Monday, November 21, 2011


Over you! Cry-yyy-yyy-yyy-ing, over you! (Remember that song?)

I guess I have had problems with emotions overtaking me, always. One of those is anger, and I still struggle with it. It's easier to see this quality (more like weakness) in others, like my son tonight when he lost some essential college paperwork and was storming around his room, tossing things around. (He got accepted to A&M and UT! We knew he would, but it's still exciting.)

Emotions can be so powerful. Sometimes, I have the experience of being an emotional barometer for others. I can sense the mood in a room or a group of people, and it's a natural tendency for me to pick up those emotions, like a chameleon, and put them on. Does this sound familiar? Someone else is angry, so you are too. Everyone's upset -- including you. People are crying, and you feel like crying, too.

This is a universal human tendency, to be influenced by the emotions of others. I think that Type 4's (on the Enneagram) can have this ability in a more pronounced way.

Recently, I was driving home and passed a serious auto accident that was causing a huge traffic jam on the other side of the highway. There were lots of emergency vehicles, mostly fire trucks, and I could see at least one vehicle that had been badly damaged. As I approached the accident, I felt sadness wash over me, and spontaneously started crying. (Praying, too.)

This evening while taking my 12 minutes of meditation, another wave of sadness crashed over me. Extreme sorrow -- the kind that temporarily locks up breathing in its intensity, then releases. I experienced it just for a short time, and then it passed and I was at peace again.

Both these times, it felt as though the emotion was originating outside of me and passing through me. Of course, this would be a delightful fantasy for any particularly melodramatic person -- these tears, they aren't self-indulgent at all! They are expressing the great pathos of our existence, the endless sorrow that is out in the world, and serving a noble purpose.

It's hard to tell the nature and quality of tears. Dorothy Parker wrote a short story that is seared like a brand in my memory, because it described one of my lifelong habits. The protagonist of the story would read about all the terrible things happening to the poor, the oppressed, and children around the world, and she would just sit and cry so hard about all these things. That's all she ever did -- have a good cry about it all. Anyhow, I was just looking online to try to find the story I remember, without success.

I've gone through stages where I banished crying. The tears seemed completely selfish and, more importantly, useless too -- just didn't help matters at all that I could see.

But the reality is, life holds an ocean of tears. Just to dip a toe in that ocean is all I can manage, because it would be all too easy to be submerged and not come up for air ever again. How else could anyone respond, but to share the tears?

A newer quality that I have enjoyed is being overcome, completely bowled over, by joy. You're not supposed to label emotions as good or bad-- they all arise, they all have the same amount of validity (this is my friend Karen's advice) -- but some are definitely more fun than others!

The most important lesson I've learned is that being gripped by emotion does not require any accompanying action -- none at all! Wise indeed is the person who can let the emotion arise, and observe it and its causes without doing anything, at least at that moment.

In fact, a strong emotion of any kind is a warning to pause, take a deep breath, and not make any hasty decisions. Don't hit the send key, if texting or emailing! And please, please don't vent on Facebook for hundreds of "friends" to see. (It's one thing for young people to lay it all on the line on their Facebook status. This is their socially safe place to express themselves. But adults? "Discretion is the better part of valor," or some such.)

By the way ... check out the newest blog I'm following, "The Happiness Project." One thing I love about this blogger is that she posts often! (Note to self ...)

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I know I have been less than faithful about posting here! My creativity is being expressed in other areas of my life right now. I have really enjoyed one year of working at a mentally stimulating job, and I have learned an enormous amount of technical detail about accounting and federal income taxes. It's surprising to think of creativity in such a context, but the brain does enjoy growth in multiple directions. My brain has been very nourished and stimulated by my job. Also, the overall atmosphere of the office, though it is quiet, is also warm and friendly. People all get along with one another (it's a small office!) and everyone has a sense of humor, particularly my boss. Most of all, I have been encouraged to learn and grow professionally more than I could even imagine doing someplace else. What a gift!

Of course, I continue my quest for regular exercise and the greatest degree of fitness I can squeeze into my busy life.

Then there are my kids. Yes, they still need me, though sometimes they wouldn't want to admit it! Austin is at the point in his life where he is making decisions that have more of a long-term impact than ever before, and he really needs the guidance of both parents to move in a wise direction. (He really hates it when our advice contradicts his desires, though!)

Andrew is growing into a young man before my eyes, and also needs a lot of guidance at this critical point in his life. More than even guidance, they both need lots of love and attention from me and Dwaine.

Then there's my husband! Gotta make some time for my main squeeze. And there are the others in my family and circle of friends.

I need to become more serious and intentional about daily prayer and meditation. I notice it falling by the wayside, recently, and I am rededicating myself to a small (10-15 min.) daily practice. This practice will be helped by a contemplative prayer workshop I will be attending in a week or so at the Oblate Center in San Antonio. I feel like I am floundering, a bit, in not having a little more structure and intentionality to my quiet time with the Lord. This invitation to the workshop, from someone at church, came at a great time in my life and was actually an answer to several prayers. My spiritual guide, Cecilia, was very excited when she learned I planned to go. It turns out she has taught the "Lectio Divina" for years and her family is close to David Kauffman, the musician and speaker for the evening.

Another gift I have been given recently by someone (in my new Toastmasters group) is the book "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. I feel that the author is such a kindred spirit, in many ways! She describes many emotional entanglements that I completely understand, and have experienced. Some of it may be the common experiences of two women and mothers. Perhaps she is also an Enneagram Type 4. She has a similar approach to her life. She stresses that the specific steps to greater happiness are individual, and I wouldn't take all the same steps she is taking, but many of them feel like the right direction that I also need to go or that I am also traveling (I am a little bit older and hopefully further along on that journey!). So rather than me having to go through all the effort to create my own happiness project, I can just read about hers and absorb some of the glow! Ha!

Here's a nice quote that she mentions in the book: "When the student is ready, the teacher appears."

I have seen several things in my life that could easily be described as coincidences, "where God chooses to remain anonymous."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An essay from my son

I made the mistake of asking my 15-year-old son what he thought of me. Asking a question like this is like a self-inflicted wound; nothing good will come of it. So why did I feel compelled to ask my son, a moody teen, his completely distorted view of me? Some questions truly have no answers.

He said, "Well, to tell you the truth, Mom, I think you're depressed."

Thanks a lot, buddy! I thought. "Then what about Dad?" I demanded. They didn't get along at all. He had to have some far worse comment about his dad!

"Naw, he's fine," he said casually.

What this really reveals is how hard it is to be a mom, and how hard I've tried for the past 17 years. It's not a bunch of fun and games, I can tell you! There's no user's guide, and society's attitude seems to be whatever you're doing as a parent, it is wrong! Too permissive -- too strict -- either too controlling, or not enough boundaries, etc.

My main parental technique seems to be riding the kids about something they need to do, ought to do, and should be doing Right Now, but aren't. Followed by worrying about whatever it is they are actually doing.

So one of my goals in life lately is to have more fun! (Some fun? Any?) I guess I haven't been too much of a failure in that regard. Read on to see what my 17-year-old thinks of his family, and me -- the one who is a "stress reliever" and helps him see "the lighter side of life"!

By the way, due to numerous scheduling conflicts, I quickly fizzled in the quest to write 2,000 words a day. Although -- allow me to gloat for a moment -- I apparently inspired my dear friend, Sardine Mama (there's an imaginary hyperlink here) to feverishly pen at least a few thousand words, earlier this month! (I can't vouch for her productivity since that time.)

I have several higher priorities in my life right now, listed roughly in order of the time they take: working, sleeping, doing stuff with/for my family, housework, eating, working out, meditating, volunteering, and a wee bit of reading here and there. Oh yeah, forgot that hour-and-15 or so commute every day. That tacks on some time.

I asked Austin's permission to reprint one of his college essays, which he gave, so I will run it below. Every word is completely, 100% certifiably true! (Especially the "My mom is amazing" part. Yeah!) The most amazing part of all is that this was written by a 17-year-old, yet it has simply glowing things to say about mom and dad. Hmmm, we must be terribly permissive parents for him to adore us this much right now! Let me go worry about that while you read on:

I have been blessed with an outstanding opportunity for greatness, and it is in the form of my loving family. My family is and always will be there for me. I have learned that the people that truly care about you are your family, and my family exemplifies that quality to no end.
              I have made mistakes in the past, and probably will make more in the future. My dad has shown me, though, that when I make mistakes, I can learn from them and get back up as a better and stronger person than I was before. I have been out past curfew at times before, but he sits me down and talks to me about the importance of having a time to be back rather than just restricting me. He reasons through his punishments and helps me realize my mistakes so that I can try to be better in the future.  He has looked through any wrong that I have done, because he loves me. His love is what keeps me strong and willing to continue trying, even when it seems that I should just give up and take the easy route. He is a person of character, and I am proud to say that I am growing up to be like him.

My mom is amazing. She has learned to control her emotions and always reason and give me the best support that she can while still being the best mother that I could ask for. I know that she cares so much about me and only wants me to succeed and become a great person that has class. I can always rely on her for emotional support, even though I may not show it at times. I love being able to talk to her about anything that comes up because it is a stress reliever. She helps me to see the lighter side of life and to learn to focus on what is really important to my future and me. She is an inspiration to me on how I should treat myself and others, and I will always be grateful to her for showing me the meaning of unconditional love.

My brother is the guy I can turn to, to have a great time. He and I have bonded together through years of being two wild young boys tearing through our house. He is a caring and compassionate person who never stops helping me whenever I need it most. I can spend hours just talking with him about life and any hardship that I am dealing with. We used to spend whole days together just playing imaginary and enjoying each other’s company. When I need someone to have fun with, I turn to my brother. He is a person that will never hesitate to help me in any way possible, be it money, emotional support, or even schoolwork. He shows me to that helping out people that are close to you is an experience like no other.

Surrounded by people like this, I know I can succeed at anything that I try. I have great role models that I will for sure imitate when I raise a family myself. I love my family, and they have shown me how to love others through their love for me.

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