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Conquering the Lion of….Grief and Loss….(it’s not just about Death and Dying)

When we hear the phrase “Grief and Loss”, often images of someone grieving over another who has died comes to mind. Perhaps you think of Kubler and Ross’s Five Stages of Grief, “denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance”. Of course it makes sense to attach “grief and loss” to death, but I’d like to challenge us to expand our thinking to include (more regularly) much more.

Before I went back to school to become a counselor, I was a teacher. I didn’t know much about depression, anxiety, grief, loss, and mindfulness. I didn’t know how important it was to pay attention to my moods, feelings, and behaviors. If I WAS paying attention to these things, I didn’t know what to do with them if they were off. I did have a group of friends and family that loved me, and I’d say I’m a pretty emotionally “tuned in” individual.  BUT, the feelings I was chronically having, I especially didn’t know to pay attention to, and give myself a break from. I only wish someone would have told me that I was dealing with grief and loss most of my 30’s. Because of my lack of knowledge and perhaps some of my pride, I lived with a heavy load on my shoulders I did not know how to ask for help carrying.

So in writing this, I want to encourage us all to extend our thinking of grief and loss to anyTHING someone may have lost. ANYTHING. Period. AND that “thing” could even be something they never really “HAD” in the first place…A lost dream or hope. Here is my experience.

I was raised in Tennessee by my parents who stayed married until my dad died of cancer in 2013. My extended family is large, with aunts, uncles, and cousins that also modeled the “traditional American” family of two parents each having 1-2 children. Because of my upbringing, my Christian roots, and the area of the country where I grew up, my future was focused on getting married and having my own children. My mom and I would talk about my future husband, we would dream about my wedding, and we would talk about how I would raise my family. Sure, I would work…but that was secondary and perhaps even tertiary. I would dream about the house I would decorate and the meals and birthday parties I would prepare and host. I envisioned the dogs we would have, the church we would go to, and the parties we would enjoy. I was excited for my future and had it all planned out.

Over time, after many failed dating relationships and getting older, little by little those dreams started slipping away and I couldn’t wrap my brain around what to do about it. Meanwhile I was living the single life, but I felt I didn’t know how to do that very well since I never had planned or envisioned THAT for myself. I mean, what was I supposed to do with all this time on my hands? Even going to the gym didn’t seem to be enough to fill the time after work every day! And, I DATED. I spent A LOT of time and energy dating. Every time I went through a break up of a serious relationship, I believe I went through grief and loss, but never did anyone label it so, and I FOR SURE wasn’t going to, either. Each break up was more difficult not only because of the depth and uniqueness of it, and the loss of that person in my life, but because I was older, the dreams of my future would fade a bit more each time.

At the time, I was teaching. I would remember dragging myself from bed every morning and having to force myself to smile and interact with my students and co-workers after a breakup. Sometimes “getting back to normal” took months. I felt I was on autopilot, in a fog, and just forcing myself through life in those moments. I remember feeling like I SHOULD BE ok, after all, it was ONLY a breakup.

Meanwhile, I would see how there were other staff members going through tough times such as a death in their family or having an adoption not going through. These staff members would have the full support of the rest of the team, sending cards, flowers, and small gifts to their desk in condolence. I remember feeling badly that I was angry that no one was there to help me through my pain, but I told myself, it made sense, their loss was so much more significant than mine. Afterall, they really were REALLY grieving. I was NOT. At least that’s what I told myself THEN. Now I know better, and can give myself “permission”. My feelings of loss were just as huge. Valid. I was suffering. Period. I had experienced a great deal of loss….loss of hope, loss of a vision for my future, loss of my dreams. And, top it all of, I was alone with my feelings, embarrassed at how deeply I was being impacted by something as “small” as a breakup.

Unfortunately, I now believe that because my grief went unrecognized for many years, I went through a large portion of my 30’s with untreated depression. Because I’m high functioning, and pushed myself through those years and got myself to work day after day and year after year, got to parties, spent time with friends, no one recognized my symptoms. I didn’t recognize my symptoms. But because I’m sitting on the other side of it now, I realize I was NOT OK. I was suffering. I didn’t allow myself to call the “death” of my dream and vision for my future GRIEF. LOSS. I didn’t call it that because I didn’t know any better. But that was exactly what I was going through. Just like grieving the loss of a loved one, I was grieving the loss of my future, as I knew it.

There are more twists and turns to my story. I’ll get to those later. In this moment, however, now with the training I’ve had as a counselor and more life under my belt, I can look back and have compassion and understanding for that woman that struggled for so many years. I am on the other side of my grief, large in part because of a change in career and learning to adjust to my new “normal”: creating a new future for myself without the husband, children, and the “white picket fence”. It took a LONG time to build that new future, but it excites me more and more each day and having that hope has created a new sense of joy and passion in my life.

ONE of my hopes is this: Perhaps MY STORY can be a gentle whisper in the midst of YOURS. If you are struggling with loss of any kind please know you may be going through the stages of grief and that may be why you don’t feel “like yourself”.  If it’s been going on so long that you feel like your sadness is “just who you are”, look again and ask some questions. There may be something going on that can be helped. If you are struggling, and you are able to recognize it, or get help recognizing it, do what you can to address it rather than sweep it under the rug because you are getting to work “fine”, your relationships are “fine”, and everything APPEARS “fine” (on the surface). “Help” could be a wise friend or family member, a book, a podcast, an article online, and it could be a mental health professional. Whoever it is, whatever it is, start talking, asking, and get the help you need. If you feel something is “off” in your life, and it’s been that way for some time, do anything you can to fight to get your life BACK. Fight for joy, peace, and contentment. Fight for your vision, your hope, your future.

In looking back, I believe the journey I took was part of the plan for my life. My struggles have given me a story unlike any other, and it’s that story that has brought me to the joy and thrill I have today to lean and live into. I hope you can, one day, say the same about yours!

Peace, Love, and Go Conquer Some Lions!

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I’m Engaged!

Isaiah 40:28

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can even fathom.

Proverbs 29:18

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

I’m Engaged!

This phrase, to a single person that WANTS to be married, might be one of the most elusive and frustrating phrases he or she may run into when dealing with their friends moving into a new life stage. It brings JOY for the friend or family member, but may bring thoughts of doubt, insecurity, questions, and frustration to the individual not sharing the sentiment. Perhaps it brings with it sadness and anger…when it’s not you, and it’s something that you want, there are a myriad of feelings that come along with it that are tough to manage. Especially if it’s a friend or family member uttering the phrase. You struggle with your own emotions and to heap on top of that, you deal with the guilt that you SHOULD be feeling only joy and enthusiasm for the person that just got engaged.

I would like to change our way of thinking about this phrase.

Because…I am as single as they come AND….

I AM ENGAGED!!!!

Let me explain!

Many years ago, I was DISENGAGED. I was living a life that only interested me in increments measured by hours with my family or friends. Sure, there were parties, tv shows, and food and drinks that ENGAGED me, but LIFE overall was unengaging. I was a teacher, and while I was very good and enjoyed aspects of the profession, there were elements that did not grasp my imagination, vision for my future, or my hopes for who I was to become in the long run. I wanted to be in a meaningful relationship that could lead to marriage and kids, but that was a difficult road to get onto and seemed to always lead to disappointment. Working in a field that didn’t spark my imagination and then heaping on top of that disappointments of failed dating relationships lead to a disengaged life. I checked out about 80% of what I was doing. Try as I might, my work didn’t drive me to use my creativity or vision, and my dating life wasn’t capturing my heart either. With those two areas of my life “closed down”, lead to a life that was lived waiting for the next small moment of tv, party, or fun time with family to feel like I “had a life”.

So there I was, disengaged, without vision, on auto-pilot, bored, angry, frustrated, and feeling heartless towards my future.

Thankfully, God never left my side. I was always asking for help, and He was always guiding me, helping me open my eyes when the time was right. He was teaching me valuable career skills, relationship tools….I was reading, learning, listening, waiting (although I didn’t know these things were actually happening). God was preparing me, grounding me. He was showing me “guideposts” along the way that I didn’t realize were, actually guideposts towards my future. Because of that, HE LED ME to a NEW PLACE…a place of hope, inspiration, invigoration, motivation, and satisfaction……

NOW…… I AM ENGAGED! I am fully engaged in my life in a way I never knew I could be. God gave me a vision for my career, my path, my future. In each step towards that new place, HE has opened my eyes to more visions, hopes, and dreams.

These days, I find that I have so many ideas about what to do, where to go, and who to do it with I sometimes feel like my head is spinning thinking about it all. It’s overwhelming and exciting. It’s a thrilling place to be…ENGAGED in my own life…letting MYSELF and GOD paint the picture for my future in a way I never was able to see it before.

Are you engaged?

Have you been feeling disengaged? Why do you think that is? Where could you use help and guidance? Keep praying and asking HIM to show you the way, my life is proof positive that HE WILL lead you to a happy, successful, engaged life!

SLINGING the DANG STARFISH

Last year I started a new job. A High School Counseling position at a LARGE high school in Fairfax County, Va. I had a huge learning curve. It was like drinking from a firehose, for sure! Well, work at school this year has been VERY DIFFERENT than last year. I’m feeling much BETTER at my job and much more capable. Now that I’m not drowning in the LOGISTICS like “who do I call??” and “What is the phone number?” or “How do I get to that classroom even??” Or “How do I access that report on the computer!??” NOW, I can CARE about the kids. And…care, I DO! And CARING is HARD WORK. Caring and working hard to HELP A KID can drag you down….and I/we help SO MANY KIDS every day (and YOU, yes YOU probably help a kid or an adult or a group of workers, or ANYONE every day!)…and sometimes with all of that HARD WORK you just want to REST for many days, or throw your hands up in the air, or yell to the sky, or….maybe even some days, you want to give up.


But then I think about that story, you know the one….about the boy/girl on the beach…throwing starfish back into the water??

sea shells with sand as background

Well, I’ve been thinking about that story a lot lately, and thinking about all of my kids, my “starfish”. And you know what I keep thinking??? THROWING STARFISH IS HARD and HEAVY work. That cute little girl on the beach, bless her! Those starfish on that beach were EASY to toss back in! These starfish that WE DEAL WITH on a DAILY BASIS….are a different kind of “tossing”…it’s dragging, pulling, prodding, questioning, HARD! Tedious work, confusing work, work that makes you think you’re losing your mind or that you feel completely inadequate, or completely overwhelmed…..or not equipped enough!

The starfish story makes us THINK that at the end of throwing all the starfish back in we can just walk gently, softly off of the sands of the beach, barefoot and breezy, glide into our adirondack chair with an umbrella in our drink, and watch the sun set into the beautiful ocean horizon. Well, I’m here to say (and I know you feel it too!)…we ain’t going home to glide into anything except BED, the COUCH, or THE TUB because we are completely exhausted from slugging around starfish all day trying to get them from point A to point B or to help them feel better, or calm down, or understand who they are, or to communicate with their peers or other adults better. We are coming home and FALLING to our faces because the work we do “saving starfish” is hard work.


But we do it because we know they need us, because someone once slugged us around and “saved” us in the way we needed “saving” way back, one day, many years ago….or maybe many days, a few years ago…We do it because DEEP in our heart and spirit we are CALLED to the slugging, to the listening, to the asking, the prodding, the WAITING…. We know that there is no other work we’d rather be doing (and if there IS OTHER WORK you’d rather be doing… PLEASE… find a way to do it ALONG SIDE OF or find a way to GET OUT of this work, it’s too dang hard if you’re not CALLED to it!!) in any case……
If you are like me, and you have a little starfish (or a big one, or MANY of them) that you are working to “sling back into the water”….can I just offer up a CHEER FOR YOU?? No, wait…may I offer up a WHOLE STADIUM FULL of CHEERS for you?? You’re doing it…Heck, WE ARE DOING IT…it’s thankless (sometimes), it’s courageous (always), it’s risky, it’s exhausting, it’s NEVER ENDING…but do it because WE CAN DO IT, because we are driven to do it. Don’t give up! AND…if you need to FIND A DIFFERENT WAY TO SLING starfish back into the water in order to continue the work…DO IT!
The starfish will thank you one day!

Conquering the Lion of Making a HARD CHANGE

One of the first things they asked us in counselors school was : “Do you think people can change?”…to be honest, I hadn’t thought about it much (really!??), I just wanted to help people when they were in sad times. I wanted to be part of a support system. I wanted to make an impact in lives… but PEOPLE CHANGE?

I said “yes”, but only because I knew that was the “right” answer. Of course, I know now that that is the key belief of a counselor. People can make change and can CHANGE.

There’s a ton of science that supports change and how change happens in your brain, but I won’t get into all of that. The point is, people can change if they want to, and that’s what I hang my hat on as a counselor. They WANT TO.

But I didn’t go to counselor school to BE CHANGED. I went to help OTHERS CHANGE. And of course, through counselor school….and being a counselor… I’ve changed.

“Shara you’ve changed”

It’s a phrase I’ve heard more than once in the past year or two. Some people uttering this phrase mean it in a positive way, others do not.

I titled today “Change and life altering moments” because I know there have been times in my life when something has been said or I’ve experienced something that has made me stop in my tracks, ponder, and it has urged a change.

One of these experiences was many years ago when my friend, Eric Faulk died. At his funeral, people spoke about how utterly silly and goofy he was. They loved and cherished this about Erick. I did too. It hit me that that’s one of the things Erick and I did well together. We PLAYED. We were silly and goofy. I would miss that terribly now that he was gone. Then I thought about my own silliness, my own goofiness. All my life (until that moment), I’d tried to conceal this aspect of my personality…SOMEWHAT…. I didn’t really like this part of who I was. I mean, I WAS SILLY and GOOFY, but I only shared that side with people I knew and trusted. I thought that side of me was unrefined and didn’t seem intelligent. I only wanted to come across as refined, classy and intelligent. I altered an aspect of who I was because I wanted to be PERCIEVED a certain way. After Erick’s funeral, and thinking about who he was in all of our lives, I made a decision and a CHANGE happened. I decided to EMBRACE my silly, goofy side. It wouldn’t matter who saw this side of me, if it was the natural thing to do or be, I wouldn’t hold back. I would BE ALL of me.

That was many years ago and I’m happy to say that that change HAS STUCK. I’m completely happy with all of my “sides”, especially my silly side.  I don’t care that I may not appear refined when I’m showing that side of myself…I LIKE that side of myself. This change…WAS EASY.

The change that’s happened more recently is a more challenging one, and I’ve spoken about it often in bits and pieces because it’s a more encompassing change.

I changed the way I EAT.

Now, you may think, this is not THAT big of a deal, but as you know, this EATING HABIT change affected my weight and how I LOOK, and this, in turn has changed the way I FEEL which has, in turn, changed some of my behaviors.

I’m not going to get into ALL OF THAT…

HOWEVER, what I DO WANT to share (for hopefully the good of others!) is that this CHANGING the way I EAT first started with an EXTERNAL MOTIVATOR telling me what to do. I had a “Coach” of sorts basically saying, “If you want to lose weight, you’ll do what I say.” (Basically, don’t ask any questions). So, I followed blindly.

And I learned some new behaviors. Not only did I CHANGE WHAT I ATE, I changed HOW and WHEN I ate.

Let me explain. I went for an all-out OVERHAUL of my eating behaviors. Now, this is not what everyone NEEDS to do, but it is what I NEEDED to do.

I was told to pack my lunch and dinner if I needed before I went to work. I was told to pack my lunch and dinner, if needed if I was going on a boat. I was told to research my meal prior to eating out. Could I get the food I needed there? If not, I couldn’t eat there. If I were going to a friend’s house for dinner, I had to see if they had what I could eat in advance. If I were going to a party, I had to ask about what would be served. I was instructed that I should ALWAYS PACK my lunch or dinner, just in case there wasn’t something I could eat that was on my program.

Pretty drastic, huh??

Well, it was, and I HATED IT. BUT I DID IT. And man, did my people RISE TO THE OCCASION to support and encourage me. THIS WAS probably the HARDEST THING I HAD TO do while learning to eat differently….to BE DIFFERENT. TO ASK FOR WHAT I NEEDED, to ASK PEOPLE do something FOR ME that seemed inconvenient.  I talked with my coach. I complained. I groaned, I stomped and snorted, and fought it every step of the way. Eventually it got easier because I saw that people that supported me weren’t bothered by what I needed at all, they were actually HAPPY TO HELP. I learned that asking for what I needed was GOOD FOR ME. And of course, feeling better on the inside helped a lot! BUT even though it got easier, there have always been moments when I feel like I don’t want to stand out or do something different. I want to be just like everyone else.

SO… now I’m doing this “eating thing” on my own. There’s no more coach. No more guidelines, no more “just do what I say”. I’ve made the changes and I ‘ve lost the weight, so…I should be DONE now, right?

Not really.

Now that I’m doing this “change thing” on my own, I hold myself accountable…I tell MYSELF what to do….and sometimes that’s HARDER.

Here’s my moment. TODAY, I had to attend a work training. One in which lunch would be provided. THE OLD ME would have been super excited about having a lunch that was from someplace catered. I’d be excited to eat something new and different. BUT today I knew if I didn’t have food that was good for me, I’d be tempted to eat something that wouldn’t make me feel good. So, I packed my lunch (like I ALWAYS DO) and I headed out. This is my first year at this job. The people I work with are new to me. Of course, there was that nagging feeling that at lunch I’d be the “different one” eating my lunch while everyone noshed on the catered meal. I worried that I’d feel weird. I wondered about who would say what….I figured, “Oh well, I’ve been through it before, so I can do it again.”

The moment came when I sat down and someone else had brought her own lunch. Then another co-worker had a special meal/food request because of her allergies. A third co-worker sitting beside me hadn’t asked for the special meal but was pulling apart her sandwich to get to the parts she wanted to eat. She was giving away her chips and cookie. I pulled out my lunch and NO ONE SAID A WORD. NO ONE GAVE ME A STRANGE LOOK. NO ONE MADE ANY snide comments. No one made any “jokes” (which aren’t helpful when you’re trying to make good changes). I wanted to find a microwave to heat something up that I brought and I went looking for one and bumped into someone else looking for a microwave. I WASN’T ALONE. I WASN’T the only one! On my microwave journey, the people with the “special lunches” (salads) were asking if we wanted a salad. I took a salad box and brought it back to the table for my co-worker that clearly needed and wanted a salad but hadn’t requested it. She was so grateful.

The moral of the tale: CHANGE is HARD. BUT CHANGE can be very good. In that moment, I learned that it’s really OK for me to ask for and DO what I need when it comes to food and my health. I don’t have to explain myself or have any medical reasons for eating what I eat. I like what I like. I want what I want…. it’s OK. And that moment was a wonderful reminder of what I feel it SHOULD BE LIKE to be accepted, no questions asked.

I also realize that these people don’t know “the different, new” Shara. They only know me as I am now…and they LIKE and ACCEPT me as I am now. It’s a nice thought to know that from this point on, the people I get to know won’t question or wonder or ask or look. It’s nice to know that my change has become my “New Normal”.

Conquering the Lion of Body Image

“The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” 1 Samuel 16:7, NLT

THE BEACH! A fun-filled place of sun, family, friends, laughter, selfies, group photos and memories. I love the beach and every year it’s my goal to make a trip to the beach. The joy that I have when I am there is incomparable to any other life event or activity. The beach flat out MAKES ME HAPPY! But Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy, and this year, he almost stole my joy of the beach.

You see, a two years ago, God granted me the courage and grace to drop 65 pounds. For the first time I was able to wear a two piece at the beach and feel a comfort that I didn’t know could exist in a bathing suit.  There was something very special about accomplishing that goal and sitting on the beach that year and that made a monumental impact on me and brought my “beach joy” to a whole new level.

But then life happened, and I gained some weight back. Another summer rolled around, and it was time to put my suit back on. While the two-piece still looked fine, my comfort level was not as it had been the year before. I felt self-conscious. I felt different than the year before and I didn’t like that. I spent that weekend at the beach trying not to compare myself to other women my age in bikinis. I told myself I looked fine. I told myself to just enjoy the sun, sand, company, and time off from work. For the most part I did. I still had the joy of living in a healthy and right-sized body and for that I was extremely grateful…but my spirit was still looking for external affirmation and validation about my physical appearance and it just wasn’t coming.

This brought more insecurities…. All  of the sudden…. Little by little, domino effect…. My mind was in a different space and my focus was off. Negativity had its little claws in my brain and was manipulating me. My joy was dimming. Get this….I didn’t even realize all of this was happening until my spirit was lifted by a friend’s words of encouragement AFTER I returned home. I whole-heartedly believe God heard me while I drove home as I prayed. It wasn’t a big elaborate prayer, honestly, I don’t remember exactly what I asked as I drove, I just  know I prayed about how I was feeling and my focus. I didn’t like it.

I recognized my attitude as I texted with a friend and mentioned how I had been feeling on my trip. I shared that I recognized that I was seeking outside approval and I needed to find my own self-acceptance and not expect or rely on it coming from an outside source. Her words were such a special reminder; God was reminding me as she spoke, “Shara! You are so much more than your physical appearance! You are spirit, soul, and heart!”  I immediately was reminded of how God looks at me, and this is how I should look at me…and how I should look at others.

I arrived home, and with her words, away from the beach and people, something started to “lift”….I could feel a physical difference in my spirit and I remembered, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart1 Samuel 16:7, NLT

Later, I read, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” 2 Corinthians 4 16-18

I am so blessed by how he gently reminds me and speaks to my heart. I am so thankful that HE sent my friend to remind me that HE is the one to validate, encourage, and remind me of how beautiful I am!

Ladies (and interested gentlemen)! A reminder for us as we don our bathing suits for summer fun this summer: WE ARE NOT THE SUM of our body parts, no matter how much the world (perhaps our minds and some men) may scream this message to us! We are spirit, soul, heart, mind…no bathing suit or photo could ever capture the breadth and depth of our complete and total beauty! Next time you feel your mental energies focusing only on your physical…PLEASE take a moment to remind yourself of the REST OF your beauty, truly the most important parts!

Forget “The One”! I’ve found “My Many”!

FORGET “The One”! I’ve found “MY MANY”!

Exodus 17:10-15 New International Version (NIV)

The Amalekites Defeated

10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”

15 Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner.

Galatians 6:2-3 ESV

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

“Have you found ‘The One’?”

“I want to find ‘The One’!”

“I’ve FOUND ‘THE ONE!’”

Hallmark, Hollywood, music and the media in general does a great job of setting those of us who are not with a “significant other” up for feeling a left out and sad, with the visions and storylines of love, romance, and “The One”.

Well, I’d like to challenge those of us who are not with a significant other to say “OUT with “THE ONE” and IN with “MY MANY”!

When I hear the phrase “The One”, it often sets me into a place of wondering when and if I will be included in this special and unique type of relationship. I think about the intimate conversations and experiences I may be missing out on because I do not presently have a significant other. I think about the romance, the intimacies, the connection, the “knowing” of the other. To be honest, the thoughts don’t get me far in moving into a good place, so I’ve had to take some time to really adjust my thought processes with realities when these feelings arise.

When I adjust my thinking, there are several things that come to mind. First, I think of those that have found “The One”. How did they get there?

1) “The One” is easier to FEEL initially. It’s harder to live out over the years.

2)“The One” maybe have taken several years or other “The Ones” for that person to get to. Broken hearts, relationships, and families may have transpired to arrive to the present “One”. Really, it’s a long, hard road (for some) to get to that place of feeling like they have found “The One”.

3) “The One” in that person’s life may feel like that NOW, but there may be moments in every relationship where there was doubt, question and struggle through OTHER moments when “The One” may not be what they felt.

4) “The One” takes time, energy, and a lot of GUTS. It takes courage to share yourself openly to another, to dig deep and be vulnerable. Those couples that last through the initial stages of “The One-ness” have worked hard to do so.

5) “The One” takes work. Couples that have lasted through time feeling like they have found “The One” work at it. It’s not something that has come overnight.

Then on the other side of things:

1) Intimate connection? In my life, I’ve developed MANY close friends and become closer with my family. I have MANY people I can go to when I’m scared, bored, feeling joyful, or mourning. Through connecting with My MANY, I know I have intimacy.

I ask myself, what is it that I feel I’m missing out on?

2) Sharing important activities? I have MANY people in my life I can go out and participate in my favorite activities, celebrations, and holidays with. If one can’t or doesn’t want to go, I have several others to look to. If it doesn’t happen one day (as it happens in any relationship), there are other times when I’ll be able to go and “do” with one of My Many.

3) Physical intimacy? While this is more limited because of my personal and moral values, I get and give lots of hugs, cuddles, kisses, and loving physical affection that come from MANY different people in my life. Physical intimacy isn’t just about sex. It’s about feeling close, deep inside your spirit and heart. This can come in many ways, in many forms and with My Many, I’m happy that I FEEL physically close to so Many.

4) Romance? I’ve found that God sends me romance in a variety of ways through My MANY people and experiences in life. It may be a surprise visit from a friend from out of state that shares a loving word, or an impromptu date that brings me flowers, or a friend that remembered that it was my birthday and sends my favorite kind of beverage (because they know I’d rather not indulge in candy and I’d eat it if they gave it!). God sees my heart, knows what I need and seems to send it at the right times through My Many.

5) Help? This is a big one! BUT AGAIN, I find that My MANY (even new people that spring up out of nowhere!) find ways into my life to HELP me accomplish important tasks, whether it be redecorating my house, designing my new bathroom, getting my car fixed, encouraging me to take a day off, and even bringing me soup and meds when I’m sick!

While the list of WANTS can go on and on, my point is this:

Let’s not focus too much on that elusive “ONE” when we may have “MANY” filling the seeming void that our culture all too many times creates for us through tv, marketing images, and songs. It takes a lot of hard work to be with “The One” and sometimes to get to “The One”. If we don’t have a significant other, let’s look around and enjoy, appreciate, and give value and worth to “THE MANY” that hold our arms up and love us. And let’s face it, We STILL NEED “The MANY” even AFTER we’ve found “The ONE”.

I’m happy to say that I HAVE FOUND “MY MANY”…and I honestly believe it’s just as, and may be even more important than finding “The ONE”.


Just Keep Looking Down

One of my favorite children’s books (I have many!) is, “Oh The Places You’ll Go!” By Dr. Suess. It’s so full of positive energy and sentiment!

“OH! THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!

You’ll be on your way up!

You’ll be seeing great sights!

You’ll join the high fliers

who soar to high heights!”

You have been hearing and seeing my “Great Sights” and “High Heights”….. However there will always be days like today…

“Except when you don’t.

Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so

but, sadly, it’s true

that Bang-ups

and Hang-ups

can happen to you.”

I will admit, I’m embarassed when I “grumble” and feel low, I feel a bit ashamed. I have nothing to complain about. God is good and I am well taken care of…however, I have my moments.

Today was a moment. I felt discouraged, disappointed, and angry with myself.

I needed to do something to turn my mood around and the only way I knew to do that was to run. It was sunny out and not too cold. Half-heartedly I set a goal: RUN 6. DON’T WALK. It would be a first, as I’ve been walking on my previous runs.

I set out, grumpy. Discouraged. Mad.

But I started.

I set an even pace and just told myself to keep at it.

I looked up and thought about the hour I had ahead of myself. I felt discouraged. I didn’t want to be doing this. I took a deep breath….It felt good to move. It felt good to feel the sun on my face….I could do this! On mile 4 I wanted to walk, my nose was running, my hips were aching, I was bored, this wasn’t glamorous or exciting, and I just thought I should walk a little….I Looked ahead and thought of the two miles I had to go.

I was even more discouraged….

Usually I look ahead and set small goals for myself- “Run to that pole as fast as you can then walk”…. or “Run to the road and then you can walk”.

But this time I didn’t want to walk…and I had two miles to go!

This time I tried something different….

I LOOKED DOWN.

I looked at my feet and told myself to just keep my eyes at the very next step in front of me and keep going. I reached mile 5. I was still running. More snot was dripping out of my nose and now it was windy and getting colder.

I KEPT LOOKING DOWN. One foot in front of the other. Don’t look up.

I kept thinking about how we’re told to keep our eyes forward, keep our eye on our goal, look ahead to the future….but in this moment, when the goal seemed too large, I just needed to keep my eyes on one foot in front of the other…

And I DID IT. I wiped the snot, I took deep breaths, I ignored my hips, I smiled at the wind…

I not only ran 6 without stopping, I ran 6.4.

And now…

I’m a bit happier now than when I was an hour ago.

I’m proud.

I’m glad I pushed through.

This run, for me… reflects life.

Sometimes, in life “bang-ups” and “hang-ups” no matter how small affect us. They can pull us down a little or they can pull us down and never want to let us come back up….the “snot”, “cold”, “wind”, “aches and pains” of life just make us want to STOP AND WALK…or GIVE UP on the goal. The goal seems SO FAR AHEAD, really it’ll take too long and be too hard to accomplish.

My thought….LOOK DOWN, not up. Keep your eyes on one foot in front of the other, wipe the snot from your nose, take some deep breaths, enjoy the monotony of the rhythm of life and just keep pushing through no matter how boring or lackluster. The reward will come….just keep looking DOWN.

This is ME!

Have you seen “The Greatest Showman”? If you haven’t, I highly encourage you to!

I loved it! My favorite song is “This Is Me”, and due to its popularity, I believe it struck a chord with much of our population. Here are the lyrics (I’ve shortened it a bit) and the video:

I am not a stranger to the dark

Hide away, they say

‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts

I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars

Run away, they say

No one’ll love you as you are

But I won’t let them break me down to dust

I know that there’s a place for us

For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down

I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out

I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I’m meant to be, this is meLook out ’cause here I come

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me…

Another round of bullets hits my skin

Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in

We are bursting through the barricades and

Reaching for the sun

Yeah, that’s what we’ve become….

Look out ’cause here I come

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me….

and I know that I deserve your love

’cause there’s nothing I’m not worthy of…..

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me…

Songwriters: Justin Paul / Benj Pasek
This Is Me lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.
It’s a powerful song with a powerful message, and my fear is that when I “identify” with it so publicly, I’ll have questions abound. WHAT? Shara? YOU? Feeling bruised? marginalized?  I can hear it now, “Shara, what in the world would cause you to think that way or feel that way!??”
Let me explain. You see, my hope and goal is to project joy and confidence….And admittedly, that more often than not, that’s an accurate portrayal of who I am. But I, like others, have my own challenges…and standing where I am NOW makes how I felt in the PAST seem like a stark difference from how I feel now. So  “opening up” to say that I’ve felt “pushed down”, “Sad”, “Stuck” in my past (and I still have my moments in the present) may surprise some people.
Also, I have a lot going for me. In our culture, someone “like me” “shouldn’t have” anything to worry about or feel sad about, right? What in the world would I have to complain or feel marginalized about? I’m employed, I’m WHITE, I’m healthy, I’m able bodied, I have friends and family. What’s to feel bad about, right?
Good question. My answer: I’m human AND you’re human. I think we all feel marginalized, pushed down, sad, stuck, and maybe like you want to hide in one way or another at some point in time. We feel we have things to hide from the world, things we’re afraid to show for fear of being judged or rejected. That’s why I think it’s important for each of us to say that even though the outsides, may send messages of joy, confidence, and “put-togetherness”….there have been and/or are feelings of “hiding” and “covering up” parts of who we are.
As I enter into a new phase of my life, I want to come out of that shell of hiding and start talking. About my past, about my present, about anything that I think could help another person out of that place of hiding and into the sun. I use a “before and after” thought process because my “This is Me” feelings have only recently begun to surface and bubble over. I can’t really explain why or how…things are just…DIFFERENT. And in that DIFFERENT, I believe God is moving me into a different place of self-acceptance, strength, and confidence. If I had all of those things in some way, shape or form BEFORE (yet still was hiding)….well, things are going to start looking a lot different as I begin to share more of me than I ever have been before.
Writing takes courage. But guess what ya’ll??
 “This is ME!”

Dusk in Spring

6-20-10

Dusk in Spring
By: Shara Carter

The cold, beautiful, majesty of winter has gone.
The beauty of spring crawls out from hiding.
Once unfolded, she displays her glory.

On this night,
I stand alone.
My spirit has longed for a message such as this.
A simple, faint whisper, He breathes,
“I’m Here….
“I SEE YOU…
THIS is for you.”

The sun and moon hang in the balance between day and night.
The sun, vying for his last breath of day, allows
The moon’s stretching beams to
SLOWLY
push back his rays.

I see them.
I stop.
I fix my gaze forward to see
the vast green landscape surrounding me
and His gift.

Seeming Fallen Stars are beating a sparkling, silent, song
above the verdure.
Hovering in the humid, warm, air
They dance and sprinkle
irregular beats of penlights
into the dusk.

Multitudes at a time.
Various heights and depths.
I mark this moment,
thank God for his message,
and slowly walk into the dance,
becoming a part of the song,
moving through them as they play.
I thank Him for
His gift,
the beauty of dusk in spring.

To My Mom…

I think I have a pretty typical relationship with my mom. At times I feel so blessed by her…as do some of you, I am sure….but then there are those OTHER times…that challenge me and cause me to seek guidance (“Lord help me!”). I am fortunate to have a mother that is always striving to try to make our relationship better, stronger and less challenging for me. She is my biggest cheerleader and for that I am so thankful and blessed.

One of our MOST challenging phases was when I was in high school…our relationship was at an all time high…high anger, high angst, high strife. I wanted OUT! A few years into my college experience, I gained some insight and understanding…or at least I was starting to gain it, and that was a HUGE step.

Of course, since college, there have been different, smaller, steps and other HUGE steps of growth and understanding, coupled with those moments of twists and turns of different challenges and strains.  Now, as a counselor that works with mothers and daughters, I draw from my history with my mother, as well as all that I’ve learned elsewhere, to help guide my clients in their relationships with each other. Do you have a challenging relationship with your mother or your daughter? You are not alone! We all have our moments–big and small- and the most important factor to realize is that (many times) each person is working hard to make it better. Conversations lead to confusion, our past hurts and past relationships and our PASTS in general get in the way of how we LISTEN and HEAR each other. Please hear this. There is hope for growth and change in any relationship. All it takes is two people that are ready and willing to TRY.

TRYING and EMPATHY are the themes of this poem that I wrote to my mom back in 1990, my sophomore year in college. A sprouting young woman…trying to “get it” when it comes to a mother’s love. This shows that “turning point” in a young woman’s growth and maturity when she tries on “empathy” for a change– Empathy towards one of the most challenging and rewarding relationships she may ever have– that with her mother. I hope this encourages you whether you are a mother or a daughter…or BOTH!

(This one’s for you, mom!)

—————————————-

To My Mom….

As I reminice into past years, memories of many blurred feelings back then form into focus now.

I will never truly understand what your feelings were towards me as I grew, and as I continue to grow. This is only a phenomena only parents can comprehend. I can only try to create a similar feeling within myself to TRY to understand.

Throughout my years as a young teenager, I thought I was mature and old enough to handle things. This you knew because you, too, were once a teenager. You knew what I was feeling. I, on the other hand, had not been in your shoes. I had not had a living part of me growing up in her own world…a world that seemed so distant from mine. Is that what it felt like? Like you should have more control, you should have felt more “connected”, but you knew you couldn’t and didn’t?

When I got older, my life was very much my own and I wanted to grow even more on my own. “INDEPENDENT” was the magic word to me. Only cowards held on to their parents’ hands.

You saw my life that was so much my own, yet so much a part of you. You, after all, CREATED ME! There was a part of you wanting to leave you and so much be away from you. How much that must have injured your heart and soul!

Now I am away, and I have my magic word. And I am no coward in my eyes. I have my own life without you daily, physically present. If I had had it then I would have been overjoyed! Instead I am content. And now that I have my own life, I WANT you in it. I want to share my feelings with you..my fears and dreams, joys and sorrows. I want to call you on the phone to hear your voice..so much like my own.

Now we’re apart, and you see me– a part of you–rarely coming around, or only calling to just say, “Hi!”. You want to share your feelings with me because even though we’re far apart; we’re close. You after all, CREATED ME!

You see this woman, independent and strong, on her own and FREE! This makes you happy!…and sad…because she’s not yours any more to hold and protect. She’s out of your arms, out of your home, out of your reach…but she’s still in your heart.

AND YOU’RE STIL IN MINE, MOM. I love you. I’m trying to understand your love for me, and my new love for you.

————————

To the mother’s out there with daughters…..be encouraged. The love is there. It may be buried under stresses, strains and challenges. Keep on digging, keep on trying to “get it”, keep trying on that awkward outfit called “empathy”. Keep letting her know you love her. If she doesn’t let you know she loves you back now, maybe, one day she will!