Always count your blessings, even if you have to count them through your tears.
Always count your blessings, even if you have to count them through your tears.
I had a dream last night. I guess it was kind of a nightmare. I was at a large speaking engagement. As I heard myself being introduced, I was overcome by the feeling that I didn’t have anything to say — or, at least, anything anyone in the audience would feel was important enough for them to listen to. I started to get sick to my stomach. Once again, I felt like I was not enough. It’s a feeling that has plagued me for most of my life. No amount of prayer, therapy, self-help books, or positive thinking has removed it. Maybe it’s just the path I get to walk. Or maybe one day it will heal. I have no way of knowing. I keep moving forward, anyway.
Which brings me to this blog, My Spiritual Sabbatical. For at least a couple of years, I’ve wanted to combine the writings here into a published book. But there’s so much I didn’t say as I wrote my way along the journey. Reading the entries is like trying to solve a puzzle with missing pieces. There were so many times my heart was breaking and I kept up a brave front — as much for myself, as for the reader. It was too raw, too painful to delve deeply into my heart and soul. So many times, I didn’t say all that could have been said, or reveal what could have been revealed. Sometimes it was out of fear of making myself too vulnerable. Sometimes, it was out of confusion; I was in the midst of the storm and didn’t know where I was going. There were so many tears and so much pain.
But I think there are those of you who read between the lines. I thank God for you.
After recently showing part of the manuscript to an editor for feedback, I now find myself torn between whether to do extensive rewriting to flesh things out, fix all of the grammatical errors, or leaving it the way it happened — messy, incomplete, confused, but real.
There is the illusion, too, that I must somehow resolve all of the grief and trauma of the last five years, answer unanswerable questions, and tie it up with a happily-ever-after ending for the reader. But that’s not how it is. I’m still in a transitional housing arrangement, still struggling with finances, my health is diminished since the car accident, I’m still suffering bouts of depression, and the road ahead is sometimes frightening and always uncertain. I can’t pretend otherwise. It hasn’t been all dreary, of course. Some incredible things have happened. Wonderful things. But that old feeling of “not enough” comes back to haunt me.
So… I’m moving forward with my production schedule! My goal to publish was Fall 2016. I think Thanksgiving Day would be a meaningful release date, since one of my biggest lessons over this journey was “Thank Him. Trust Him.” Living life always boils down to gratitude and faith.
My Spiritual Sabbatical is a story worth the telling, if only for myself.
Since MILE 9, whenever I feel uncertain or afraid, I think about what I achieved the time I persisted through my fatigue and my fear. MILE 9 is that certain unstoppable something inside of each of us that gives us the courage to continue against the odds.
It was a major turning point in my life when I completed a marathon on March 29, 1998 — that’s 26.2 miles. I almost gave up after MILE 8, but something shifted inside of me at the next signpost, and I have never been the same. I wrote a book about it ten years later called MILE 9.
I had spent my life eating junk food. I was in my late forties and more than 70 pounds overweight when I started the training, and still 40 pounds overweight on race day. It took me over nine hours to reach the finish line. I jogged a little, I walked a lot, and there was some crawling involved. Ha! But I finished.
Today was another anniversary of that day and sweet memories fill my head and heart. It was the most physically and mentally challenging thing this couch potato had ever done. The feeling of exhilaration at the end was indescribable. I did it. I didn’t quit. I finished a marathon.
Although I don’t know if I’ll do another one, life is like a marathon, isn’t it? You just keep going. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other. It’s all part of the Grand Journey.
87 years old. She walked out onstage — with a cane and an assistant, but she walked out. Wow. She had broken her back in two places and was performing anyway. She sat down in a wheelchair and sang her heart out and told her stories for almost two hours. She assured us that the wheelchair was only temporary until her back healed. After the standing ovation at the end, she sang “Imagine” without a mic. It was beautiful. Barbara Cook at the Annenberg in Beverly Hills last night. So glad I went.
“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” — Soren Kierkegaard
It used to be so vivid. When I was in my late 20′s I remember a nurse once catching her breath when she saw it as she went to take my blood pressure. “What’s that?!” she gasped.
Today, I have to search to find it. The light has to be just right. To the unknowing eye, it’s indistinguishable from the other creases on my left wrist. It’s a memento of a suicide attempt I made when I was 19 years old, a thin scar that has become almost invisible with the passage of time.
One of the benefits of growing older is the sense of perspective it brings. When trouble comes, the idea that something is “the end of the world,” has been replaced by “this, too, shall pass.” There are many ups and downs in life. It’s just the way life is. Have you ever had something happen that seemed terrible at the time turn out to be a blessing in disguise? I’ve had so many, I’ve lost count.
That attempt turned out to be a major turning point in my youth, a lesson in compassion for myself and compassion for others and sent me on a path that shaped my life for the better.
Postcard to my younger self: Relax. Savor the good times — and the bad. Scars will fade. If you keep your eyes and your heart open through it all, your life will grow rich and deep with meaning.
Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” — Mary Anne Radmacher
“Aren’t you a writer?”
The words startled me. I turned around and saw a beautiful young woman standing before me with a sack of groceries on her arm.
I had just walked into Ralphs on Ventura Boulevard at 7:30 on an already-hot Saturday morning in the San Fernando Valley. Having spent most of the early morning crying and feeling sorry for myself because I’m a loser and nobody love me, I wasn’t quite looking my best. Even though I’ve been living out of my car (yes, I’ve been living on and off in my car for a variety of reasons I can go into at another time), I decided I would have a proper breakfast and had stopped in Ralphs to pick up a one-serving size carton of my favorite yogurt. I usually eat yogurt, but since it doesn’t keep without refrigeration, I’d been skipping it.
I had on the same outfit I had slept in for the last couple of nights: a white t-shirt and black denim pants with a black parka. And I will confess that in my depression and transitory living situation I didn’t have on a drop of makeup nor had I showered or brushed my teeth in the past 24 hours. Yecchh. Anyway, what I’m saying is that this was NOT the time to be recognized.
“Yes, I’m a writer,” I responded. “How do you know that?”
Her name was Monique and she had heard me give a presentation at a community event for young low-income single mothers in North Hollywood three years ago, encouraging them to hold their heads up and not get discouraged by their circumstances. Monique had won a copy of my little book, MILE 9. It’s about putting one foot in front of the other, even when you feel like you can’t go on. She excitedly told me she had been really inspired by my talk, had started making self-care a priority and was down 63 pounds. She also asked if she could get a hug. She’ll never know how much more I needed that hug than she did. I listened to her tell me a little about herself and I congratulated her on her success.
After our exchange, I went inside to get the yogurt. But when I got back in my car to eat it, I started to cry. Not tears of sadness but tears of realization that, once again, something I had written had made a difference to someone else in a very real way. I don’t know how many more messages I need in order to learn that this life’s journey is so not about me.
Sometimes I feel embarrassed to keep this blog going because my life is such a mess right now. Who am I to call myself an inspirational writer? Physician, heal thyself. But then something like this happens and I realize that all any of us can do is share who we really are and what we’re going through. We never know how our experience can help somebody else. Maybe I can be an example of what NOT to do. I don’t know.
Anyway, I’m a writer and I’m going to keep writing, providing a little encouragement to others when and where I can. Based on what Monique said, I guess I need to re-read my own book!
I love God’s sense of humor.