Action is the keystone

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On to the next lesson that I have learned during this time of pain and illness. And you may be thinking, “Really, Angel? Really? More posts about your sickness?” And the answer is yes because the lessons come fast and furious during your darkest hours. I’m ready to get off this f-ing train, but I’m taking the lessons with me. They came at a very high price.

During the past eight weeks, there have been some extremely bleak moments filled with despair and hopelessness. Also, during this illness, as I have been able, I have written on my little online blog, which is my way (and many people’s way in these modern times) of talking to the Universe and connecting, however obliquely, to other silent humans.

And I have found that during the moments when I am writing about hopeful thoughts, I have felt hope in my heart. I have felt stronger and brighter and more hopeful about making it through to my happy ending.

And I read a lot of uplifting literature. Lately I have been reading about Eastern philosophical and spiritual ideas, such as Buddhist thought and Rumi’s poetry. And the ideas are little seeds that become rooted in my consciousness. And then, as they sprout, the thoughts become action.

And action is key to the whole process. When I write about hope, I feel hope. When I share hope on my blog, I feel hope in my heart. You are what you act, and writing is action. Teaching is action. To act upon an idea is to embody that idea.

So that’s the latest lesson on this long, painful journey: act. Act on your positive thoughts. Act and you will become the positivity.

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Thoughts and action

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My posts recently have all centered around my sickness. I absolutely hate this sickness and hope it is over soon, but it has not been without its lessons.

The most recent lesson concerns thoughts and actions. This sickness has been incredibly painful and very very long. This is my first experience with a long term illness and the depression snuck in unexpected and uninvited. It was a deep depression that was taking its toll on my body and mind.

I went to see a counselor because the depression had become too much for me to handle alone. She talked to me about thoughts and action. She said that the longer I dwell on negative thoughts, the more they will gain strength, and when they gain enough strength, I will act upon them. She said that I must stop the negative thoughts in their infancy when they don’t have much strength, and I must not let them get to the point where I would act upon them.

Luckily, I had been meditating for a few years so I had some experience with controlling thoughts. So I put her advice into practice and began nipping the thoughts in the bud. I won’t say it was easy — I used all sorts of distraction techniques as well — and I won’t say that I was always successful, but I was successful enough to not go spiraling out of control.

And then one day — a day that I was feeling well — I thought, “I’ll write a little today.” Immediately, all the negative thoughts came crashing in: I’ve never been successful; I don’t know how to write; I don’t know what to write. But I had just spent the past couple of days nipping negative thoughts in the bud, and my mind immediately did it again. Snip snip, the thoughts were gone. And every time they tried to crowd back in, snip snip and they were gone.

And I could move. I could write. My negative thoughts had kept me from writing for so long, but I had learned from this illness that if you allow negative thoughts to become a runaway train, they will gain strength and you will act upon them, as in this case to never write.

And I wonder about the flip side. Can you allow positive thoughts to become a runaway train? Can you see the love and beauty that exists around us, and nurture those thoughts into full blossom and action? Can you see your own talent and worth and nurture those thoughts into full blossom and action?

I have learned from this illness that your thoughts are your power. Thoughts, when nurtured and strengthened, are your actions. So clip the negative thoughts when they are young and weak, and encourage and nurture the positive thoughts until they are so powerful that your actions reflect the very best part of you.

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Don’t live yesterday. Live today.

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I continue to struggle with my health. I have been very sick for over seven weeks now. I will spend the entire day crying, and this past week, I went to see a counselor about my depression. She said that long term illness and depression go hand in hand. She said that I had to accept my illness and right now, I was mourning the loss of my health, and that I had to find something hopeful to keep in my thoughts and my heart to help me get through this illness.

After talking to her, I found the strength to fight again. I had quit fighting, and my mother and my husband were carrying the hope and the fight for me. Yesterday morning, I did a meditation on hope and health. It was an extremely positive meditation and very helpful, and I had a very good day yesterday.

But as evening fell and the night came on, I felt the twitching in my muscles that marks the beginning of another “episode,” and the fear, which is now my constant companion, fell more heavily onto my thoughts. So this morning, as I lay in bed just after waking, I tried to repeat the meditation of yesterday. I thought, if I can just repeat the positive steps of yesterday, I will have a good day today.

I don’t know if you have ever tried to meditate in desperation, but it’s not very effective. And then, as I lay there, desperate and trying to repeat the meditation of yesterday, a tiny voice in my head said, “Don’t repeat yesterday. Live today.”

And the profoundness, and perhaps the sadness given my current situation, of this statement hit me immediately. I can’t repeat yesterday, and, the truth is, I don’t want to repeat yesterday because I don’t want to live yesterday. I want to live today. I won’t lie: I desperately hope that today is as good as yesterday. But, whether it is or it isn’t, I still don’t want to live yesterday. I only want to live today, right now, and whatever it brings.

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Finding hope

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I have been really sick for a really long time. I took Zithromax (Azithromycin) six weeks ago and had an adverse reaction to it. The physical pain and mental suffering caused by Zithromax is excruciating. Besides just the intense physical pain, you are also robbed of hope, and your world becomes bleak and without happiness.

And, six weeks later, I continue to struggle with both the physical and mental pain, and I just try to “get through the day” and have one more day of recovery under my belt. But an existence like this, for weeks, wears at your attitude. Where I used to see the positive, I only see negative. Where I used to anticipate a bright future, I only anticipate more days of pain and fear. Where I once had hope, I now only have desperation. As I told my husband, “I have no more fight,” because I have no idea how long this pain will last or how long it will take to recover. I just know that it continues day after day after day.

Then last night, I was watching How I Met Your Mother as I tried to pass the time and get through another day. In the episode, Lily was crying because she felt like she had missed her chance to be an artist, to follow her dream and live her passion. And Marshall said to her, “I promise you, your best and your most exciting days are all ahead of you.”

And I finally felt hope again. That one sentence brought a small ray of sunshine into my bleak existence where all color had seeped out and I was huddled in the corner, torn from all the happiness and goodness in the world.

So if you are on a particularly dark and painful part of your life’s journey right now, like I am, then let me say:

I promise you, your best and your most exciting days are all ahead of you.

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The Uncrowned King

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Aragorn by Thomas M Madsen

We’re writers, storytellers, artists. We’re ephemeral yet infinite. We’re weak in our doubt and strong in our creativity.

We are a collective. We are one. Our voices, each unique, sing to the heavens and create space.

Remember this. When you look at the person next to you, know that that person is a songwriter and a poet. Know that their voice is as important to the chorus as yours. Know that their thoughts are as solid as yours, and know that even though they may seem lost, they are actually just on a different journey.

Then look in the mirror, and know that the person you are looking at is a songwriter and a poet with a strong voice in the chorus. Know that your thoughts are solid, and even though you may feel lost, you are actually just on an interesting, if perhaps sometimes difficult, journey.

Know that you are the uncrowned king.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

J.R.R. Tolkien

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Quotes from my husband

Recently my husband said two things that really impacted me:

Stay positive. It’s how we win.

Once she embraced love, she could fill the world with her imagination.

My husband is the accidental sage. His words are said in passing but can mean so much.

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An epiphany at the store

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I was at the grocery store today, standing in the checkout line as you do and idly looking about. I glanced over at the magazines, and of course the new Shape magazine immediately caught my eye given the large semi-naked picture of a beautiful Sharon Stone on the cover. My mind starts meandering down its normal path, “Wow, she looks really good. How old is she now? She must be pleased about that…” etc etc.

But then I looked up and I noticed that not one — not one  — person in the grocery store looked even remotely like Sharon Stone. I saw mothers looking very tired wrangling their small children; I saw co-workers laughing with each other and being silly; I saw couples doing their shopping while strolling very comfortably and happily next to each other; I saw one girl staring pensively off into the distance; I saw another mother clapping her hands and making her baby laugh.

Then I looked back at the magazine cover, and I realized — I suddenly grokked — that it was completely fake. No one looks like that, not even Sharon Stone looks like that. They may as well have put a picture of Lisa Simpson on the cover and told everyone that they are expected to look like this:

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The picture of Sharon Stone was no more real than a picture of a cartoon character. But we take on these images and we judge ourselves and others on these fake cartoon images. We expect ourselves and others to look like those images, but it is unattainable, as unattainable as making yourself look like Lisa Simpson.

And in the process of chasing this fake idea of beauty, we miss the real beauty in both ourselves and others. I saw happiness, sadness, weariness, silliness, and love in the faces of the people all around me in the grocery store. And it was beautiful. Joyful in all the emotions and unutterably beautiful.

The cartoons on the magazine covers look just real enough to fool us, but the next time you feel your mind falling for the illusion, look up. Look at the people around you and realize that none of them resemble the image on the magazine cover. They are true. The magazine cover is not.

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You see liquid; I see a path.

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“C’mon,” he said, his voice low and rough, steeped in unfulfilled desire. “Let’s get a drink.”  Her eyes were cloudy with her own unsatisfied hunger. He took her hand and led her out of the shadows of their own private silent world back into the world of the living and the sleeping. “We both need a stiff drink,” he repeated.

Through the side door and into the noisy lounge, he led her straight to the bar, waving for the barman. “Two whiskeys,” he said, “your best scotch.” As the barman left, he turned to look at her for the first time since the world had shuddered for both of them. Her silence was solemn and her blue eyes spoke of history and unanswered questions. Neither spoke until the barman delivered the whiskey glasses. As he took the glasses from the barman, he seemed relieved. This would be the end.

She took her glass; the golden liquid was subtle and beautiful. It moved around the glass following the laws of physics and poetry. “You see liquid,” she said as she watched the light refract through the whiskey, bringing its color to life. “I see a path. A choice.” She looked back at him. Her heart was heavy and her whole body felt her sadness. “Goodbye,” she said, and she drank the whiskey.

He felt her sadness as it matched resonance with his own. “We sometimes see ourselves very clearly through the lens of another,” he said. “Her unyielding desire to possess him destroyed her. I have to let you go. I’ll keep the love, but the desire must go.”

She could feel the moment fading away as the whiskey settled into her system. “I know.” She stood and held out her hand, “Shake my hand and say goodbye.” As he took her hand, they both felt the familiar magnetic pull towards each other through their skin.

“Goodbye,” he said, and then she turned and walked out of the bar.

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It’s okay to be naked

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Painting by Kandrashov Sergey

I’m afraid of being exposed. I’m afraid of revealing myself. It’s one thing to write anonymously on a little blog, my tiny words drifting in the digital black nether. But in real life? Where people can actually see me?

I have a million masks, one for every occasion. They fill my soul and clutter my identity. I hide behind their wooden colorful lifelike displays. Hiding, always hiding. Hiding everywhere except in words.

Words are my sanctuary. Words are my truth.

But I have to put the masks away now because there is something I want to do with my life that requires naked honesty. And some of my masks are beautiful and some of my masks are ugly, but none of them are me.

Now, to step naked onto the stage…

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I hear in my mind all of this music and it breaks my heart

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I was listening to Regina Sparks’ “Begin to Hope”. It’s one of my favorite songs. It’s about a woman who finally opens her heart, allows herself to become vulnerable, and finds love.

I have struggled with this issue my entire life. In the song, she is talking about romantic love. I’ve never had a problem opening myself to romantic love, but when it comes to friendships, I don’t let anyone in. I have a sturdy wall built of steel and brick around my heart. There’s a tiny window and a tiny door that are well guarded, and only my husband, my family and a very few friends that I’ve had since childhood are allowed through the door.

I have made no friends my entire adult life. And I’m 45 years old. I keep everyone at arm’s length. And even my childhood friends are watched closely as they walk around inside me.

It’s exhausting. And I don’t know how to dismantle the wall. I understand how the wall was built: a childhood that had intimate knowledge of pain at the hands of others. But that was an age ago. I’m a competent, intelligent, strong adult. The wall is now a hindrance to me, and yet I cannot break it down.

So I decided I would write a letter to these friends who have passed through my life and I watch longingly through the window in the wall. I just hope they are still there when I finally manage to tear it down.

Dear sweet friend,

Thank you for being in my life. Thank you for seeing me with your eyes filled with love and acceptance. Thank you for being in this world. You are a light shining your uniquely beautiful color into the darkness, lighting the way for others with disco sparkles and laughs.

I’m sorry that I can’t get near you yet. The fear is still in control. I hope one day to understand it and overcome it, but that day is not today. But my wish is to someday meet you where the air is fresh and I can breathe again, and the sun is warm and I can feel again, and you are there, as beautiful as you are now.

Until then, know that I see you, admire you and am grateful for you. You are what I aspire to be. You give me hope.

Love from Angel

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