All the world’s a stage and we are merely players

“All-the-world’s-a-stage-and-and-all-the-men-and-women-merely-players_”-399x400

Today I’ve been thinking about relationships and reminiscing about not only current relationships, but all the ones I can remember in my 32 years. As I considered the bonds between myself and a myriad of other sentient beings, I began to see my life as some kind of play or movie. Of course, I thought of myself as the central character (since I can only live in my mind) but I also decided which other people would be main characters right now (my husband, mom and cats were the first to come to mind). After that, I looked at supporting characters, which right now would be extended family, church friends, people I talk to frequently on Facebook and colleagues of the art/writing/autism community. Lastly, I thought of the minor characters or even “extras” – those people who aren’t a regular part of my life and may not even know my name but can still affect my mood and spirit by how they choose to treat me in the moments we share.

As I was busy drawing these influential connections in my mind, I found the list growing and growing. People who were once a big part of my life but now aren’t or those people who I have never met in person but either inspired or horrified me by the things they did or said. I thought of how certain musicians, authors and historical figures have had a huge impact on my thoughts, beliefs and values. As I kept thinking, I almost felt like the idea was getting too big for my head to hold. The sheer number of lives that have touched mine is amazing. I know I have impacted many of them as well – both for good and bad (but hopefully more good than bad). I even thought about how many people I may have greatly influenced without even realizing it. Since there are many people who may never know how much they meant to my life journey, I’m sure that I have probably been the same to others without knowing it.

So here I would like to take a moment to say thank you to EVERYONE who has had a part in my life. You have helped make me who I am and as imperfect as I still am, I like the person I’m growing into. I miss many of you who I don’t see or speak to regularly anymore. Never think I quit loving or caring about you. Some of you have filled me with hope in moments of despair and I thank you, even though you may never know what you meant to me and I may not even consciously remember who said and did what. Some of you I hope to grow to know better, because I feel that there is something in my soul that recognizes something in yours. Some I have walked away from intentionally, but that doesn’t mean our relationship wasn’t important to me, just that for one reason or another I needed to grow elsewhere for a while. In the end, I like to think that even over distance and time, our memories and souls keep us connected.

New book release – “Searching for the Truth: Poems & Prose Inspired by Our Inner Worlds”

Searching for the Truth cover

I am happy to announce that my new book, “Searching for the Truth: Poems & Prose Inspired by Our Inner Worlds” is finally available! This is a book that I have been planning and working on for the last few years. I have always been interested in subjects such as spirituality, philosophy and psychology, so I feel a strong desire to share my thoughts and feelings about those matters. Most importantly though, I wanted to show that the real magic is in being allowed to contemplate these deeper subjects and be open to possibilities instead of focusing only on one aspect. This is not a “religious” book because it doesn’t adhere to any specific theology, but it is spiritual in nature.

“Searching for the Truth” embraces simplicity and honesty in an almost zen-like fashion. It is easy to understand, but often filled with layers of meaning for those who like to dig deeper.

If you would like to purchase a copy of this new book, it is available on Amazon ($6.99 for paperback and $2.99 for the Kindle version) and Barnes & Noble. I love to know what my readers think of my books, so if you read this collection, please consider leaving a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Goodreads.

Racial inequality and injustice – why should I care?

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This post isn’t about one particular incident, but the numerous incidents of the last few years that have happened in the public eye. I know some people who still claim there is no real racial inequality or injustice in our country, but I just don’t see how someone can truly feel that way. Perhaps they don’t want to believe it is true or they are listening to media that spins everything a certain way, I don’t know. But I don’t see how anyone who hasn’t been living in a cave can say that racial inequality and injustice are not problems in America.

Now, on to the next question…why do I care and why do I think everyone else should care? I know some people who have posed this question or at least implied it. Why do I, a white woman who lives somewhere between poverty and middle class care so much about racial inequality and injustice that doesn’t affect me? Because it DOES affect me. It affects us all. So below I am sharing some reasons that I personally care so much about this topic. Some of the reasons are personal and some are universal, but they all make me care very much.

1. I care about racial inequality and injustice because I have seen people I love experience it. Growing up I had a step-father named Charlie who was African American. I loved him dearly and considered him family, but many people thought it was wrong just because of his race. I care because my mother had two white children but she also had a child who was half African American. When that child died, people told her it was “better off that way”. They never would have said that about me or my other sister. I care because when my husband and I fostered we saw a huge difference in the way schools and even our prior church treated kids of other races. Some in our church even told us it was wrong to take in kids of another race. One school secretary said she wished that those of us who foster would stop bringing “kids like that” to their school, yet no one ever had the nerve to say that about our white foster kids.

2. I care about racial inequality and injustice because it breeds hatred and violence, which affects us all. When people are angry, hurt and oppressed, many turn to violence to show their rage. I do not condone these violent reactions, but I do understand them from a psychological view. When no one listens or cares about your suffering, it is natural to want to draw attention to the pain. Often people end up choosing negative ways to do so because they don’t know how else to get people to notice and care. And when violence breaks out, it is no respecter of persons. Anyone may become a victim, even you and your kids. That is a reason to care very much.

3. I care about racial inequality and injustice because prejudice grows. The LGBT and African American communities may be two of the most oppressed groups in America right now, but they aren’t the only ones. As a woman, I know women are oppressed and disrespected in many ways too. As are Hispanics and Jews. I could go on listing, but the point is that when we approve of prejudice in any form it spreads and can rapidly grow out of control.

4. I care about racial inequality and injustice because I love this country. I love the ideals of equality for all and the “land of the free”. I was proud growing up to say I was an American. I loved knowing and befriending people from all different races and cultures. I loved growing up with heroes and role models of different colors. Now I’m not as proud. Slowly this country is feeling more and more hostile and uncaring. High profile people are saying blatantly hateful and cruel things about people who are different than them. Even worse, many vocal supporters agree with them. I still believe in the American dream, but I fear many others don’t.

5. Lastly, I care about racial inequality and injustice because I am a Christian and Jesus cared very deeply about those subjects. He cared about the hated and oppressed and fought constantly with those doing the oppressing. WWJD? He sure wouldn’t be hating on the poor and mistreated.

Burning bridges and moving on

"Burning Bridges" acrylic on paper, 9" x 12".
“Burning Bridges” acrylic on paper, 9″ x 12″.

Lately I have been on a “burning bridges” kick. I have decided to let go of some situations and relationships that were unhealthy and quite frankly, were draining the life from me in some ways. For quite a while I debated with myself about whether to give up and move on from these things or not. Part of me didn’t want to give up on people I once cared about and move on. I wanted to hold onto the hope that things would change and magically it would all become better. I don’t think this hope is bad, but sometimes if you cling too tightly to that which isn’t good for you, instead of things becoming better, they actually deteriorate more.

When I realized that even thinking about these people and situations was severely depressing me, I figured it was time to release the attachment and move on the best I can. I wish them all the best, but I realize now that they are not the best thing for me at this time. Perhaps we were only meant to be in each other’s lives for a certain period of time, or maybe we do have a future together but need some time apart to grow and change. I have always prided myself on my loyalty to those I love and care about, but I am now realizing that relationships can’t just be one-sided. I cannot make anyone like or respect me, but I can choose to spend my time with those who do. Hopefully as I move on, I will enter a future full of new experiences and meaningful relationships.

Here are a few quotes about burning bridges I have especially enjoyed lately (sources unknown):

“May the bridges I burn light the way.”

“Sometimes you need to burn bridges to stop yourself from crossing them again.”

“The hardest lesson in life is figuring out which bridges to cross and which to burn.”

“Burning bridges takes too long. I prefer explosives.”

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Seeing kindness, sacrifice and love in a Wendy’s dining room

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“Simply Love”, watercolor 6″ x 8″

I must look like an approachable person, because I often get random strangers coming up to me and starting the oddest conversations or just saying random things out of the blue. This often happens when I am having lunch at a fast food restaurant for some reason. I have had strangers come up to me and say all kinds of things, from the construction workers at Arby’s who accused me of skipping school and wouldn’t leave me alone until I showed them some ID, to the elderly man at McDonald’s who came up to me and said that he just had to tell me that I was “one of the most beautiful girls he had ever seen in person” (I must admit when he said that I thought he might need new glasses lol). I’ve had other strangers start random conversations with me about religion, politics, food, cats…and lots of other stuff I just don’t remember right now.

However, today’s chance encounter at Wendy’s was even odder than many in the past. I was sitting in the Wendy’s dining room, eating my french fries and working on puzzles in my word games book, when I noticed someone standing over me. I looked up to find an older African American gentleman who was dressed a little eccentrically (he had thick chains hung in an X shape on his chest over an old faded rock t-shirt). He handed me a quarter, smiled and walked away. I looked at the quarter and at his back – a little confused. Never had a stranger just walked up and handed me a quarter unless I had dropped one or left it laying somewhere. A few minutes later, I noticed him standing over me again. “Are you a school girl?” he asked. “No, I graduated,” I answered (not bothering to say that I had graduated about 13 years ago). He handed me another quarter. I thanked him and told him he was very kind and he smiled and walked away again.

A few minutes later, I was about to throw the rest of my food away (just some leftover fries) when he stopped me and asked if I was going to throw the fries away. I answered yes and he asked if he could have them. I started to hand them over, when another man (a Caucasian businessman from the looks of him) overheard our conversation and asked the elderly man if he had any money for food. “I had fifty cents, but I knew that wasn’t enough to buy anything to eat, so I thought I would give it to this sweet young lady in case she needed it,” he answered.

I was a little stunned by the whole exchange and not sure what to say, but the businessman jumped up immediately and took the old guy up to the counter to get him some lunch. I looked at the quarters and realized that even though I had wondered why anyone would give a stranger two quarters, that this had been all the man had to offer and he had wanted to give me something as a gesture of kindness. I thanked the businessman for his kindness to the elderly man and headed out for my doctor’s appointment which was next door. When I told my doctor about the encounter, he was pretty sure that he knew the older man. He explained that the man lived nearby and had some mild to moderate mental disabilities. You just never know who you will meet in this world or how they will impact your day.

I want to save the world…but I can’t. Not alone.

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I think I have a savior complex. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not delusional. I don’t think I’m Jesus Christ or anything like that (the whole being crucified thing honestly kind of freaks me out). However, in my mind I have this ridiculous idea that I have to save the world. Sometimes I think it is because I am overly sensitive (a bittersweet gift from my Asperger’s Syndrome). It could also be because I grew up in a generation where we were constantly told “you can change the world!” Or maybe it is the fault of a stranger who came up to me at a truck stop when I was around 12. The guy walked right up to me, handed me a $20 bill and told me “God has a very important plan for you. Make sure you fulfill it.” Weird encounters like that leave a mark.

Regardless of the reason behind it, I can’t just look away when I see children starving, animals abused, the earth destroyed or people being cruel to one another…regardless of where it takes place in the world. There is this driving voice in my head that continually tells me that things have to change and that I need to be actively working on changing them. I feel a sense of urgency, like more is at stake than I even realize. Sometimes this drives me crazy. I feel like I should always be doing more. I should be feeding the poor. I should be saving the animals. I should be fighting against the mere appearance of injustice and prejudice. It is almost like a compulsion, with the voice in my head always shouting, “Do more! Do more! Do more!”

Sometimes I wonder if other people feel this. I like to think they do, but when I look around I don’t see that. Instead, it seems like most people are caught up in their daily lives and in being entertained or distracted from reality. Maybe that is why I feel so heavily that I need to do more all the time, that it all “depends on me”. Because many others just don’t seem to care. Perhaps I feel like I have to do enough for me and all of them too in order to really make this world better.

However, I know that I can’t do it all. I am just one person in a sea of humanity. I have few material or physical assets. I have health problems that limit what I can do. I can’t drive more than about 20 minutes away from home without getting lost. I am a woman, and as such, often seen as some kind of “inferior” being. Doesn’t seem like I have much of a chance of saving the world, huh? However, I keep doing what little I can do. Speaking out about things that matter to me. Looking for little opportunities to lend a hand or show kindness. Drawing attention to things that many people would rather not see. Trying to shine my little bit of light on this often dark world. Hoping that others will join me and shine their light as well. Alone, I am little more than a spark, but together, we could brighten the world tremendously.

What the Disney “Frozen” song “Let It Go” means to me

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The success of Idina Menzel’s version of the song “Let It Go” from Disney’s animated movie “Frozen” really didn’t surprise me at all. The first time I heard the song (the opening weekend of the movie), I fell in love. I have the soundtrack and like a lot of the songs, but “Let It Go” is just special. Some have claimed the song and movie are about homosexuality and the fight for LGBT acceptance. I don’t agree, although I can see how the song would be a great coming out song. In my opinion, the song could apply to a great many ways that we hide our ‘true’ selves for fear of rejection or hurt. So, although I am going to share the lyrics that really speak to me and why, do not feel like my connection to the song has to be yours.

  • “A kingdom of isolation, and it looks like I’m the queen.” – To me, this is about loneliness. I relate because I have often felt like I lived in isolation. Growing up with undiagnosed autism I often felt like I was somewhere off on the moon or in a world of my own. I wanted to include others. I wanted connection, but I was either afraid or didn’t know how to get it. I had friends, but even those relationships sometimes confounded me and left me utterly confused and alone. I’ve grown up and learned a lot, but it still isn’t easy to make connections with others at the level I would like to.
  • “The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside, couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried.” – Who among us hasn’t felt overwhelmed by our emotions? It is human to sometimes feel crippled by fear, saddened by tragedy and betrayal, angry about injustice or like we have to claw our way up from the depths of despair. Often I have just wanted to scream because of all the hurt, rage, sadness and unfairness in this world.
  • “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see. Be the good girl you always have to be. Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.” – To me this has definite religious affiliations. At times in my life I felt like I had to hide my true self to get approval and love from friends, family and the church. I had to pretend to be a “good girl” who never questions anything and believes blindly what I am told. I still feel like many wish I would just shut up and believe what they tell me is true, but I just can’t do that anymore.
  • “Well, now they know…” – Thank God! They know! I can be myself!
  • “Let it go, let it go. Can’t hold it back anymore. Let it go, let it go. Turn away and slam the door.” – Just keep going. Follow what in your heart you know is right. It is ok if not everyone understands or likes you. Sometimes you may have to burn bridges to the past in order to find new places to grow.
  • “I don’t care what they’re going to say…” – Ok, maybe I still care a little (after all I am still human), but I won’t let it rule me.
  • “It’s funny how some distance, makes everything seem small. And the fears that once controlled me, can’t get to me at all.” – Wow…so THIS is freedom. I can think what I want. I can do what I want. I can love who I want. I can finally get out from under all these rules and dogmas that had me confused and scared. I can get out there and actually help this world!
  • “It’s time to see what I can do. To test the limits and break through. No right, no wrong, no rules for me. I’m free.” – Ok, there is still right and wrong, but I don’t have to take the word of other humans about what it is. I can find a place in this world where I really fit in and my talents can be used for good.
  • “I am one with the wind and sky. Let it go, let it go. You’ll never see me cry.” – I’m going to forgive those who hurt me, even if they don’t know or care that they did. I’m not going to live in bondage to anger and pain.
  • “Here I stand, and here I’ll stay. Let the storm rage on.” – I’ve made my decision. I’ve taken a stance for what I believe. I may face criticism, anger, mockery or even hate, but that is ok. Everyone who ever made a difference faced those things.
  • “I’m never going back, the past is in the past.” – Sometimes I get sad. Sometimes I miss the people who turned their backs on me. Sometimes I wish things could have been different, but I can’t go back. I can only go forward.
  • “Here I stand. In the light of day. Let the storm rage on…the cold never bothered me anyway.” – Hopefully I will inspire others to be true to themselves. To think about and evaluate their priorities and values. So yeah, the rejection may make me feel cold and alone at times, but compared to what I have gained…that is ok.

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Religion…for all the wrong reasons?

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Just something to think about…

Have you ever really stopped to think why you believe what you believe? If you have any religious or spiritual beliefs, what prompted you to form them? If you are a Christian for example, why did you choose to be a Christian? Was it because that is what you were taught growing up? Is it because most of your friends/family share that belief system and you want to fit in? Is it because you want blessings in return or fear going to hell? Or it is because you truly love and want to live those beliefs?

Now, once you have an idea in mind of why you chose your beliefs, think about who those beliefs serve. Which of the reasons are self-serving and which are others-centered? If you chose your beliefs because that is what you were always taught or because all your friends and family share the beliefs, who benefits from that? Have you just taken the path of least resistance? Are you afraid to question those beliefs for fear of being ostracized, bullied or left out? If so, is that a good reason to believe something?

If you chose your beliefs because you fear the punishment of hell or desire rewards here or in heaven, who benefits from that? Is it selfish to choose a belief system based on what it can give you or to avoid the fears of hellish punishment that have been instilled in you? Is it materialistic to live a good life only because you want a nice mansion or big crown in heaven when you die? How many people keep some kind of tally in their head of good vs bad deeds, trying to do just enough good stuff to require whatever fulfillment they believe will get them into heaven? How selfish is the “gospel of prosperity” as some people have called it? Do you believe that if you do ‘right’ you deserve good things and that those who don’t have good things have obviously failed to live right (as I have heard some Christians say)?

Now, what about if you chose your beliefs because you truly loved them and wanted to live them? Do those beliefs make you want to serve others? If you are a Christian, do you truly like the things Jesus did and do you try to emulate those actions regardless of how unpopular they may be? Do you want to defend and help heal the weak and the hurting? Do you put the welfare of people before tradition? Do you want to actively participate in God’s spiritual kingdom here on earth and make things better for others while you are here, or are you just surviving until you can leave the earth? Do you find meaning in reaching out to others rather than in being entertained or catered to? Is your comfort more important to you than the basic needs of others?

Of course, no one can answer these questions for us. It is something that requires deep thought and honesty. It makes us see the parts of ourselves we may not like or may make us question what we have always thought. I ask myself these kinds of questions often and sometimes they are hard to face and reveal, but I have a deep desire to be authentically about helping others. So many of us take our selfishness into our religion…and that shows. People know and it turns them off. I hope that maybe we can all someday see that true love and spirituality can never be just about “us”, “our kind” or “our wants and needs”.

Picking on the poor in the name of Christ

Christ of the Breadlines

Over the years I have heard some of my fellow Christians say truly awful things about the poor, the disabled and the needy. In one conversation a fellow Christian declared that the poor “deserve to be poor” and almost always cause their own problems. I have heard similar sentiments from other Christians that almost always make me want to wince in discomfort.

I have also heard fellow Christians (and Fox News) say repeatedly that most people on disability are able to work and are just lazy people who want to rely on the government. I’m sure if they knew firsthand how hard it is to get disability, how long it takes and how worthless and depressed many disabled people feel when unable to work, they might change their minds. If they went through it themselves or someone else in their immediate family needed those services, you can almost guarantee their opinion might change. I would say the same for other services for the poor, such as food stamps and Medicaid.

When I hear negative comments about the poor and disabled from anyone in the Christian community, I can’t help but think of these verses:

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Proverbs 14:31.

“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.” Proverbs 21:13

“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4

“Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.” Zechariah 7:10 (The word “alien” in this also makes me think about our treatment of immigrants – legal or otherwise).

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:37-40

“Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21 (Jesus commanded this kind of extreme sacrifice and yet we balk at helping the poor in even small ways?)

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” Luke 12:33 (I’m sensing that Jesus really wasn’t a materialistic guy and didn’t want his followers to be either. Could be wrong there, but I definitely get that feeling.)

The three types of human relationships as I see it

"Flight into the Dawn" watercolor painting.
“Flight into the Dawn” watercolor painting.

Maybe it is because of the logical thinking connected with Asperger’s Syndrome, but I tend to categorize most things in my life. Today I want to talk about the three categories I see in human relationships. This is somewhat from a spiritual point of view, since I myself am deeply interested in spirituality.

Category #1 – Neutral. This is by far the largest category of human relationships in my mind. These are people that enter our lives for various amounts of time but typically don’t make a big impression or change our lives very much. Some might call them acquaintances. There aren’t necessarily any negative feelings involved, but not a whole lot of positive feelings either. Neither party goes very far out of their way to deepen the relationship or get to know each other better. Hopefully each party wishes the other well and would not wish harm on them, but that is about the limit of intention. However, sometimes these people can show up in just the right place, at just the right moment and leave a lasting memory or impact.

For instance, once when I was visiting my grandfather in the nursing home, his roommate died with us sitting there only feet away. The death was unexpected and the man’s wife was there when he just suddenly died. Even though I did not know the woman or her husband, I instinctively went to her and gave her a hug and let her cry on my shoulder since no one else from her family was there to comfort her. So, even though we did not know each other and will likely never see each other again, for a moment, we connected deeply. It is moments like that which assure me that we really are all deeply connected, even if we don’t consciously realize it.

Category #2 – Gifts. In this category I would include any relationships that are positive and precious to us. Loved ones. Family. Friends. People who go out of their way to reach out to us, support us, encourage us when we are down and really connect with us on a soul to soul level. In many ways, these relationships are what make life worth living. Even when there are disagreements or differences of opinions, these relationships still radiate love and caring. Ideally, all families should be full of these kinds of edifying relationships, but that is not always the case. However, if we can’t find this kind of love and care in our family of origin, hopefully we can find it outside. I would include beloved pets in this category too, even though they aren’t human relationships. I think when most of us picture heaven, we picture sharing it with these souls that truly make our lives bright and meaningful. When people in this category pass away it is extremely painful, but in the sorrow we may find that a soul to soul relationship survives, even when we are on different sides of the veil.

Category #3 – Tests. This is the relationship category that is hardest to deal with. It ranges from people who just get under our skin and annoy the crap out of us, to betrayals by those we thought we could trust, to people who are truly malicious in nature and seek to hurt or even kill us. Although this group of relationships is the one least liked, it is often the one that teaches the most lessons. I truly believe that whether we want them there or not, these people come into our lives for a reason. Perhaps it is to learn forgiveness. Or patience. Or to learn when we need to stand up for ourselves and what we believe in. Sometimes these relationships can be severed and learning how to do so (how to remove negativity from your life) can be an important lesson in itself. Sometimes these relationships are unavoidable. If that is the case, be assured that these souls are in your life for a reason and learning to deal with them in the right way will help your soul to grow and may very well help theirs as well.

Of course there are some relationships that may move from one category to another over the course of our life. And there are some relationships that may fulfill different roles simultaneously or switch roles at different times depending upon the situation. However, I do think that all relationships have a purpose and are ultimately some of our greatest teachers.