankl, his parents and his wife would all find themselves prisoners of Thereseinstadt Concentration Camp and later Auschwitz. So yes, things did get worse.  He wound up watching as his wife, mother and father die while captives of the Nazis. Despite the grueling nature of his years of bouncing from one concentration camp to another and watching first hand the atrocities of the holocaust, Viktor developed some really effective and highly-creative coping mechanisms. Among them was giving lectures on psychiatry to imaginary groups of people. You can laugh (let’s face it: the imagery is amusing) but in an environment steeped in suffering and despair, he forged an opportunity for growth by way of a positive diversion.

He was also called upon council the incoming prisoners, aiding them in coping with the grief and stress of their new circumstance. He set up a suicide watch and worked one-on-0ne with the inmates who found themselves most ravaged by the despair of their situation. He took arguably the most devastating of emotional and physical conditions and utilized it as an opportunity for growth and enlightenment. Understanding his circumstances lends greater credibility to his personal theology; how it gives his words greater resonance.

I think grief does serve a purpose. It’s the tie that binds; the common ground upon which we all tread.  That in the dark hours of pain and despair we experience, we can muster the undeniable strength instilled within each of us to triumph over the seemingly insurmountable pain we each suffer.  I hope  these thoughts reach those most in need of encouragement, which will, I’m sure more often than not be me.:)

“A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth — that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.” -Viktor Frankl, prisoner 119,104

“The salvation of man is through love and in love.” Words to live by.

XOXO

hollie

Because I honestly think everyone can benefit from reading this amazing book,  here’s the Amazon link. I would love to read your comments regarding your own experience reading it!

http://www.amazon.com/Mans-Search-Meaning-Viktor-Frankl/dp/0807014273/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1284229525&sr=1-1

“The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it’s unfamiliar territory.” – Paul Fix

Think about it. Think it over. Think on it. All things we’ve been told more times than we could probably count. But, I’m willing to wager for each of us, it’s a challenge to implement this seemingly simple belief and incorporate it into our daily lives.

For many of us, we exist in a place of mental limbo; dealing with and assimilating information one morsel at a time. We grasp knowledge as it is made available to us and sort through it; judging it and determining its relevance in our hectic lives.

It’s like a game of Clue. We venture from one day to the next making attempts at mastering this convoluted life and, through a process that is rather hit or miss, we make stabs (pun intended) at solving the series of puzzles from which life is constructed. We jot down mental lists in the game rooms of our brain marking the cards we hold and the clues we’ve garnered constantly striving to gain clarity. We borrow and assimilate each others’ information and add it to our growing arsenal in a quest to reach greater awareness.

Except when we don’t. Except when we seem completely incapable of or unwilling to see the cards the Universe shoves in our direction in an attempt to educate us. We become enthralled by the diversions of the world and miss the clues, both subtle and obvious, that are proffered by both the Greater Power and mere mortals alike. We find ourselves lost in the minutia of daily life and it’s innumerable distractions and lose the opportunity to grasp the precious data that surrounds us. And let’s face it: if you’re not paying attention when your opponent flashes the Mrs. Peacock card at you, is it his fault or yours? That’s what I thought.

Cindy–not actually her name; as I’m sure you’ve figured out I generally change the names of both the innocent and the guilty–is a wonderful person I know. Wonderful and more than a little dense. She is, in her words, the sort you have to hit over the head with a cast-iron skillet. She just doesn’t pick up on cues. You know the type; she has bruised ribs from all the elbows constantly being jabbed in her side by well-meaning loved ones hoping to stave off her latest verbal blunder. She’s the sort who doesn’t notice it’s snowing until she actually starts her car and sees that her windshield is blanketed with a thick sheet of white snow. She’s endearingly oblivious. God bless her.

In the interest of honest self exploration, I’ll admit that–while I am generally nothing if not the perfect picture of diplomacy–I have on occasion heard someone nearby saying something incredibly idiotic…only to discover my lips are moving. Oh, Holl. God bless me

But, unlike my charming silliness, Cindy’s chronic cluelessness can become a little frustrating. Not so much because of the fact that her brain functions sans filter–your bruised feelings heal almost immediately because she’s just that lovable. The frustration comes more from an on-going ability to constantly and with unerring precision chose one life circumstance after another that in no way, shape or form holds anything but disaster for her. Again, God bless her. (A phrase you find yourself muttering with regularity in her presence. Did I mention we love Cindy. We do.)

She makes phenomenally poor decisions that to even the least observant of us, seem fraught with catastrophe. But she is oblivious, rushing headlong into increasingly horrible situations with nary a thought for the possible consequences they’ll inevitably offer. GBH (God bless her. Let’s face it–acronizing a term that’s becoming astonishingly frequent…well…that’s just good sense. I do have nerve damage in my hand and can only type so much. Although typing that explanation and this subsequent sentence would likely have negated the necessity for said acronym. But, I am nothing if not adorably frustrating in my own right. I dare any of you to disagree with that statement!;))

What kinds of poor decisions is Cindy so prone to making? I’m so glad you asked… She has lost no paltry amount of money to multi-level marketing “business opportunities.” She acquires a string of wayward souls with nothing to offer her but grief and neediness. Who are these souls? Scores of lazy ex-boyfriends, mooching BFF’s , and exploiting employers. She jumps into each and every situation with a feckless abandon borne of a ridiculously inordinate amount of faith; faith that somehow her judgment has evolved into something less than absurd. We❤ Cindy. GBH…

From bad dye jobs to depleted savings, Cindy has all the earmarks of a serial reactionist. She leaps from initial idea to implemented act overlooking the entire research and development stage that seems to be so innate a function for the rest of us. She neither hears nor sees the indicators that seem to flash with no degree of subtly that the road she seems to intent on traversing is headed straight for Heartbreak City. She seems determined to play the game of Clue without the aide of her fellow players and the knowledge they have to offer.  Forget the detective’s pad–she’s wingin’ it. And I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not working out too well .

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”  -Soren Kierkegaard

I asked her one day if she didn’t ever tire of disappointments that so inevitably follow so many of her decisions. She looked me dead and the eye; her face the perfect picture of…well…cluelessness.The fact that her decisions had, to no small degree, created her circumstances, had never occurred to her; that she had greater control over the quality of her life and those in it had never crossed her mind. The endless hours of grief she had experienced that so evidenced to the rest of us a lack of quality in her decisions, had gone completely unnoticed by our dear Cindy. I feel the frustration mounting just thinking of it. GBH.

Cindy’s only real comment was something to the effect that she hated that dreaded state of limbo; of not having made a decision. She loathed the purgatory of having unresolved issues and an undetermined path, so she oftentimes jumped on board with whatever decision seemed best upon that briefest, most initial of impressions. She took action, even at the expense of it being the wrong action.  She saw this period in which a wise person would acquire and interpret information as a formality of sorts and acted solely out of initial perceptions which–let’s face it–are seldom accurate and rarely worthy of any real action. You will never hear me gainsay the value of good intuition. Good being the operative word. And, to be honest, when God was doling out intuition, he overlooked our dear Cindy.

So Cindy continues on her jagged path of un-learned lessons and repeated errors in judgment and causes herself and those around her unending grief. I watch her and hurt a bit. I also watch and allow her to be a reminder to me not to get so lost in the peripheral that I fail to see the signs the Universe and my cherished loved ones so selflessly provide. It’s a challenge and requires more than a little introspection which can on occasion hold about as much appeal as the dreaded root canal, but it promises a much greater return in the long run than the converse. I think we all have Cindys in our lives, but maybe with a little more card-sharing and some loving words of wisdom, we can avoid the mistakes she seems so wont to make. GBH.:)

XOXO

hollie

“No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.”  -Voltaire

“Every second a seeker can start over, for his life’s mistakes are initial drafts and not the final version.” – Sri Chinmoy

Chief among the universal human attributes, is our ability to fail. Each of us as card-carrying human beings is engaged in a daily endeavor to succeed. Even those among us who are lovingly referred to as, “underachievers,” still succeed in sustaining their lives from day to day;  even if just barely.

This post isn’t intended to discuss the merits of overcoming adversity or of persevering in your quest for whatever it is gets you out of bed each morning, but rather as an exploration of the often sought-after, sometimes achieved, and too-frequently mourned second chances life presents.

That elusive thing that somehow we took for granted in our youth and crave with alarming nostalgia as we age.

As I discussed in a prior post, each day is a fresh start of sorts, an opportunity for a new, clean beginning. A welcome chance at finally getting things right and hopefully finding ourselves replete with fresh perspective and all the hope that morning can offer. (Unless, of course, you’re not a morning person, but that’s a conversation for another day. Consider this a metaphorical discussion as I myself am typing this at the ungodly hour of nearly 2:00 a.m. )

But of greater significance to me these days, is the question of second chances as they apply to us each in our interpersonal relationships. The Universe offers each of us many opportunities at greatness, but I’ve found myself recently pondering the relevance of our own imperfections and transgressions and our ability to extend second chances to one another.

And ourselves.

Wow. Did I just go there? I suppose I did.

I am, as I have blogged before, my harshest critic. By a landslide. I am often relentless in my criticism of myself and extend a much greater degree of compassion toward the people around me than toward myself. I suspect that’s part of being human, but I’m sure the degree to which this is true differs from person to person.

But, this particular post is not about the need for each of us to be more patient with ourselves; well not entirely. It has more to do with a recent experience I had, and as I am becoming in the habit of doing of late, requires that I share a little bit of Holl with you. I am becoming, if nothing else, deplorably vulnerable to all of you. Be gentle with me–Lord knows I’m not.

I have a good friend. I am grateful to be able to type that verb in the present tense as there was a time in which I truly believed that it would become more of a past-tense remark.  She is all that is good and kind and, blah blah blah. She is wonderful and I love her dearly, but I’d be lying if I said that sometimes her goodness and kindness didn’t grate on me. I’m not gossiping; she’s well aware of this “character flaw,” as I have lovingly termed it. Sometimes I just want to hear her curse or scream.

She wouldn’t yell if she was on fire. And I love her anyway. Go figure.

This sweetness of hers only served to exacerbate an overwhelming sense of guilt I harbored concerning our relationship and over the course of several years began to take root.

I had, during what was arguably the darkest period of my life, fallen into a crevice of self-pity and despair that left me completely unworthy of the moniker Friend of the Year . Can you hear that sound? It’s the sound of a noose of guilt tightening around my neck. I’m literally wincing right this minute.

My friend had many major life moments occur during my Dark Ages: a marriage was begun, two babies were brought into this world. She burst into adulthood with fervor and her life responded with undeniable favor blessing her with the things that make it worth living. Her perpetual smile and cheery demeanor were multiplied. Or so I had assumed, as I had become a bit of a prodigal in her life. My loss, to be sure.

After years of separateness and pursuits of the things that draw us along the meandering path of life, we were fortunate enough to have met up again; our segregated lives once again weaving together into a surprising fabric. I had assumed after my neglect that I had been written off.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I don’t do awkward. I just don’t. It’s like the color fuchsia–it will never have a part in my life. I will never embrace it; nor will I ignore it. I grasp awkwardness by the scruff of the neck and unceremoniously toss it from my presence.  No ignored elephants stand in the midst of my life’s living room. I haven’t the patience.

So when I saw her, I plowed ahead. I told her how sorry I was that she had lived an entire life and enjoyed these enormous blessings since I had last spoken with her and that all the while I had been incommunicado; that I had neglected to respond to the invitations to baby blessings and bridal showers. I just couldn’t. It’s a horrible thing to concede, but sometimes when you’re super miserable, it just doesn’t seem possible to watch someone–no matter how much you love them–being so much happier. It was never about jealousy–I truly couldn’t have imagined a more deserving person. It was just that somehow all these wonderful things that were happening to her seemed to make it all the more clear that they weren’t happening for me. Boo hoo, I know.

I apologized. A sincere, unqualified apology and awaited a stern response I was sure I deserved. Nothing. Crickets. She did nothing but smile.

She assured me that my apology was unnecessary. Huh? How could that possibly be? I’d been such a d-bag! But what did she do? She had the nerve to hug me and then, upon pulling away, looked at me with all the gentle irony only a good friend could possess and offered me the most genuine smile a person could produce. Wincing again.

I had completely underestimated her. And, quite frankly, myself. I had a revelation right there in the Smith’s produce section surrounded by kumquats and kale and misbehaving children; a surprising epiphany:

Sometimes the hardest thing about second chances isn’t giving them, it’s getting them.

Sometimes we feel so undeserving–so unworthy–of such acceptance; of such unconditional love. There’s enormous pressure that becomes heaped upon us at the mention of the term, “second chance.” It somehow can serve to remind us that we botched the first chance. That we’re flawed; human.

Perish the thought.

XOXO

hollie

“We’re given second chances every day of our life. We don’t usually take them, but they’re there for the taking.” – Andrew M. Greeley

%d bloggers like this: