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You Are In Integrity

“You are in integrity when the life you live is an authentic expression of who you are.” — Alan Cohen

 

Regaining Lost Pride and Lost Hope

“And nothing to look backward to with pride and nothing to look forward to with hope.” — Robert Frost

I am growing from, and getting over my sense of lost pride and lost hope. Often, my life seemed poisoned at the very source. I can’t remember a time of innocence, joy, or confidence in myself or in my relationships with others. I was sexually abused when I was a young child. I know the pain from that abuse and the stress associated with “keeping the secret” made me feel unsure of my boundaries and re framed my view of the future to one of anxiety and dread. But things are in fact beginning to change, as I change.

To go forward, I have had to admit to powerlessness. That has been hard for me to do. I must admit that I am powerless to undo the hurt and abuse in my past. And I have learned that I can’t “go it alone”. I have been alone way too long! I have my “new and improved” Self, the Universe, and my close friends to trust and confer with.

I am overcoming my past and turning toward the future with growing hope and trust. And then the present, like the New Year, becomes filled with promise. For those that know me well, also know that this “re framing” was difficult and can share with me the joy in my ability to change my way of thinking.


Hope a Poem by Mark Schmitz

Hope

Hope is not the closing of your eyes

to the difficulty, the risk,

or the failure.

It is a trust that –

if I fail now –

I shall not fail forever;

and if I am hurt,

I shall be healed.

It is a trust that

life is good,

love is powerful,

and the future is full of promise.

By Mark Schmitz



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What Makes Our Kids Distrustful and Angry?

 

“A child miseducated is a child lost.” – John F. Kennedy

So much money is spent on bombs and missiles and so little on education. With so many children in crowded classrooms and old buildings, with ill-trained and ill-paid teachers, it seems easier to destroy life than to nurture and strengthen it. I’ve thought a lot lately about what it was like for me as a child.

“Education” means leading out from … away from ignorance, defenselessness, anxiety and fear. In my childhood, I was educated in an environment which included neglect and abuse.

Childhood especially should be a time of growth and hope. When memories of childhood are tarnished, bitterness and resentment follow, and these in turn can lead to erratic or addictive behavior. I know what it was like to be pushed away, exploited, even seduced and abused. I hated it and it made me distrustful and angry.

Now that I’m on a path of personal growth and allowing more spirituality into my life, I feel the power of “education” as I learn to leave behind the ignorance, fear and pain of my childhood. I have come to feel the joy of nurturing myself and caring deeply for those around me. I want to be concerned with education as a way of overcoming ignorance, mistrust , isolation and fear.


The Innocence of Children

 

“Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies.”  — Edna St. Vincent Millay

Children feel themselves all-powerful in an infinite world.  Nothing disappears, nothing passes away.  In our earliest days, our pleasures were limitless and timeless.  Reality was only an obstacle to gratification.

In our drama, we often remain fixed in a similar pleasure-oriented world.  We don’t like it when someone says “no” to us.  We sometimes try to manipulate reality to suit our own purposes. We may look upon others as objects of gratification.  In our fantasies, we often recreate the omnipotent, timeless world of childhood, where we are in total control.  Our pleasures know no boundaries.

We need to stay childlike and full of wonder, but at the same time, we must put away those childish fantasies.  We can be creative, without believing ourselves immortal or invincible.  We can return to the kingdom of our earliest days without playing the little tyrannical ruler.

Remember the uniqueness of our own childhood and leave behind its self-centeredness.  Love of others and love of life is the antidote to the narrow circle of our dysfunction.


Christmases Past and Christmas Present

For my entire life I have anticipated the holiday season with joy.  Never have I before felt anything close to a hint of dread when it comes to Christmas.  Every year, my mother would spend literally, weeks, deep cleaning every room of the house, decorating each and every room in the house, trimming the trees; one fettered out completely in Hallmark ornaments, one upstairs trimmed in her prized and ever so delicate hand-blown antique glass ornaments and of course, baking cookies.  My mother would bake countless varieties by the dozens. Especially, her beloved “bird turds” as we called them.

My mother’s children were basically enrolled in a basic training camp for holiday preparation and style just because we lived under the same roof with her.  Each of the four of siblings seemed to have inherited those special genes necessary to pull off a holiday with tradition, whimsy, and flair.  Surely, the world would have to be in its last stage of demise should my mother not carry on her decorating traditions.  That is, until the last Christmas or two that she spent in our world, when she just didn’t have the strength to do it all.  But even still one of her children or in-laws managed to pick up just enough of the slack to make it all seem so seamless.

My last holiday spent “Mom’s way” was in 1994.  That following Thanksgiving, 1995 found me in a Camaro driving to Phoenix, Arizona as that would become my home.  Christmases here in the desert are so much different from what I traditionally experienced in the Midwest.  Sometimes it’s hard to convince yourself that it really is the holiday season; warm sunny weather, lazy lunches eaten outdoors, grilling out on the patio most any night, all trick the mind into an endless Summer.

Dutifully, I would call home on Christmas Day and talk with my Mom mostly, and any of my siblings that happened to be close to the phone.  I carried on my form of guerilla style holiday decorating adapted  to our warm Phoenix climate.  Because both my mother and her mother knew I valued cherished items kept in our family for years, and that I wouldn’t be the type to disrespect the handing down of “heirlooms,” I was given many wonderful decorations, which I still treasure today.  My own decorating style may be influenced by a little Southwest sizzle, but much of my European heritage remains.

The cookies however, never found their way into my traditions, though I must say, my sister put out some very fine efforts of her own!  To this day, those “bird turds” are baked each year by at least one former sister-in-law. What are bird turds?  They are a raspberry meringue with little mini chocolate chips inside.  The recipe is this:

Patricia Schubert’s Raspberry Meringue Kisses aka Bird Turds

3 Egg Whites ¾ Cup Sugar

1/8 tsp Salt 1 tsp Vinegar

3 ½ Tbl Raspberry Gelatin

1 Cup Miniature Chocolate Chips

Beat egg whites with salt until foamy.  Add raspberry gelatin and sugar gradually. Beat until stiff peaks form and sugar is dissolved.  Mix in vinegar; fold in chocolate chips.  Drop from teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.  Bake at 250 degrees for 25 minutes.  Turn oven off and allow cookies to bake an additional 20 minutes longer.  Makes 9 dozen. (Originally adapted by Patty Schubert from “The Electric Company Cookbook”)

This cookie recipe has always seemed to be one of those constants in life, when everything around us was changing.  For me, the end of relationships and the beginning of new relationships created different though just as special traditions.  Retro, vintage 1950’s, 1960’s, mid-century design brought me back to my earliest memories of Christmas as a child.  eBay held the same adorable angel decorations my mother had, and today I coveted!  My grandmother had one of those spectacular, head-turning aluminum Christmas trees.  Of course the stand rotated, played Christmas carols, and the tree itself was lit by a rotating color wheel.  Within weeks I had new traditions and new treasures delivered to my door via UPS.

Christmas Eve dinners spent away from the family back home evolved from lasagna to chili and cornbread, to today’s tradition in our home; a variety of cheese and crackers, peel and eat shrimp with cocktail sauce, grilled tenderloin and gourmet style baked potatoes with a green salad.  The later menu is of course the priciest of the presentations made over the years, but one nonetheless carried out.  I am on a fixed income, and there have been several lean years when I thought it impossible to keep up tradition and that surely I would have to lower my expectations.

My past three partners found out early in the relationship that holidays and traditions were so very important to me.  I was delighted to know my most recent partner’s mother, Dorothy enjoyed tradition as well.  She enjoyed learning about and experiencing for herself, the traditions maintained by other families.  For our own traditions, if ever it I had to stretch too far to make the necessary purchases, Dorothy would either join me on shopping day to pick up the tab directly, or sometimes offer the cash needed to make up the shortfall.  She may have turned up her nose that first year to the thought of eating cold, cooked shrimp that weren’t even removed from the shell at the store. “Imagine that the store would think that all that work of cooking and cleaning should be left to the customer!” Dorothy complained.  Eventually, she grew to love and appreciate my traditions as much as I did, no matter how it tasted!

Christmas, 2007 was the last I enjoyed with Dorothy.  She transitioned into her next life on January 23, 2008.  Thinking back to that series of “holiday firsts without Dorothy” still brings about huge waves and channels of emotion for me.  First, the feeling of impossibility; that there was in no way I could sustain myself through a holiday without her.  There are sometimes oceans of tears and my throat can hurt from crying so hard.  Each decoration of hers I bring out to display, imagine was still maybe last touched by her, giving me a quick and close connection I crave.  As I march through my tears and maneuver my way through the days that approach Christmas, I find myself reminiscing in my mind and even laughing out loud over past holidays we shared. Finally, if even for a moment, I begin to feel my holiday space is once again shared with me by loved ones, even if departed.

Space is always opened for others to contribute to my traditions and I find enjoyment in sharing in my celebration if even from a distance.   Today, I had some thoughts in my mind and I found myself allowing me to “free-fall” into a cavern of depression, all the while fantasizing about taking every last holiday decoration I have put up, down. I would vow that, “Christmas will live here, in this house no more!”  But things change so quickly, and again appear brighter.  I decided today to rework this blog post from an earlier version, updating it and then will share it with my new friend, Dorothy’s sister, Betty.

After I finish this post and see that it looks nice on my weblog, I will play more holiday music, send a copy of this post directly to Betty with an email and then begin making dinner.  Perhaps a friend or two will stop by for a visit tonight, or maybe I will just turn off all the lights except for the color wheel beneath the tree and watch my beautiful 1961 aluminum tree dance and glow for hours.

I wish you and yours the safest and most joyous holiday season, and thank you all for the many gifts that have been given and received by me this year: gifts of love, feedback, patience, understanding, a safe space and openness making it OK for me to share my fear and confusions and any other thought in my head I have needed to get out, and our unified goals of bringing more peace and joy to all of our lives.

Love,

Mark Schmitz

 

Desire Realized is Sweet to the Soul

 

“Desire realized is sweet to the soul.”  — Proverbs 13:19

Christmas is approaching. I can recall as a child, every Christmas Eve coming home from church and running up to the Christmas tree, seeing presents – mounds of them, four huge stacks, one for each sibling, towering as high as the top of the tree itself. But even with that kind of excess, one can still experience a lifetime of deprivation. If we were deprived as children, we may still live with emptiness inside. Of what were we deprived; love, security, validation, acceptance, caring, or compassion?

I know that I like many others compensated by learning to bear the deprivation and survive. As an adult, I find myself still surviving. I settle; I don’t ask for things because I believe I don’t deserve anything. But making do with life’s crumbs has brought me to resentment, self-pity and feeling deprived. I remain a child, instead of becoming an emotionally healthy adult who feels competent and worthwhile.

I am learning where the balance is between wanting nothing and wanting everything. If I can continue to work on broadening my thinking to include such words as “plenty”, “fulfillment”, “pleasure”, and “satisfaction”, I know that only then will I start to believe there is enough of everything. It is then that I will become aware of the fullness of life around and within me. Living in the present helps me realize that I actually have everything I need in the moment.

This realization helps me feel worthwhile, competent – and even fulfilled. My prayer to the Universe today will be, “Please take away my fear of satisfaction and pleasure. Grant me an awareness of how good life is, whether it brings me what I expect.”


Needs That Have Gone Unmet

“No, this is not me; this is somebody else that suffers.

I could never face that, and all that has happened:

Let sackcloth and ashes enshroud it,

And see all the lamps are removed…

Night.”

Anna Akhmatova

I am a person with needs. We are all people with needs. None of us are different in this.  I suggest that we are not different when it comes to needs being met (or unmet) when we were younger. I am certain that for many of us, some of our important needs were not met when we were small children dependent upon a world of adults to care for us. Now we’re adults, and the feeling of neediness has for many of us, become a chasm within us. And to make things harder, the child within us still feels ashamed because of our needs.

I have learned that even though my closest friend tries each day to make sure that my needs are met, I must help myself. The same holds true for my consideration when I hear my “Voice from within” wonder, “Am I meeting his/her needs?” Unless we help ourselves, our pain and shame will turn into rage, which only empties us, and we cannot run on empty forever, in trying to hide our own true feelings.

Our needs are real, and we have nothing for which to be ashamed. Whether through reaching out to others or whatever tool we gain along our path of personal growth and development, turning to that force which we believe to be greater than our own Self, or trusting any of our other inner resources while in quiet solitude, we can meet our own needs. Each day, I make every effort to be gentle with my “neediness”.  We don’t have to be perfect after all, just real!

I Accept All My Relationships As They Are

I Accept All My Relationships As They Are Today.

I Will Give Them My Best.


“Only one who listens can speak.”  – Dag Hammarskjöld

Inevitably, there will always be times in our life when a relationship becomes difficult. Maybe it’s a friendship that has conflicts, a romantic relationship that suddenly, terrifyingly, starts to fall apart or family relationships, strained by years of unmet expectations, become cold and distant.

A shaky relationship can trigger one’s fear of abandonment. That’s when we feel torn between old, inappropriate interactions and any new tools for setting and maintaining healthy boundaries and one’s commitment to living life as one chooses. What choices are available?  Give up and run? Hang on, even though one may not want to? How honest should one be? What should be left unsaid, perhaps better shared with someone else? These are only some of the question we have to ask ourselves.

The wisdom gained through personal growth do nothing until one makes a choice, deciding the course of right action; what to do.  All things, including relationships, are on the Universe’s time continuum. Until – or when – we come to a decision, we can live each day going about our lives. All we can do is live each moment and give ourselves the love and nurturing we need until the difficulty finally comes to an end. The outcome may not be expected, but at last, with reality in our midst, we are ready to accept life and our relationships just as they are, now stronger to face our next challenge.

Fly Free!

A Short Story About a Butterfly

 


She was a beautiful butterfly and she belonged to someone now. Her delicate wings glistened in the light like stained glass windows in a cathedral. She sat on a little twig, her big dark eyes peering out at the world from behind the protection of her glass enclosure. She was happy. She was safe from the world, out there, content to live within the confines of her glass jar; days spent flying and fluttering about almost forgotten.

One day, a boy took the jar with the butterfly in it and carried it outside. “Butterflies should be free,” he said. The butterfly wasn’t so sure. She clung desperately to the twig, terrified of this sudden journey into the unknown world. When the boy got outside, he took the lid off, shook the jar and said, “Okay butterfly, fly free!”

But the little butterfly didn’t want to fly free. She liked her safe little home inside the jar. She liked the twig upon which she perched. She liked the constant temperature of the air, the cool feel of the glass against her wings when she spread them wide. She did not want to fly free. The little boy became agitated. He shook the jar again and again until finally, realizing the butterfly was not going to come out, he threw the jar to the ground and smashed it into a thousand pieces.

Suddenly exposed to the chill of the air, the butterfly cried in terror. “What have you done? You’ve ruined everything!” The little boy didn’t understand. The butterfly quivered on the grass, her wings shaking, her eyes tearing. She wouldn’t move from the twig to which she clung. “Stupid butterfly,” he said before turning his back and walking away.

The little butterfly watched him leave and wondered what on earth she was going to do now. Where would she go? How would she ever feel safe again? Just then a gentle breeze came up and stirred her wings.

“Who’s there?” she asked.

“It’s me. The Wind,” a voice answered.

“The Wind you say? Come on, who are you – really?”

“I can be your friend,” the Wind responded.

“Ha!” chirped the butterfly, her voice rising in condescension. “I don’t need a friend. I need a glass jar.”

“How do you know you don’t need a friend? Have you ever had one?”

The butterfly didn’t want to listen to the Wind. She wanted to climb back inside the security of the glass jar and be safe. “Go away! Leave me alone.” The Wind didn’t listen. He tickled her wings and ever-so-gently stroked her body.  The Wind caused his gentlest breezes under and over her as he coursed through the air. “Stop that!” The butterfly cried. The Wind’s friendly breezes were encouraging her wings to unfold.

She did not want her wings to unfold. She did not want to let go of the twig to which she still clung so fiercely. The Wind listened, but reasoned with the butterfly, explaining his many centuries on Earth and the experience he has gained with which he only wishes to do acts of kindness;  his present act of kindness will benefit the butterfly greatly and bring great joy.  With that, he grew stronger. He couldn’t stop his swift breeze from naturally lifting the butterfly off the ground.

“What? What’s happening?” she cried as the earth began to fall away. “Stop it! I’m scared.” The Wind continued to ignore her cries as he carried her further and further away from the broken pieces of the glass jar that was once her home. He carried her to a garden of bright, brilliant colored wild flowers. Their velvety faces pointed up towards the sun, the colorful heads nodded in joy against the gentle caresses of the breeze as it carried the butterfly through their midst.

“Oh my gosh!” cried the butterfly. “Look at all the colors. What are they?” she asked as without thinking her wings began to move up and down by themselves and she began to flit among the multi-colored hues of the flowers.  “They’re your friends,” the Wind whispered into her ear.

Suddenly, the butterfly realized she was flying. She stopped moving her wings up and down and landed with a plop on top of a flower. “Oh, sorry,” she said as she struggled to gain flight again. The flower, a bright sunny, daisy with many arms smiled happily and replied. “Don’t be sorry. You’re helping me grow!”

Just then, another beautiful butterfly came flitting by. He saw the little butterfly struggling to lift off from the flower and settled on a petal close by. “Hi,” he said, his eyes twinkling in the sun. “What’s your hurry? How about sitting with me awhile?”

“Who are you?” the little butterfly asked, trying desperately to fold her wings into her body to avoid touching his.

“I’m a butterfly,” he replied. “Just like you.”]

“Hmm,” the little butterfly thought for a moment as she digested this new information. “And you live out here?” “Where else would I live?” he asked. Growing tired of sitting around in the sunshine, he spread his magnificent wings and took flight. “Come on,” he called back to the little butterfly who watched in awe as the sun caught his wings and cast beautiful colorful prism onto the ground. “Let’s fly!”

The little butterfly looked around. Amidst the flowers hundreds of butterflies flitted joyfully among the flowers. Here and there a big fat bumblebee buzzed its way around as it busily gathered nectar for its hive.

The butterfly wanted to be like the other butterflies she could see around her. Carefully she unfurled her wings. She felt a tickle of breeze caress her skin. She felt her body lifting up. Leaving her fear behind her spread her wings and took to the skies. Beneath her, the glass shards of her forgotten jar glistened in the sun. In the distance, the little boy played ball with his dog while all around her the world revolved in magnificent splendor as she began to fly. She was free at last. Free to feel the Wind beneath the wings, as she moved beyond the memory of her glass jar into the big wide world around her.
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