The Power and Limitations of Prayer

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I believe in the power of prayer. Thought I should just get that out before I go on to contradict myself or stir up a nest of angry fire ants. Made that mistake once and, believe me, there are someplace you just don’t want ants to bite. Sensitive places. So…So sensitive. But I digress!

Prayer is a big part of my life but I’ve started to wonder if there are limitations to this magical little friend. Like Superman holding kryptonite, can prayer be drained of its strength and turned into a puddle of goo? When do these words become nothing more than silly incantations? Is that even possible or should I just stop asking stupid questions?

I’m sure there are plenty of you that believe prayer is a waste of time. That it’s a childish superstition. It’s the equivalent of staring up at the sky and wishing on a shooting star or blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. If you tell me what you wished for it won’t come true. That’s how that goes right? Huh, when you put it like that, um, yeah fair play. Prayer does sound pretty silly.

Kneeling on the floor, clasping folded hands, and bowing the head. Eyes closed and words sent out into the vast unknown. Believing that this great entity is listening to every word, taking notes, and then…What? It’s kinda like therapy only cheaper. Plus, no one asks, “How does that make you feel?” Feel? I don’t know. Itchy?

Does this great entity say anything or are we just putting words out into the ether and hoping for the best? If we don’t hear a response, does that mean that God isn’t real, or does it mean we haven’t learned how to listen? Are we looking for answers in all the wrong places? Or, are we seeing answers that aren’t there because we believe there should be answers?

There I go, asking way too many questions but I have more. A lot more. Way too many and your time is precious. Let’s boil it down to one or two. That’s a little closer to bite-size. Is the power of prayer real or is it a figment of our wishful thinking? If it’s real, is it all-powerful or are there limitations?

Two questions instead of two hundred? Not bad. If you think I’m about to answer them then this is gonna get awkward. I was kinda hoping you knew. No? This is a one-way form of communication. Cool. Cool. Forgot how this thing works for a second. Are you okay if we just sit in this uncomfortable silence for a few minutes? 

Okay, let’s talk this out and maybe I’ll stumble on something that closely resembles an answer.

As I said, I believe in the healing power of prayer. For me, that’s a done deal but I’m not someone who blindly follows beliefs. Even my own beliefs. Just because my heart tells me it’s true, doesn’t mean I don’t have doubts. I ask a lot of questions. I’m dubious when an answer sounds too good to be true or too pretty. I’m a cynic and it’s not one of my finest qualities but I think asking these big questions is important for growth. It’s vital, as someone who has a system of belief, to keep digging because if I don’t, I become complacent. 

A complacent faith, for someone like me, is a dying light in a dark world, and I need all the light I can get. So I ask more questions. I doubt my faith. I question God. I wonder if he’s real or if he’s brunching with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. I pray with one eye open just in case the answer falls out of the sky like a cartoon anvil. 

Beep Beep…Ouch.

Oh boy, let’s start with the positive because I think we could all use a little more positivity. After all, these are dark times Harry. Dark times.

NERD! What? Who me? Positively.

It’s easier for me to believe in something I can see, touch, feel. Tangibles are harder to argue with than hypotheticals. If I can experience it first hand then doubt can’t wake me up in the middle of the night with its endless stream of questions.

Ah, but when it comes to my firm belief in prayer? How do I know that something intangible actually manifests itself in a reality-based mindset?

Before my last transplant, I was in the hospital, and I was taken down to the inpatient dialysis unit for my regular run. I was hooked up to hemodialysis. Two tubes ran from my body to the machine. Blood was pulled out through one line, sent through the filters, and pushed back into me through the other. It usually took three, three and a half hours, of sucking (literally and figuratively) to get my blood clean.

Want some science mixed in with your religion? Sure, here we go. Think of dialysis as an external artificial kidney. The kidneys filter out the waste from our blood, convert it into urine, and then we flush it down the pipes. If the kidneys don’t work then that waste builds up in the blood, it’s dispersed throughout the body, and that would be fatal if we didn’t have a machine to clean out the waste.

Dialysis isn’t a perfect system but it did buy me some time. Time to find a donor, go through all of the testing, and have a life-saving kidney transplant. Thank God for science!

Most of my runs were pretty bad. My body didn’t respond well, and I always felt a lot worse when I was unhooked than when I went on. This day, it went from bad to horrible very quickly. I’d just had a big surgery. My already weak body was a lot weaker. Dialysis is incredibly hard on the body and this day my body couldn’t take it.

The pain started about an hour into my run. My muscles started to cramp and it felt like my blood was boiling in my veins. I was freezing cold, my teeth were chattering and I was shaking, but I also felt like I was on fire. Can fire be cold? The staff were working as hard as they could to figure out what was wrong. Cramping is normal on dialysis but feeling like your body is on fire? No, that’s not normal so no one knew how to fix it.

While they were trying to figure it out, my mom was on the phone with my dad. My dad’s a paster, and he was about to give a sermon. Instead of preaching, he asked his congregation to pray and they did. I don’t know what they said, but I knew when they started because I felt it.

I know that this is going to sound crazy. Believe me, I know but the fire in my veins was replaced by a different sort of heat. It started in my chest and slowly spread throughout my body. It was like a warm summer breeze hitting your sweaty face. That moment when you sigh, look up at the sun, and a hard days work just melts away.

That’s what it felt like. I didn’t know they were praying, but I knew they had. I felt it. The pain stopped. I relaxed. I closed my eyes and sighed. I felt their prayers and I felt the response. 

Or, you know, science?

Nah, at that moment my cynical mind was flummoxed because I told the team I was feeling better and they told me they hadn’t figured out what was wrong. Huh, coincidence? Maybe but what I felt was love, not medicine. That’s the word I was looking for! I felt this indescribable love extinguish the fire in my blood. 

Again, I know how it sounds but that’s how it felt.

When I look back I can see other moments when praper saved my life. I can’t even tell you how many times doctors have said, “How the hell are you still alive? You should be dead. You know that right?”

I’m never sure how to respond. Do I apologize? Promise to do better next time? 

I believe that prayer has the power to heal. It has the power to save and change lives. Prayer can be a superpower. I’m absolutely sure of that, but that doesn’t mean it’s without limitations. Nothing is perfect. Even the Garden of Eden had one big red flaw.

Then again, without human error, that flaw wouldn’t be a part of the story.

Is that the key here? User error.

I don’t know about you, but I pray with certain expectations. A list of things I need and I take them to God hoping he provides. Kinda like Santa? Is that what I’m doing? Sitting on his knee, reading off a list, and crossing my fingers. In my defence, isn’t that what were told to do? Take it to God. He’ll provide.

Lay it at his feet. Ask and you’ll receive. We’re taught to go to God, and we’re told he’ll give us what we need. That’s how the system works. Every lesson in prayer that I’ve ever sat through has taught me that, when I ask, God will provide.

Until he doesn’t and then what? Huh…I feel an anvil rushing towards my head.

There’s a chance that these lessons lost something in translation? What if these words we recite, these snippets of scripture, lack context? No idea what that context is but it feels like something is missing. Prayer has become this centre for wish fulfillment. It’s all about what God can do for me, my life, and for the lives of the people I love. I go to God when I need something, and yeah he’s there for that too, but if I take and don’t give? I think that maybe we need to give a little.

Prayer isn’t just about looking for answers. That’s a component but it can be so much more if we stop asking and just start talking. A conversation. Build a relationship. Sit in silence. Go with a willingness to simply be present without an agenda. What happens to our prayers then?

Here’s someone who says it better: “Prayer asks us to break out of our monologue with ourselves and to imitate Jesus by turning our lives into an unceasing conversation with the One we call God.” (Nouwen, Henri J. M. Clowning in Rome: Reflections on Solitude, Celibacy, Prayer, and Contemplation. New York: Image Books (Doubleday), 1979, pp. 68-70.)

A conversation. Two people, sitting, talking, enjoying each other’s company. Sure, God’s voice is a little hard to hear but do we need to hear the words to build a connection? Yeah, it would help but if we’re so used to talking, or asking for things, then we haven’t learned how to listen. Once we do that, how will our experience with prayer change?

It’s easier, sitting down with our lists or reciting the prayers we were taught as kids. Bang one out, get off our knees, and get on with our day. Listening is hard and learning to recognize God’s voice is harder but what will happen when we finally hear what he’s been trying to tell us? Imagine the possibilities.

I know that opening ourselves up is uncomfortable. Being vulnerable is miserable. Having an open conversation feels awkward. Especially with God which is odd. If there’s ever a time, place, person, that I can bare my soul too it’s now. God is, well, God. All-knowing. All-seeing. I’m not saying anything he doesn’t already know. I can be honest and it’s safe. There’s no agenda. It’s just the two of us being honest for the first time in a long while.

At least I know that God’s going to keep my mess, my fears, and my insecurities safe. I can be my true authentic self without judgment, condemnation, or criticism. I can let it all out. I don’t have to hold it all in. With God, in prayer, I’m safe. That is so liberating and maybe that’s where we’ll find the true power of prayer.

A Werewolf On An Open Road?

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“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” – Robert Frost

It’s a clear night and the stars shine brightly. The air is warm, almost too warm for this time of year, but no one’s complaining. Well, no one else is awake right now and the silence is perfection. Everyone is tucked away in their beds which means the streets are empty and it’s time to play.

A little more pressure on the gas and the engine roars. It’s been a long time since it’s pushed the limits but tonight is the night it comes alive. The steering wheel shakes ever so slightly as the speed increase. Tighten the grip and hold on. Look in the review mirror and smile. The cities lights are fading fast and the open road is calling.

Faster. Faster. The smile widens. Life is good. Life is great. It will never be better than this moment.

There’s a flash of fur. White teeth bare as it crashes into the windshield and its red eyes shatter glass. The brakes lock up and the tires smoke. The seatbelt locks. The airbag deploys. It came out of nowhere. There was no warning. There was no way to prepare. What was that thing? It looked human but…Not.

Does it matter? The moment is lost. Perfection has been shattered. Happiness has been destroyed. Life has come to a complete stop.

Sometimes, when I stand very still, I can feel the earth moving beneath my feet. Is that weird? Maybe my overactive imagination is playing tricks on me, but I swear I feel the ground hum and groan as it’s pulled along by mighty force. As acutely as I feel it move, I feel it stop and my face slams into that airbag with momentums full force.

Uh, I guess for legal reasons I should point out that I’m speaking metaphorically. Don’t get into a real car, drive recklessly, and cause a major motor vehicle accident. That’s just wrong and senseless. Be sensible. Drive safely. There’s my public service announcement for the day.

That should appease the litigious folks. Now, let’s get back on the road…In a manner of speaking.

Have you ever felt the earth stop spinning? You were walking along with a skip in your step. Maybe you were humming a song you heard on the radio. There you are, happily living your life, on a beautiful spring day. Then, in a moment of recklessness, you thought, “What could possibly ruin this perfect moment?”

Well, that woke up that bloody little fairy! It cracks open a cold one, takes a big gulp, burps, and says, “Hold my beer.” 

Out of nowhere, that drunk little bastard runs right in front of you and the brakes engage. You come to a complete stop and feel your face cave in as you stick a hard landing. Maybe it’s shock or some psychological defence mechanism, but suddenly you feel like you don’t exist anymore. Worse, it feels like the world has vanished and you’re left stranded on the last remaining patch of earth. Coincidentally, it’s about the size of your home.

Your life comes to an abrupt halt. The earth stops spinning. Everything just stops and it becomes too quiet.

A few years ago a very dear friend of mine passed away. We met when we were little kids and we were both fighting the same illness. We were always in the hospital at the same time and we were usually there for the same reasons so we became very close, very quickly. Her mom called us the Timex Twins because we, “Took a lickin and kept on tickin.”

I called her mom, Ma and she did the same to mine. We played together. Fought together. Argued and forgave each other. She had my back and I had hers. No matter what, I knew I could pick up the phone, and she would be there for me. We were like sisters and losing her felt like I lost a part of myself.

For the first few days, I hunkered down and let the haze cover me like a blanket. I felt restless but I didn’t have the energy to move. My arms and legs felt like they were being weighed down by a thousand pounds of sand. It also felt like I had ants crawling underneath my skin, tugging on my nerve endings, and I needed to run around, shake em off but I was too tired. When I had some energy, I walked around aimlessly, and when I found something to do I’d just stare at it because my ability to comprehend the basics were nonexistent.

Thoughts didn’t register. Feelings couldn’t fully form. I was on autopilot, and I couldn’t flip the switch back on to manual control. After a few days, I had enough strength to give it some elbow grease. The switch didn’t flip all the way and the fog didn’t lift all that much. I just became adept at navigating it. Still, it took months to feel like myself, but at least I wasn’t completely lost in the haze.

It’s the strangest feeling. Going back out into the world after a period of grief-induced hibernation or hibernation for any reason. Have you noticed how everything and everyone just carries on as if nothing has happened? Something big happened, but the world just kept going. What? How’s that possible? I don’t know how to process this information.

There’s this part of me that wanted to stand on a busy street corner and scream at people for acting too normal. That irrational, overemotional, reactionary part of me that’s locked away in a soundproof room, down in the basement. Honestly, it’s better for everyone if she’s kept far away from the control centre. If she had her way, there would be anarchy up in my nervous system.

But it is a strange feeling, isn’t it? Your world is crashing down. It’s imploding. You can barely breathe, let alone take care of your own basic needs. Eating, sleeping, bathing. Everything becomes so much harder, but outside everything carries on like it has for hundreds, thousands, of years.

People get up, get dressed, go to work or school. You watch them walk down the street, smile at familiar faces, wave at old friends. There’s laughter and music. A bus drives by and puffs diesel into your face and the smell is so familiar that’s it’s almost comforting. Everything is the same except everything has changed.

Well, the way we see it has changed because we’ve been changed. Someone we loved has died, or we’ve been given a grim diagnosis. It can be a hundred different things and the exact moment doesn’t matter. What matters is how that moment changes us and what we do after we’ve been changed.

Kinda like a werewolf? I…Well…Yeah okay, sure, kinda like a werewolf. In the stories, they’re defined by this one thing that happened to them. They were changed forever. They tried to go back to life as they knew it but that life was over. They didn’t belong there anymore. So what did they do? They couldn’t go back. They were trapped in that one moment. They can’t go forward, continue on as a monster, so what do they do? They’re stuck until villagers with pitchforks set them free and then they’re at peace.

I’ve spent a good part of my life stuck in moments of grief and pain. The wounds heal and grief dissipates. The scars remain and that spot at the dinner table remains empty. The immediate aftermath dulls, but I haven’t been able to make peace with those moments so I stay inside of them. I don’t let myself walk outside and see that life goes on because I don’t feel like I belong. Maybe, if I see what I’m missing, then I’ll want to move on too?

I’m scared of what moving on means because I don’t know who I am, outside of these moments.

These big moments tend to define us but a lot of the time we’re the ones writing down the definition. Yes, other people contribute and sometimes they instigate it. But we’re the ones who put pen to paper. I’m the one who’s chosen to define myself by these moments. I’m the one who’s accepted their definition of who I am.

I don’t have to define myself by these moments. I don’t have to accept what others think of me. I don’t have to sit here and wait for their pitchforks. Who they say I should be isn’t who I have to be, but I’ve absorbed it, brought it to fruition, way too often. It’s easier to stay in the moment than let life carry on because carrying on means accepting that I’ve changed.

Just when I thought I knew who I was I get bitten by an oversized dog, human, hybrid…thing. Oh, this calls for a very dramatic sigh.

Lately, I’ve noticed a slow change in how I think and feel. It’s new. It’s strange. I don’t know what this change is and that scares me. Change always scares me. I’m not a fan. Too many unknown variables but for once I’m not trying to stop it or fight it.

I think I’m more curious than fearful so maybe I can try acceptance over suppression. Unless, of course, I grow fangs and develop an unnatural thirst for blood. In that case, suppression might be advisable. Since that seems highly unlikely, maybe I can let it ride down the open highway for a few miles.

Slowly, at a reasonable speed for the road conditions, and maybe even a little tentatively. After all, Mr. Frost was right when he said that life goes on and it will carry on whether we’re a part of it or not. I, for one, have spent a little too long sitting on the curb. My reasons were good. I’d go so far as to call them reasonable under the circumstances, but those reasons don’t represent my current state of mind.

I’m changing, evolving, becoming a creature I don’t recognize and that’s a little exciting. The change is happening, and it’s not even a full moon. I don’t know what or who I’ll be tomorrow morning or next year, but for once I’m looking forward more often then I’m looking back. 

This time, when life carries on, I’m going along for the adventure. Maybe I will meet a werewolf on a lonely stretch of highway or a fairy by a lake. Maybe I shouldn’t have had six cups of tea over the last three hours. Clearly the caffeine is getting to me.

Please, Don’t Pity Me

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Dread crawls up my spine like a snake wrapping itself around a tree branch. It clings to my bones. I feel its muscles flex as it holds on for dear life. It lifts its head, its tongue laps up the air, and it waits. There’s a strong breeze. It’s bitter but sweet. There’s a ripple of tension. Any minute now. Just wait for it. Here it comes… “Oh, you poor thing.”

There it is! Their voice rises and falls. Their tongue clicks the back of their teeth and a tsk slips through downturned limps. Their head tilts to one side, a sadness flickers through their eyes, and they sigh tiredly. It’s as if my presence is exhausting and the thought of me is a bit too much. They look to the left, then the right, and finally over their shoulder. They’ve said their peace and now it’s time to execute their exit strategy.

Everything about this interaction screams one thing: Pity.

I’ve been on the receiving end of this particular emotion plenty of times. If I’m being completely honest, I’m sure I’ve dished it out a time or two. It’s not something I’m proud of because being pitied is demeaning and isolating. It has a heaviness that carries the weight of a lead-filled hot air balloon. There’s a metallic bitterness that stings the back of my throat. When I look into their eyes I know we’re thinking the same thing. Turn away. Melt into the floor. Disappear and be done with this whole sordid affair.

Or, I’m just projecting.

The look, the tilted head, and the clumsy attempt at consolation doesn’t have the desired effect. I frantically look for an exit while I resist the urge to stand and fight. Yell, scream, ball my fists, and stamp my feet. That word, this feeling, the attitude of pity is exacerbating. It’s dismissive. It’s invalidating. Pity is dehumanizing. It strips away the person until all that’s left, all that anyone sees, are their scars.

That person? Their thoughts, dreams, silly quirks? Instead of reading their whole story, we learn all we want to know in one chapter and throw out the rest. The other eighty-nine chapters? Pity doesn’t have that kind of time. If it can’t be summarized in one paragraph on Wiki then forget about it.

Unless it’s turned into a movie but it better have car chases, big explosions, and an A-list cast.

Pity comes in many forms, and its motives vary. I’m a fan of giving people the benefit of the doubt, so I like to assume it comes from a place of genuine concern. It’s a blunderous attempt at kindness, compassion, and empathy. It’s like going in for a hug but smacking them in the head with a phone. The pain was unintentional, but there will be a bruise. 

By the way, that’s totally a hypothetical scenario and it didn’t happen in real life. On a completely unrelated note: Why am I so clumsy?

I think, in these situations, we’re trying to create a connection but we don’t have the right tools. The job has to be done so we rig something out of nothing and try to make it work. But it’ll never work. Instead of building a bridge, we’re putting up a wall and once that thing is standing, it’s almost impossible to tear it down. 

Walls don’t cover the distance, but they do keep out the icky feelings and uncomfortable ideas. There are somethings, some pains, that are too big and scary. Opening ourselves up to that? Letting ourselves feel it? Compassion and empathy require understanding but to understand we have to sit with the person and hear their story. We have to drop our guard, feel a small portion of their experience, and walk with them over some hot coals.

Of course, we’ll never fully understand what they’re going through unless we’ve gone through it ourselves. Even then, we can have the same experience but experience it in very different ways. We’ll never fully feel it, not like they do, but we can put ourselves in their position. We can close our eyes, paint a picture, and imagine how they’re feeling.

Yes, it’s a lot easier said than done. 

I don’t want to feel your pain or imagine what it’s been like for you. You’ve been through a lot, and I don’t know if I’m strong enough to handle it. I don’t know if I have your courage. If I’m too scared to even try to paint that picture? How can I let myself experience it enough to feel compassion or empathy? That’s so hard and pity is so much easier. 

I might be hyper empathic but I have my limits and I’ll hide behind that wall for a moments peace. Somethings are too big. Some things are too painful. There have been moments, quite recently actually, when I’ve wanted to say “the right thing” but the words just won’t come out. The right words failed me because there’s nothing to say. Keeping my mouth shut would’ve been preferable, probably more helpful, but I opened it a words fell out. 

Instead of offering comfort, my words came out in a way I didn’t intend. I instantly wished I could shove them back down my throat. I wanted to take it all back. My motives were pure, as are yours, but the execution fell short and pity draped over the good intentions.

Sometimes intention has nothing to do with our automatic response. If we venture into the shade, we see pity as a by-product of relief. The situation is so horrible, and the thought of being in that position is too much to process. We’re so glad it’s not us! We don’t want it to happen to them, we’re not monsters, but we are human. If we can’t imagine going through something so terrible than how could they go through it now? Relief and sadness unite. Pity is their love child. 

All children are deserving of love, but pity isn’t an act of love.

In my experience, it can be a weapon used to silence and dismiss. I’ve been in situations where pity quickly turned to disgust and they treated me like I wasn’t even human. The nose turned up, the eyes narrowed, their lips pressed together so hard they lost pigment. Their arms wrapped around their chest and their feet spred wide as if they were blocking an entrance. The didn’t feel sorry for me. They hated me because I, my illness, represented weakness and that, for some, is a moral failing to be pitied, despised, and dismissed.

It’s sad. Not for me! I don’t have time for people who behave that way. They’ve chosen willful ignorance over basic human decency. Their insecurities, their need to stand above others, has turned them cold. There’s no other word for it. They’re just sad and I feel bad for them. I suppose, one could argue, that this is a trait that should be pitied. Choosing exclusion and cruelty? Choosing to live in a delusional world of superiority? They are limiting their lives, their experiences, and living in a very small world filled with darkness.

What a tragic waste? Do I dare say, “What a pity?” It’s, I’ll say it again, sad but I’m not sure if they deserve pity. I’m not sure they deserve that energy at all but I could be wrong. I choose to focus my energy on the other 99% of people who just want to be kind.

The vast majority of us are coming from a place of decency, kindness, and compassion. We aren’t trying to be hurtful. We just don’t know how to be helpful so we fall back onto pity. Except, we’re told we shouldn’t wallow in self-pity because it isn’t healthy, it’s isolating, and it’s self-limiting. If self-pity isn’t okay then why is it okay to pity someone else? Isn’t that just as unhealthy? Isn’t it just as isolating and limiting?

How many of us, when we receive pity, enjoy it? How many of us feel loved, seen, accepted for who we are beyond the scars on our bodies? None of those things ring true for me. The opposite is almost always the case and that’s a very lonely place to live. It isn’t a healthy place to be, that’s for sure.

I don’t want your pity. I don’t need your pity. Compassion: Absolutely. Empathy: For sure. Patience: That would be lovely. But pity? Please don’t.

I’m more than my scars. I’m more than my diagnosis. I’m more than my past, present, and I’ll be more than my future. I’m a leather bound bestselling novel that should be enjoyed in its entirety and not left to the cliff notes. I’m more complicated than that and so is my life.

So is your life! You’re all of those things and more. Let’s not limit each other with pity. Let’s not dismiss each other, marginalize each other, with something so dehumanizing. Please, don’t pity me and I’ll offer you the same dignity.

The Storytellers Lies

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“I could no longer discern what was real and what was fake. Everything, including the present, seemed to be both too much and nothing at all.” ― Clemantine Wamariya, The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After

I enjoy a good conspiracy theory but it better be well thought out. If there are holes, I will find them and playtime is over. I love a good game of ‘what if’ that’s played for funsies but never taken too seriously. The grassy knoll. Area 51. Did Hitler really kill himself or did Odessa help him escape to Argentina? Oh, the possibilities are endless but here’s a question: If any of these are true, then what? Do we change history, rewrite it, or let it ride? If the past changes, does it change our future? Does a paradigm shift alter the course of our species or is our path locked?

Oh, once you pop, you can’t stop. 

Theories, stories, or flights of fancy? They’re bizarre enough to make me stop and think things through in a new, often weird, way but it’s a fun mental workout on a stationary bike. Work out those muscles, get the blood pumping, but be careful. A strained muscle is a bad thing, and straining this particular muscle can be dangerous. Take some breaks. Drink some water. Go outside, in accordance with health guidelines, and get some fresh air. It’s important, vital even because once you get going, the brakes just might fail. 

Pull one thread and another one rolls off into a lonely, dark, dank concrete bunker. There are spider webs and a distant drip, drip, drip of water from a leaking pipe. Smell that? Yeah, I think it’s mold. Door hinges groan and squeak. A loud clunk. The door is closed. Try to push it open, but it won’t budge. There’s no way out! Why did I follow that damn string? Why?

It’s one thing to look back at history and question the stories we’ve been told. History, as they say, is written by the winners so maybe we don’t know the whole story. Asking questions, digging a little deeper, is better than blindly following the status quo. Imagine what we could learn if we asked more questions!

On the other hand, what do we do when people start questioning our present-day realities? That’s a different story, isn’t it? It seems like everyone has an agenda and they’re all pointing fingers at the one person, or group, they believe is at fault. We all seem to believe that someone has to be at fault because without someone to blame the world becomes an even scarier place.

Except, the world becomes a scarier place when we divide ourselves into opposing factions. Yelling at each other instead of listening. Pointing guns at each other because a show of strength, combined with the raised voices, adds gravitas to our righteous indignation. Rights! I have rights! We scream over and over. One person’s rights have become more important than the community. Now we’re all running scared because who’s rights will win out?

Yours? Mine? The one neighbour down the street who thinks the squirrels in his backyard are reincarnated relatives? How about the rights of one government, country, religion? What if that religion, country, or government isn’t your own? Do they still have the right to tell you what to do with your life or your body?

It’s all well and good, defending our rights until our rights don’t line up and then the conspiracy theories start brewing. It’s easier to point fingers at an organization, religious group, political party, or ethnic group than diving into a very messy reality. A clear target is more reassuring than the ghosts floating around somewhere out there. At least, with something we can see, we can defend ourselves and save the lives of people we love. 

Even if that means killing someone else? Even if that means we die? Do either of us have to die? Huh…There’s a head-scratcher! I’ve asked this before, but I haven’t gotten an answer so let’s ask it again: What’s the magic number? How many people have to die before we say, uncle? A hundred thousand dead. One million dead. What’s the magic number here? What will we accept and what will be a step too far?

You’re going to call me a snowflake for saying this but, as far as I’m concerned, one death is one too many. I’ve buried a lot of friends, and each of them was worth saving. Each of them was loved, needed, and are sorely missed. Losing them? A very small part of this world is worse off without them in it. 

Look around at the people you love. Which one would you sacrifice for your theory or your rights? Which one are you willing to gamble? I’m willing to bet your part of this world would be worse off without each of them. Then again, maybe your right to a hair cut is worth the risk? That’s a question only you can answer, so God bless and good luck.

As for me? I believe in science, facts, and logic that’s been put to the test. Sure, it’s not above reproach and mistakes happen. Science doesn’t have all the answers. They say, “I don’t know an awful lot.”

How comforting is that? Yeah, I’m not feeling all warm and fuzzy over here.

Especially now, when science is our only hope, there are too many questions that it can’t answer and that is terrifying. I need answers. I need a cure or a vaccine. I need out of my damn house! I’m not sure if you can tell, but I’m going a little bonkers. The walls are closing in…I can’t breathe…Oh, dear…

Nah, I’m all right and in this fight, I’m still putting my money on science. That being said science takes time and logic has to be put through a test of fire before it’s ready for public consumption. Do we have time? What about all the people getting sick, losing their jobs, struggling to put food on their table? All the people that have died or will die? I know it seems like a shallow concern, all things considered, but we have to worry about the economy and what impact this virus is having on it. What impact will it have on the future of global economics?

Yes, lives have to be the number one concern but the economy comes in second. Oh boy, there are just so many things to worry about. So few answers. We need answers but time feels like it’s running out. Maybe, we’ll all feel a little bit better if someone would sit down and tell us a story? Maybe it can have a government conspiracy? Oo and international espionage! Don’t forget the biological weapons that threaten our rights and freedoms. Yeah, that sounds like a good distraction.

It’s amazing what a great storyteller can do with a few well-placed words. Especially when everything is scary and the monsters won’t stay in the closet or under the bed. The shadows grow long, the wind howls through the trees, and a branch taps, taps, taps against the window. The covers are pulled up high, and we bury ourselves just a little bit deeper. The hinges on our bedroom door groans, squeaks, and we gasp.

The light from the hall hides his face, but we know that silhouette. The Storyteller is here to take our minds off the monsters, ghouls, and ghosts we can’t see. He’ll give us something we can hold onto. Something we can fight. Something we can do so we don’t have to hide under the covers like little children. 

No one wants to feel like a coward. Very few of us are willing to lay down and die. We don’t want to go out like that, so we look for something to fight, someone to blame, and a story that makes it all okay. Oh, the lies we tell ourselves when fear, ignorance, and deeply buried bigotries bubble to the surface. A perfect storm in an imperfect world.

Turns out we didn’t have to worry about the monsters, ghouls, and ghosts in the shadows. Not when we catch our reflections in the mirror and see the anger, hatred, and lust for vengeance burning in our eyes. It’s not a good look on anyone and seeing it can be quite jarring. Believe me, I’ve seen that reflection too so I’m not saying this from a pulpit or soap box. I’ve fallen for the Storytellers charms. He’s really very good, but the only power the story has is the power we give it.

Like I said, I enjoy a well thought out conspiracy theory but that’s all it is: A theory. A mental exercise. An exploration of thoughts that I would never, in my hyper-rational mind, come up with on my own. As fun as they are, if I can’t back it up my peer reviewed facts and time tested logic? Then these theories stay in the hands of the Storyteller and I go back to the land of the living.

The alternative? That’s not a theory I’m willing to play out. Not again.

Can You Zip That Up, Please?

Photo by: Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Do we dare to compare our scars or our pain? Is it measuring contest? Do you have a ruler or should I find one? We can whip it out right here if that will make you feel better. On the count of three? One…Two…Hold up, this is just silly! Do we really have to do this now? Do we have to do it at all?

Can you zip that up, please? I was speaking metaphorically and now everyone’s staring!

People often say to me, “Well, I mean, it’s nothing compared to what you’ve been through.” They apologize for “complaining” about their life and, once again, draw parallels between their struggles and mine. In an instant, it becomes a pissing contest, and they feel like they can’t measure up to my story. Worse, they feel like they can’t share their story with me because theirs isn’t worth sharing.

Perhaps, if we’re making a blow by blow comparison then okay? I guess? Maybe? No, sorry, I’m squinting but I still don’t see how this contest plays out. How do we run the measurements? Duct tape. Hopscotch. Yardstick. Who gets points for what? Do we just have to stick the landing or are there points for style? Oh, and you know there’s going to be that one judge who just has to be contrary. Who gives a score of 3.263? It’s so random!

It’s just about as random as that analogy.

Do you really want to go through with this comparison? I’m not asking to be cocky or to brag. This isn’t an ego trip for me. I’m asking a very genuine question: Why are you comparing your struggles and pain, to mine? What does it accomplish? Do we really have to go there because it won’t end well for either of us? Neither one of us will feel like doing a victory lap because there are no winners in this game. There will be two people, sitting in awkward silence, because this kind of competition breeds division, not unity.

When someone makes the comparison, I have a lot of questions! Such as: So what? What does it matter? Why is my pain more valid than yours? What makes my struggles special or more deserving of sympathy, empathy, and compassion? What is it about your story that makes yours worth less than mine? Why do you feel like you have to make the comparison at all?

Is it a matter of self-worth? Self-doubt? Insecurities? Or, is it self-deprecation for the sake of humility? Do you think I’ll think less of you for speaking up? I won’t. Spoiler alert! I don’t think less of anyone for telling their story. It takes courage and strength. Believe me, I know how hard it is to open your heart up so I’ll celebrate you for it. I won’t criticize you and I won’t draw the comparisons. So why are you?

You’re right, I’ve been through a lot and, if we crunch the numbers the price differential could be quite significant. I have a chronic illness, kidney disease, and I’ve had more surgery than years of life. (Stole that line more my dad.) I’ve been clinically dead at least five times. The scars on my body look like a road map to nowhere. They tell a very dramatic story so, again, yes I’ve been through a lot.

Then again, you might outpace me by a hundred miles. Does that mean my suffering has less value? Does that mean I don’t get to feel what I feel? Is there are chart somewhere that colour grades our problems or struggles? Red is extreme duress. Yellow is mild discomfort. Does that make it easier? Does that make it more legitimate?

When someone compares what they’re going through to what I’ve been through, I get uncomfortable. It’s not the comparison itself. I think it’s only natural to compare ourselves to others. Our need to compare is instinctual and, in a way, it’s a clumsy attempt at connection and intimacy. We compare ourselves because we all want to measure up to our contemporaries. If we do, then maybe we’ve found a place to belong. A home. A family. A safe space. It’s a primal need that keeps us alive.

At least, I think that’s the hope. Often the comparison leaves us feeling like we’re falling short of a very high bar. We can’t see it and, in some cases, there’s no hope of reaching it. That doesn’t seem to matter, though. We still take a running start, stick our pole-vault in the dirt, and do our damnedest to soar through the air like a fighter jet. Look Mom no hands!

It quickly becomes apparent that we’ve made some serious miscalculations. The pole’s not long enough. Our legs aren’t fast enough. That jet engine doesn’t have enough fuel. The disappointment is almost inevitable, and the fall will leave a mark. We lay on our backs, look up at the sky, and dejection presses down on us harder than gravity. We’ll spend hours trying to figure out what went wrong and beat ourselves up for it.

Isn’t that the price we pay for comparing our falls from grace? Our failures, bad luck, and life’s right hooks? When we’re comparing those moments, are we looking for reassurance that we didn’t fall as far as we thought? Is it a way to protect ourselves from pain, shame, guilt, or any other emotion that’s uncomfortable and isolating?

As much as I don’t like people comparing their experiences to mine; I’ve done it a hundred times. I’ve tried to play this game when I really should’ve kept it zipped up. That pissing contest, the dare to compare, doesn’t end well for me either. I don’t feel more connected and I don’t feel grateful for what I have. What am I doing when I compare myself, my experiences, and say that others have it worse? 

I tell myself that I’m just gaining some perspective by looking at the world around me. Seeing what others are going through? The magnitude of their suffering? Sure, that perspective is great. Sometimes we need to step out of ourselves, our own little bubbles, to appreciate what we have. It’s better than wallowing, isn’t it?

In theory, you’d think it would take the sting off of my own pain and maybe it does? Occasionally. Sometimes. Maybe. Usually, it doesn’t make me feel better about my circumstances. More often than not I feel defeated and more alone because comparison doesn’t alleviate torment and it doesn’t bring me closer to the people that care about me. 

Someone said that comparison is the thief of joy, and they’re right. Not only does it steal joy, but it alienates and divides. Whether I’m doing it to myself or others get in on the gig; I end up squished inside a tiny box and I’m extremely claustrophobic. Add twenty pounds of solid wood, a ton of fertilizer, and seed some grass. Wait a couple of weeks. Yeah, I’m not getting out of there.

Did I just describe a coffin? Wow, that’s a mood.

Just because our experiences differ, doesn’t mean one is more valid than the other. It doesn’t mean you don’t get to feel hurt, sad, grief-stricken. It doesn’t mean your pain is worth less than mine. More importantly, it doesn’t mean you can’t share it with me or anyone else because keeping it in, won’t do you any favours.

When we find someone who’s willing to listen, hear us out, and support us? Don’t push that person away. It doesn’t matter what they’ve been through! Maybe what they’ve been through makes them the perfect person to talk too. People who have been through hell and made it through to brighter days? We understand what you’re feeling better than anyone else so don’t shut us out.

By making the comparison that’s what you’re doing. Unintentionally! It isn’t deliberate and it’s not hurtful. At least, I’m not hurt by it but I am frustrated. I want to be there for you. I want to hold your hand. I want to listen to your story. I want to help you if I can and if I can’t then I want to sit with you. If you need me? If you want me? I’ll be there but I can’t do that if you’re shutting me out or shutting others out.

Don’t sell yourself short! Whatever you’re going through, you don’t have to go through it alone. If you’re lucky enough to have a person in your life that will sit with you then let them in and let them be there for you. Your pain is valid. Your struggles are real. Adversity isn’t comparable and no one’s handing out medals for the most tormented.

It’s so easy to turn our lives into one big pissing contest but the only winners are the flowers that get watered. Maybe it’s time to zip it up, wash our hands, and start sharing instead of comparing.

On The Winds Of Nowhere

Photo by: Tanya Nevidoma on Unsplash

“He’s a real nowhere man, Sitting in his Nowhere Land, Making all his nowhere plans for nobody. Doesn’t have a point of view, Knows not where he’s going to, Isn’t he a bit like you and me?” ― The Beatles, Revolver, Vocal Score

I have nothing to say. Maybe I should just post that one sentence and be done with it? Would that be okay? Arg, no words. They’re gone. Well, not gone but in hibernation. I’m trying to wake them up, but they’re throwing a temper tantrum. “I don’t wanna!” Yeah, it’s bouncing around in my head, and I think it’s coming from the part of my brain that houses my vocabulary.

Apparently my vocabulary and inner child are roommates. Those brats!

The harder I try to string these sentences together the thicker my brain gets. Like I’m trying to walk through marshlands after a heavy rainfall. Slip and slide but I can’t quite get my footing. It soaks through my boots and socks. Now my toes are cold…What am I saying?

No idea.

I’m sitting in the middle of this nowhere land and I’m trying to get out of it. Pushing. Pulling. Struggle a little harder. It’s not working. I’m just going to sit here and stare out at the approaching storm clouds until it passes. Will it pass? Will I ever get out of this nowhere land? I sure do hope so.

Maybe I’m tapped out? The last post took a lot out of me, and it brought up a lot of emotions that I didn’t expect. Just when you think you’re out, am I right? Wow, I’m still kinda feeling it.

Then again, there’s a chance that these last few months have finally caught up to me and I’m just tired. Tired of overthinking. Tired of being afraid, angry, sad, and lonely. Tired of the confusion. Tired of the news that seems to get bleaker and more contrary. Tired of worrying about everything and everyone.

Anyone else feeling like this? Tired. Tapped out. A wet rag rung dry. Feeling all the feels until there’s nothing left to feel. I want to give more, write more, create more content but the supply line has run dry.

I’ve seen a few people talk about this feeling with more poetic grace than I can muster. Creatives reaching the limit of their creativity. They desperately claw at the side of an empty ditch looking for more but find nothing. Is there any feeling more desperate than that? Okay, yes, I can think of a few, but for argument’s sake? Imagine a painter that runs out of brush strokes or a writer that runs out of words. It’s like a fish running out of water. It’s a panic that comes with a muzzle and a silencer.

If you’re not a creative, and that’s quite okay, then maybe this sounds a bit dramatic. What can I say? We’re a dramatic breed. Or is that just a stereotype? Either way, I know a few people who can’t understand how, or why, these dry spells send a creative into a tailspin. It seems like an overreaction, right? Maybe it is but losing our creative outlets are more than words on a page or paint on a canvas. 

These are our voices, our forms of expression, and losing that means we’re losing our one connection to the people around us. Have you ever lost your voice? Then you know how hard it can be to feel included or get your needs met. For me, speaking to someone face to face or even on the phone is very difficult. I struggle to articulate my thoughts, feelings, experiences. My mind goes blank and I go quiet. My voice, my spoken words, it isn’t strong and often it’s silenced by stronger, well-meaning, voices. 

I’m too quiet, too shy, and I understand that I’m hard to hear. I don’t blame the stronger voices, and I don’t hate them either, because they can speak and I can’t. Why blame someone else for my shortcomings? That’s just silly. And I know we all have a voice but some of us just can’t use it or, when we do, we aren’t heard. When we aren’t heard? Then often we aren’t seen.

When I write I feel heard and seen. I can express the thoughts, emotions, that I usually hideaway. This is my voice. The words I type, the thoughts they form, they’re who I am and I can finally share that with other people. I can connect with other people. That’s not something I can do with my spoken voice.

With my spoken voice, I feel like the “nowhere man, sitting in a nowhere land.” Sitting on a stump out there in this barren wasteland. For miles around me, the ground is bare. On the horizon, the sky is grey and it grows darker. The wind, the words of those stronger voices, whips up around me and I shiver. I want to move, to speak, but I just sit there on my stump making nowhere plans.

When I write, the grey sky turns a luminous mix of red, orange, and golden yellow. The wind dies down, and I can finally stand up on my own. The words I type create their own wind and for once my voice is carried far and wide. My voice becomes strong. I become visible. I’m no longer a nowhere person.

It’s a hard thing to lose when you’ve only just found it. Then again, I’ve written this much so maybe I didn’t lose it. I just needed to give it a chance to find its footing on unbroken soil. I’m walking new ground here. I’m still finding my voice, and I’m still learning to trust it. I’m so used to being quiet, invisible, stuck in the nowhere land. Out here, with you, is a new experience and it can be scary at times.

New things are always scary and speaking up is even scarier. Especially when you’re so used to be quiet. So when I sat down to write and the words didn’t come? I felt this panic rise. What if I can’t find the words? What if I’ve run out of things to say? I don’t want to go back to the nowhere land. I like it here, with you, and I’m not ready to leave.

There I go! Being all dramatic again. Maybe it really is more than a cliche?

Still, the dramatics highlight a need I have and maybe you have it too. A need for community, connection, and a way to belong. All of which require a voice and this is mine. You have yours, I’m sure. Losing that? The threat of losing that? The mere possibility of losing our voices?

That’s terrifying to me, but it turns out that being honest about how I’m feeling frees up my voice. Keeping it in? Fighting my feelings? I’m the one silencing myself. I’m the one holding my voice in. I have the power to free or enslave my voice. By being open, being weird and bizarre, I freed my voice and I found the words.

Once the words started coming I felt myself breathe in and let out a sigh of relief because I’m not sitting in that nowhere land anymore. I’m not a nowhere person anymore. I’m finding my voice, and I’m learning to use it. That gives me strength, hope, and a reason to keep going when I’m tired.

Today I’m tired but I kept going and that makes this, a good day. Even if I didn’t write more than that one sentence. Even if I didn’t post these ramblings. Even if no one ever reads this, it’s okay. I know that I kept trying, and I found my voice.

Forgiving The Unforgivable

Photo by: Ye Jinghan

To forgive may be divine but, for us mere mortals, is the divine even possible? Should all things be forgivable or is there a line that can’t be crossed? A line we can’t come back from? Are there things that are simply unforgivable? Do I really need to forgive to move on or can I move on without forgiving the person for what they’ve done?

So many questions and I have even more. I could write two thousand words and every sentence would end with a question mark. When it comes to forgiveness, my questions are endless and I think it’s one subject I’ve devoted a lot my personal time too. I’ve looked for answers. Read a number of books from so-called experts and some religious figures. I’ve struggled to make peace with this subject because it has me split between two minds.

One mind firmly believes in forgiving and letting go but some things are easier to forgive than others. Some wrongs can be made right with apologetic words or acts of penance. Forgiveness, in these circumstances, comes quick and easy. They’re sorry for what they did, they won’t do it again, and so I let it go. Life’s too short to hold on to petty grudges.

But when it’s not petty? When the pain inflected is too deep to simply brush it off? When it’s something that changes our whole lives in a profoundly traumatizing way? This is where my thoughts diverge. 

I don’t know if everyone deserves forgiveness. I don’t know if every act can be forgiven. Especially when the betrayal, or act of cruelty, damages our physical and mental wellbeing so much that we’ll never fully recover. Our lives have been shattered into so many pieces; we’ll never put ourselves back together. In these circumstances, forgiveness feels impossible and it feels unjustifiable.

For the most part, I believe that life is too short to hold onto grudges, and I’m too lazy to dig up the past. It takes too much effort and manual labour isn’t my forte. What’s done is done. We’re good now. It’s okay. People make mistakes and you were decent enough to apologize. I respect that and, being a screw up as well, I appreciate how hard it was to own up but you did. Good on ya. Can we forget about it now?

However, there’s one thing I can’t forget, I can’t move on, and I’m struggling to forgive. It’s not something I can laugh about later or shrug off like it’s no big deal. It is a big deal. It’s life-changing. It will, one day, be life-ending. It wasn’t just a mistake made by someone who screwed up. This thing, the way he handled the fallout, goes beyond an apology I’ve never received.

Honestly, at this point, I don’t even know if an apology would matter all that much. Which is good because I’ll never, ever, get one.

I have an illness called Chronic Renal Failure. In simple terms: My kidneys don’t work. I’ve talked about this before, briefly. Brought it up in passing and moved on. My diagnosis, the event that started it all, was something that could have been prevented. Everything that’s happened over the last thirty-plus years? None of it had to happen. I didn’t have to go through everything I’ve gone through. The surgeries, scars, physical, and psychological trauma. None of it had to happen, but one man’s mistake triggered an avalanche.

When I was three, doctors discovered one small problem. Urine was traveling the wrong way. Instead of going from the kidneys down to the bladder, it was going back up into the kidneys. It can cause a lot of damage if it isn’t treated but it is treatable. The doctors decided that surgery was my best option so that’s what we did. Actually, small correction, it was supposed to be the best option but the surgeon made a mistake and blood clots formed. Now, the urine produced by my kidneys couldn’t go anywhere. It stayed in the kidneys and the damage was catastrophic.

The biggest mistake, in my opinion, wasn’t made in the operating room. Despite everything that’s happened, I know that doctors are human and human beings make mistakes. They lose focus. They get tired. Medical professionals work long hours in a very demanding profession and sometimes the pressure is too much. Sometimes they make mistakes and I understand that no one is perfect. I get it and I can forgive a tired, overworked, person who tried their best.

In my case, however, the real mistake was made in the doctors’ office. I was sent home to recover, but I didn’t get better. I was in a lot of pain, and my condition got worse. My parents took me to the surgeon and asked him to help me. They wanted him to take a look and figure out why I was in so much pain and why I wasn’t healing.

He didn’t take a look, he told them that healing takes time, and sent us home. My mom’s a nurse, she has the training and the knowledge, and she knew something wasn’t right. She took me back and, once again, the doctor refused to help. He called my mom neurotic and pointed out the medical hierarchy. She was a nurse and a mother. He was a doctor, a surgeon. How dare she question his position or his skill?

Luckily for me, my mom isn’t a pushover and she called a friend who’s a radiologist. An ultrasound was done and the problem was found. I was rushed into surgery, and the blockage was removed but the damage was done. My kidneys wouldn’t recover, and I was diagnosed with a life-threatening chronic illness.

I know you’re going to ask, a lot of people already have, and no we didn’t file a lawsuit. It was a different time, in a different country, and there weren’t the same levels of recourse that we have here in Canada. Besides, what would it have done? Money can’t buy a life back. It can’t undo a life-changing diagnosis. It wouldn’t erase the mistake or nullify the consequences I would have to face. It wouldn’t change the future that was waiting for me.

A future that’s included hundreds of surgeries, thousands of hours spent in hospitals, millions of needles, and decades of relentless pain. I’ve been clinically dead five times. That means that my heart stopped beating, my chest stopped rising, and there were no signs of life. I was gone, and my parents almost buried their child. My brother almost lost his sister. My grandparents almost lost their grandchild. I was almost laid to rest in a small coffin.

My body is covered in scars, which I don’t mind all that much, but the pain that lingers has gotten old. Because of the renal failure, I developed a lot of secondary conditions. Renal osteodystrophy, a type of bone disease, damaged my joints and made walking very difficult. The bone disease has cleared, but the damage hasn’t. Today, as I’m writing this, my joints are inflamed and I’m having trouble getting around. I’m limping a lot and groaning every time I force my knees to bend.

My heart doubled in size and for a while, the doctors thought I’d need a new heart as well as a kidney but, mercifully, the swelling went down. I do have an arrhythmia that’s potentially life-threatening. It’s stopped my heart a few times but we’ve already talked about that. I have an implanted cardiac defibrillator in my chest, with wires going into my heart. You can’t see it, it’s under the skin, but it’s there to keep my heart beating just in case it decides to take another break.

Seizures, vision problems, and three kidney transplants over thirty years. At this point, when it comes to listing my medical history, it’s easier to tell you what works. Apparently my liver is in remarkable good condition. The radiologist called it a sexy liver which was a little creepy but hey, you do you BooBoo.

One mistake. 

That’s it.

One mistake and my life was devastated. He took everything from me. My body, my future, my life. Because of him, I’ll always be in pain. Because of him, I can’t have kids. Because of him, my mind has been shattered by one trauma after another. Because of him, my life won’t be a long one. Because of him my family, the people I love, have had to suffer in ways I can’t even begin to imagine.

Because of him…

I have a very long list of things he took from me and my family. Some of them I’ve made peace with but I’m still grieving the loss of others. How can one person take so much from someone else? How can one person hurt someone else that much? How do I even begin to forgive him for something that’s unforgivable? 

I know that forgiveness isn’t for the perpetrator. It doesn’t set them free or absolve them of their sins. Absolution, I believe, is between the person and their God. A God that knows their heart, the true level of their repentance, and who’s far more divine than us mere mortals.

Forgiveness is for the one who’s been hurt. Pain, in all its forms, is a prison that keeps us locked inside ourselves. It keeps us in and life out. Joy, happiness, contentment…All the pretty feelings we want so desperately to feel. The pain stops us from feeling anything. 

For me, it makes me feel numb and disengaged from my own body. Forget about connecting with anyone else! I can’t even connect with my own thoughts, feelings, or desires. I can’t feel anything but the pain and I don’t want to feel that. So I shut down and shut out the world because the pain is too much and I just can’t handle it anymore.

But, by doing that, I’m letting him take one more thing from me and how much more does he get to take?

Forgiving him for what he did to me, to my family, isn’t setting him free. I’m setting myself free. I’m taking back what’s mine. I’m not allowing him to take one more thing from me. I’m standing up and saying enough is enough. Forgiveness will mean that I’m choosing to let go of the pain and step out into the bright, sunny, day.

Which sounds lovely but, to be completely honest, isn’t something I’ve totally mastered. I’d love to sit here and tell you how I’ve forgiven him for what he did. In a picture-perfect world, I’d tell you it’s done and I’m happier for it. Is this the part of the story where I lay out an easy five-step plan to forgiveness? If there’s one thing I won’t do to you, it’s lie.

So here’s the truth.

As I’m writing this, I’ve cycled through anger, grief, and a little bit of resentment. I’ve clenched and unclenched my fists multiple times. I’m swallowing back tears as I type these words. I’m hurt. I’m sad. He hurt me. He stole my life. He got to go and live his life as if nothing happened. All the while, I’ve spent my life in hospitals and operating rooms. It’s not right. What he did wasn’t right. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully forgive him for hurting me.

However, I think I’ve mostly forgiven him for what he did because there are days when I think about what he did, and I don’t feel the pain. There are more and more moments when I feel an acceptance of the situation and I’m content to let his actions live in the past. What is done, is done and I don’t want to be a prisoner to it anymore. I need to forgive so that I can enjoy whatever life I have left.

I used to think that once I’d forgiven him then that would be it. It would be over. I could move on. But some wrongs are too painful and too life-shattering to just forgive and they can’t be forgotten. It doesn’t mean we can’t forgive them, we can, but it’s something that will take time and practise because forgiveness isn’t linear. 

There isn’t a beginning, middle, and an end. I’ve made the decision to forgive, and I’ve grieved, I’ve been angry and then I’ve moved on. But something happens and the pain resurfaces. I feel anger and resentment. I want to put my fist through that bastard’s face. I want to make him suffer like I’ve suffered but I can’t. I need to live. I want to live so I decide, one more time, to forgive.

Around and around I go but the journey doesn’t take as long as it used to take. It’s like walking a well-worn path. It’s not easy. Most of the trail is uphill but at least I’m not bushwhacking. I know the way. I don’t get as turned around. Yes, I get tired and have to take some breaks but then I get up and keep moving. More importantly, I know I can make it to the top and once I’m there, I’ll have a moment of peace.

One more question but this one has an answer. Can we forgive the unforgivable? Yes, but only we can decide if, or when, we’re ready to forgive. No one else can make that choice for us or force us into it. It’s personal. It’s painful. It’s liberating but we have to be ready to put in the work.

I’m going to say this one more time because it’s a point that often gets lost. I’m not choosing to forgive that doctor for his sake, to set him free, or give him a free ride. That’s between him and his God. I’m choosing to forgive because I want to be free. I want to live my life, what’s left of it, free from the pain of his mistake because this is my life. I’m still alive, I’m still here, I can still make the most of it.

It’s not the life I would’ve chosen, maybe it’s not the life I should be living, but it’s mine. He doesn’t get to take any more of it. I’m taking my life back, and it starts with me saying three very hard, very heavy, words: I forgive you.

Nobody Panic But…

Photo by: Tonik on Unsplash

As a rule, what is out of sight disturbs men’s minds more seriously than what they see. ~Julius Caesar

I have a very active imagination. Vivid imagery whips around my mind as if it’s caught in the winds of a hurricane. Short stories, memories, ideas, and my deepest fears collide. They shatter into a million pieces and fly in a hundred different directions. Grabbing hold of one, even for a second, is a skill I wish I hadn’t mastered because those pieces have very sharp edges.

Sure, I could lament that nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen, but that feels a little… Self-indulgent? I’m writing about my life, my thoughts, my fears, and posting it online. Huh, I guess self-indulgence is kinda my thing. But maybe, for today, let’s stick with the imagined troubles conjured by a mind that won’t give it a rest. That’s the real hero of this story. 

We can tackle self-indulgent narcissism some other time.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my brain to give it a rest. It laughs, winks, tells me to hold its beer. If you think that’s bad? Ha! What about this trick shot? My brain digs deep, finds a fear I didn’t know I had, and serves it up like it’s Wimbledon. I’ve never had a tennis ball fly at my face but I imagine it’s a close comparison. The ball’s coming at me going, what, 100 MPH on a straight serve? 

Yeah, that’s gonna leave a mark!

Just before Christmas my car died. I drove it for, 13-14 years, and it just wouldn’t go any farther. I grieved the loss which is weird, I know. It’s a just car, geez! I said goodbye and braced for the incoming expense. I needed the car. It’s not a luxury, well it is, but more of a necessity. For many reasons, you can read about them in a previous post, public transportation isn’t an option for me so I had to get another car.

It’s not a Tesla or something equally as majestic. It has four wheels, and I can see out of the windows. I’m 4’10, if I don’t slouch, so that’s an important feature. AC: Check. Airbags: Check. See over the steering wheel: You had me at hello. The car is good, it’s safe, and it will help me get around. It’s also an expense I didn’t need or want. It’s a stress, for sure, so my brain grabbed hold of it and ran wild.

It started to tell me that I’m going to lose my main source of income, lose my home, and end up living in that damn car. There’s no evidence that this will happen. I do what I need to do to take care of business. No one’s threatening my financial well being but my brain doesn’t care about facts. It doesn’t need evidence. It will dress up the pretty little shadow puppets and turn them into a life-threatening monster.

It sees evil in every corner and disaster in every twinge of my muscles. Oh that twinge. It’s cancer. I just know it is! Or, I pulled a muscle cleaning my carpets. My furnace was making an odd noise so, of course, it was about to explode and kill everyone in the neighbourhood. We had a lot of rain, the creek near my building started to rise so, for my brain, that meant floods. I live on the second floor of an apartment complex. The creek is a glorified puddle the squirrels bathe in. Raccoons can sit in it like they’re 22, drunk, and thought the kiddy pool was a bidet.

A flood? What? The confluence of events that would have to occur would be astronomical. It might take an event of biblical proportions. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, climate change and all, but, realistically, it won’t happen anytime soon. Logically, I know it won’t happen but screw logic!

Logic dictates one response but my overactive imagination calls for another. It takes the minors and turns them into majors. It doesn’t matter if there’s no evidence to support the thoughts. It doesn’t matter if there are facts that can nullify the worry. A reasoned argument won’t tame the imagined dragons. If there’s even a hint of trouble, hiding in a dusty corner, my mind will latch onto it and run with it.

If it’s a known threat, something I can see or I’m actually experiencing, then I’m very calm. Despite my mind’s proclivity for self-induced hysteria, I’m very good in a crisis. A real crisis. Not one I dreamed up at 2 AM on Tuesday during a windstorm. There are a lot of trees surrounding my building, and one of them could, I don’t know, fly through my window and skewer me in my sleep.

Who am I kidding? I don’t sleep. I’m a very basic insomniac. But could it actually happen? Could a tree fly through my window and skewer me? Highly doubtful.

In a real crisis, my mind clears and time slows down. I’m calm and in control. I can quickly assess the situation. A plan will form and action will be taken. I’m absolutely brilliant in a crisis. If things are happening, real things, you want me around because I’ve got this. I can and will help you out.

Any other time? I’m probably just gonna get in the way.

Unless you want someone to spot dangers that aren’t pressing and, potentially don’t exist? Give me a call. I’m sure I can come up with something. Will it be helpful? Absolutely not! Do you need that kind of thing in your life? Hell no! I’m willing to bet you’ve got more than your fair share of real problems.

Why do I add more worries on top of my real-life ones? Am I just a gluten for punishment? A control freak with very little control over just about every aspect of my life? A natural-born worrier with a genetic predisposition to catastrophize? Maybe it’s something I’ve learned?

When the catastrophes keep happening, it’s only natural to assume that they will keep happening. I live with a chronic illness, renal failure, so the good days are like a layer of ice over a lake. I go out, enjoy myself, but with each step I hear the ground crack and groan. I’m waiting for the moment it gives way and I’m plunged into a deep, freezing cold, lake. I keep scanning the ground for trouble so I can run before it’s too late but the shadows beneath the surface play tricks. I jump, flinch, run a short distance, and slide a little further. It’s better to worry than to be caught off guard.

But is it better? Probably not because worrying doesn’t change anything and it doesn’t help all that much. It feels helpful because I feel like I’m doing something and I need to do something. I don’t sit still, very well. I can’t just be present in the moment. If I’m not doing something I feel like I’m crawling out of my skin. I feel like I’m just sitting there, helpless, waiting for the ice to break.

At least, when a something real comes up, I can act. There are things to be done, problems to solve, and physical reactions to coordinate. I don’t feel so helpless. I’m not sitting there waiting to be hurt. No, I can’t control the situation, but I can control how I respond and I can respond. I can be of use instead of being in the way. I’m comfortable in those moments because those moments are more familiar to me than moments of quiet.

And there it is. Familiarity. We will always be me for comfortable, more confident, in familiar surroundings and circumstances even if they aren’t good for us. We gravitate towards what we know and if all we’ve known is chaos then that’s where our minds will go. It seeks out what it knows and if it can’t find it? I guess we’ll always find trouble if we look hard enough.

There’s one question a therapist asked, “Will it hold up in court?”

If I lay out all the evidence in the case, give a very dramatic closing argument, would the jury come back with a positive verdict? Would it come back with a negative one? Would the case, as it stands, hold up to the scrutiny of a trial and a jury?

Most often, when it comes to my thoughts, the answer is no it won’t hold up. The case would get thrown out and I’d be free to go. That’s not how the mind works is it? I wish I could shut down the thought, slam the door closed, and lock it up inside a tiny cell. If having that simple answer was all it took to silence the screaming thoughts then I would be a lot happier.

But, no it doesn’t work like that and I have to keep arguing back until I wear it down. Sometimes saying the worry out loud takes away some of its power and that gives me a chance to building a tiny holding cell. Sometimes but it’s not always that effective.

For me, finding actionable steps I can take, in these moments of worry, helps more than anything. It doesn’t have to be related to the problem I’m fixated on but if it is, all the better. If I’m in a thought spiral, I’ll get up and vacuum or do the dishes. I’ll have a shower or take my dog for a socially distant walk. I’ll do something because doing nothing makes the worry grow into a full-blown panic attack.

Moving my body, changing my location, doing something to feel productive helps me feel more in control. There are so many things in my life I can’t control, my thoughts being one, but when I focus on what I can do I feel more grounded. I feel my mind slowing down. I feel like I’m standing on more solid ground.

Take Your Time…We’ll Wait

Photo by: Kevin Ku on Unsplash

So this is still a thing you’re doing? After all this time, it’s still bothering you? Really? I don’t mean to be rude, but don’t you think it’s time you just got over it? I mean, come on, it’s been…How long? Right, and you’re still moping around like a child that’s lost its teddy bear. Life goes on so suck it up. What are you waiting for? Just get over it.

Wow, so helpful! Why didn’t I think about that? Geez, all this time I’ve been struggling, and you’re telling me that I just had to get over it. What a revelation. If only you came around sooner! Do you know how much time I’ve wasted feeling horrible? All that time, the answer was right in front of me, and I didn’t see it. Thank you for gracing me with your wisdom. I mean, really, I don’t know where I’d be without such eloquent and thoughtful advice.

Do I have to point out the sarcasm? No, I didn’t think so but just to be safe and make sure nothing gets lost in the algorithm: Sarcasm! The advice wasn’t helpful, thoughtful, or kind. Those brilliant leaps in compassion and logic didn’t change anything. It did annoy, frustrate, and it made me go grr so well done. I grr’d. I never grr and now I think I dislocated my eyeballs.

It’s a dangerous thing, my friend, rolling your eyes. Never know when they’ll get stuck. Can someone smack the back of my head? Ouch! A little quick on the draw there but thanks. My eyes are back in their proper sockets.

Where was I?

Every second of our lives is put on a schedule and when we miss the mark there are questions, recriminations, and judgments. From education to career. Relationships and procreation. Grief or pain recovery. There are stages we’re supposed to hit but when we lag behind or bypass them all together? Well, words will be used, and they won’t be helpful or gracious.

Should I state the obvious? Yeah, why not. Life is hard and that damn schedule is draining the fun out of whatever’s left over. Sometimes it’s impossible to match that thing step for step because life doesn’t have a straight trajectory. Life likes to throw in some speed bumps and a hundred-foot drop. We trip, fall, and we’re expected to get back up. Not just that, we’re expected to get back up and get back on track. It doesn’t matter how fast we have to run, jump, or climb. As long as we hit the mark on time and meet expectations.

Then we hit a mark and do we stop to savor the moment? Do we celebrate the achievement? No, of course not! We can’t do that because we’ve got to answer the question, “So, what’s next?”

No idea. Not a clue. What? Wrong answer? Shoot, I thought it was a reasonable response. My bad.

The pressure doesn’t always come from external forces. If you’re like me, the hardest push comes from within. I’ll finish something I’ve been working on and say something like, “Great that’s done. Next.” I won’t let myself celebrate the accomplishment or even entertain the idea that I should stop and be proud of myself. Maybe it’s small, insignificant in the grand scheme, but I did that. I started something and I finished it. It’s good. It was hard but fun. Why can’t I enjoy the moment?

I’ll choose self-deprecation over self-aggrandizing any day. I’ve bought into the societal norm that decided that one is a positive trait, especially combined with humour, and the other is arrogance. One has value, and the other is a moral failing. I’ve accepted these notions and internalized them. I’ve applied them to my sense of self and I’ve used them as self-expression.

Then again, one could argue that all things in moderation is the key to a happy life? Nah…I don’t think that’s gonna fit in the schedule. We’re on a time crunch here. The rat race is a fast-moving wheel. You’re either on or your off. You either keep pace or you fall away. The pace doesn’t slow down for anyone. No matter what hurdle they have to jump, or cliff they have to climb, the wheel keeps spinning.

And just like that, the damn wheel brings me back to the very first paragraph. Obstacles are thrown in front of us, and we’re supposed to jump over them and keep going. If we fall, we’re told to get up and dust ourselves off. How many times have you been told to get over it? How many times have you told yourself the same thing? Did it help or did it hurt?

I have a list of things I should be doing or things I should’ve achieved by now. That list has one or two checkmarks but the majority of the page is untouched. More failures than successes. More losses than wins. All these things I should’ve done but didn’t. My schedule is way off but maybe the problem isn’t that I’ve failed? Maybe I’ve printed off the wrong schedule? Maybe I wrote it down wrong? Maybe I’m giving it too much power?

This schedule fails to take a lot of factors into account. It assumes perfection in an imperfect life and world. It assumes that life will go forward when, in reality, it can come to a complete stop. Things happen that no one can plan for and I can’t plan for how that hit will affect me. Every time something has happened, I’ve take a few steps back but the number of steps is different every time. Sometimes it’s one or two. Other times I fall back to the beginning. It’s a game of snakes and ladders that only ends when the lights go out.

If I’m playing this game how do I win? The plan for my life? The schedule I should be following? How could I possibly keep up?

When I was three a doctor made a mistake and my kidneys were damaged. I was diagnosed with chronic renal failure and my relationship with this damn game began. I’ve lived with this condition for over thirty years, so you would think I’d get used to it. Maybe feel numb when the phone rings? Bored wouldn’t be a reasonable response, would it? Sometimes I do feel this tired sigh bubble up, and I’ll say something like, “With my luck? Yeah sounds about right.”

Roll the dice, hold my breath, pray for a ladder, and not the snake.

I give myself some time to grieve, heal, but then I expect life will return to normal. I tell myself to get over it, and that’s often reinforced by well-meaning people. I want to get back to normal, to move on, to put this behind me but who gets to decide the timetable? Who gets to say when or how that happens?

One of the strangest feelings is stepping outside after your world has fallen apart. Whether it’s a medical diagnosis, the loss of a friend, or something else entirely that moment is surreal. People are going about their day like it’s nothing. Life carries on like nothing happened but something massive happened to you. It feels like watching a movie in an augmented reality. As if you’ve been pulled out of your life and forced to watch it carry on without you. 

Or maybe that’s just how I’ve felt.

Life does go on and, yes, time heals all wounds but, when it comes to wound care, time isn’t linear. There are no speed limits and the road isn’t clearly marked. Some days it’s full throttle and other days going a short distance is a big accomplishment. Give yourself a break if you need it. Please know, there’s no shame in asking for help if you feel like you’re getting lost. 

Go forward, go back, stay where you are for a little while. Feel what you’re feeling and don’t listen to the timekeepers. Yes, that includes that voice in your head listing all the things you should be doing. Don’t give too much power and control over to the all mighty schedule. It’s not all-knowing. It doesn’t feel compassion or grace. It’s cold, unfeeling, and if we let it, it can be unyielding. Sure, it has its uses, but you get to decide when to use it and how.

If you’re hurting right now? I’m so sorry you’re going through it. It won’t feel like it will ever be okay but it will; it’ll just be a different kind of okay. Please take all the time you need. There’s no rush. We’ll wait and if you need us? We’re here. Take your time.

Take Courage In The Silence

Photography by: Kristina Flour on Unsplash

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” – Winston Churchill

The yelling is getting out of control. Voices on top of voices, screaming opinions that are barely discernible. The volume gets turned up a notch with every new chorister added to the chaos. There’s no harmony because the conductor is too busy watching cat videos to do a damn thing about the inexorable cacophony.

My head hurts, my heart aches, and I’m exhausted. I just want to stand on a soapbox and scream, “Shush!” Yes, I realize that I would become one more voice in an ocean of screaming voices. I’d add to the noise pollution rather than offer a solution. Chaos on top of chaos. 

My kingdom for a moment of silence! Do I have a kingdom? No, I have a tiny apartment that’s becoming a storage unit for useless objects. My collection of broken and forgotten toys is bordering on a diagnosable condition. But for a moment of silence? Oh, take it all or maybe just the stuff in the corner over there. No, the stuff in garbage bags. Yeah, that stuff right there.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying we shouldn’t stand up and yell out when an injustice is happening. There are things worth fighting for and without us, doing the right thing, what hope does the world have? We have to stand up and be counted but sometimes sitting down, being silent, can be just as powerful.

Perhaps, the problem with doing the right thing is that we don’t agree on what it is. To vaccinate or not? The right to choose or the right to life? Keep the country shut down to save lives or open it back up to save livelihoods? The right to carry a weapon or the right to life, liberty, and happiness? The right to pray in schools or pray on your own time? For every right, there is someone who’ll say it’s wrong. For every person who’s willing to lay down their lives for what is right; there’s someone who’s willing to take it for the same reason.

I have my opinions on these topics and on so many more but how do I know I’ve gotten it right? I know what my heart tells me. I know how I was raised. I know the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of the people I trust both. I know what scientists, philosophers, and people of varying faiths have to say. I’ve extrapolated my opinions from multiple sources, and I believe in what I know to be right.

But what if I’m wrong? What if I’m yelling into the void? My voice joining the chorus of other bleeding hearts but never hitting the right note. It’s possible. Logically, if I step back and take an objective look, there’s a chance that I’m wrong about something or everything. There’s a chance that I’m right. Oh boy! I’m sending myself into circles.

Does it even matter? If the news has taught me anything? Yelling over the objections of others can turn fiction into fact very quickly. We’ve all seen it happen. Deny, deny, deny, despite all evidence to the contrary, and truth becomes irrelevant. Facts don’t matter. The narrative that’s been created is more interesting than reality, so we run with it.

I think it’s called gaslighting?

I’m going to say something that I despise. Believe me, I’ll hate myself for using this phrase as much as you’ll cringe when you read it. Let’s all take a deep breath. In through the nose, exhale, and here we go: Fake news!

Arg, I gagged…Sorry, I’m okay. Let’s get on with it before another wave of repulsion hits.

It’s a phrase used to silence objectors and reject an uncomfortable narrative. It’s a distraction that, if used just right, drives a wedge through the fragile ground. The ground shakes, the soil crumbles, and slowly one piece of land becomes two. They’re separated by a deep canyon. The yelling gets louder so their voices can traverse the distance but the message falls short because no one is listening. 

To be completely transparent with you; I’m just as guilty. I do it. I form an opinion, my knees lock, and I will not be swayed. It doesn’t matter what you say because my mind is made up and the vault has been sealed. You’ve taken another stance? Ha, bitch please. I can be quite stubborn sometimes so I’m far from innocent here.

But what if I, we, stopped yelling and started listening?

Let’s take these pandemic protestors, for example. I watch them gather in large groups, screaming about their right to get hair cuts, and I roll my eyes, call them idiots. I’ve seen a lot of names hurled at them and some of them, while kinda funny, are a little harsh. Do you want to gather in large groups during a viral outbreak? Cool, sign a medical waiver so when you get sick, you don’t overburden the medical system.

Cringe. Yeah, when I say it out loud it’s kinda gross. A knee jerk reaction born out of frustration. I want my life back too, but I’m locked inside with a compromised immune system. You would risk my life, so you can look pretty. Wow, deep sigh of vexation. Thanks for caring about your fellow humans.

I realize there are two groups of people at these protests. I won’t make excuses for the people who choose cruelty. The ones carrying guns, nazi flags, and threatening violent revolt? Hurting someone else for your own gain or your own righteous indignation is not okay. There’s nothing you can say that will make it acceptable to me and most decent people. Verbal abuse or physical assault is cheap, easy, and cowardly. There’s a difference between voicing dissent and physically forcing your will onto others.

The others, the people who are peacefully voicing their concerns, are another story. Have you listened to them? I finally got out of my own way and heard what they had to say. Some of their concerns are valid and understandable. They’ve lost their jobs. They don’t know how they’re going to feed their families. They want to work, to earn their way, but they can’t and they’re scared. They’re facing the very real possibility of losing everything they have. I can imagine how terrifying that must be for you. I’m so sorry you’re in this position. Genuinely sorry!

Do I agree with what you’re doing? No, but I’m not living your life. I’m not the one that has to live with the consequences of your actions now or with the future you’re facing. Listening doesn’t mean agreeing. Hearing what you’re saying doesn’t mean I’m happy that you’re marching but it’s your right to do so and I respect that. Respect isn’t acceptance but it is a display of tolerance or, at the least, an attempt at understanding your point of view. I might not like it but I don’t have to like it to empathize.

Taking a moment of silence doesn’t mean surrender. On the other hand, yelling doesn’t make us brave; it makes us loud. Screaming doesn’t make us right, and it often leads to our message being lost in the storm. Clenched fists, red faces, spit flying out of our open mouths? How’s that working out?

You’ve probably seen the pictures of the protestors versus the medical personnel in scrubs. The pictures are everywhere and so is the commentary. Which ones were labeled heroes and which ones were labeled lunatics? The ones that yelled or the ones who stood silently? Which took more courage? Angry protest or peaceful defiance? Which one will history judge and which one will it praise?

I have my opinions and, full disclosure, they are based on a bias. I have family working the front lines of this pandemic. The toll it’s taking on them breaks my heart and then we see the angry mob go after them with, what amounts too, pitchforks and flaming torches. I’m trying so hard to be understanding but it makes me so angry and so sad.

Can you imagine working 12-18 hours, with very little personal protection, to save the lives of strangers who are dying from this virus? You hold the hands of the dying so they don’t have to die alone. You stay away from the people you love to protect them. You watch your coworkers, your friends, get sick and die. You wonder when your turn will come. You pray it won’t happen to you but supplies are running low or they’ve run out. Is it only a matter of time? How scared are you now?

Then you walk out of the hospital and someone attacks you for doing your job. They kick you out of your home, take away your child, because of your job. You go to the store to get groceries and you’re spat on because you risked your life to save others. How about now? What has all the screaming accomplished?

It can take a great deal of courage to fight but, even more courage to be still. It takes more heart, bravery, to stand and let the silence speak volumes. At the very least, those moments of silence give us a chance to listen and hear the fears, the concerns, the motives behind the person’s actions. It can lead to a little understanding and maybe that can lead to a peaceful resolution. A resolution that can be a handshake and an agreement to disagree.

It’s hard ground to stand on, isn’t it? But we’ve got to do something because the canyon is getting wider and too many people are getting lost down in the crevasse. We’ve gotten so used to yelling that we’ve forgotten how a conversation works. Somewhere along the way we’ve lost the ability to disagree with each other without hating each other. Is it even possible? After everything that’s happened, can we listen to each other, or have we gone too far?

My head hurts, my heart is tired, and I just want a moment of peace. How about you? Are you tired yet? Think we can call for an armistice or are we too far gone? I’m going to be optimistic and say we’ve still got time to turn this around. All we need to do is have some courage and be still.