Unrestrained Innocence


First posted on August 27, 2013

When we are children we seldom think of the future.
This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can.
The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind.
Patrick Rothfuss

Before there was maturity, adult ways, sexual attraction and worries of the world the uncorrupted simplicity of childhood filled me. A good while prior to “liking” a girl, studying for tests, giving book reports or choosing sides on the playground was the beautiful naivety of a child.

I am reminded of myself long ago by stories I am told by my best friend about one specific grandchild. This young man daily exhibits the unrestrained innocence of the first few years of life better than most. One particular habit of his is laughing fits before bed, brought on especially when he is tired. Over time it’s been noted when a strong laughter episode overtakes him before bed he sleeps even better than usual. I suspect the world would be a better place if all of us had a genuine laughing fit before nodding off each night.

Clearly I recall how ‘grown up’ and happy I was to take breakfast to my father. I was four years old. My Dad, Mom, little Brother and I lived in the country where my parents operated a small store and gas station. The little two room house where we lived was down a dirt road about a hundred yards away. That day I had the honor of walking breakfast over to my Father who opened the grocery very early each morning.

In a small box with the sides cut down to about four inches high my Mother had placed a plate with aluminum foil covering scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. Black coffee was in a pint canning jar. I was told to be very careful and walk slow. That’s exactly what I did and felt so very proud to be trusted with such an honor as taking my Dad his breakfast. Carrying the box hid the immediate view in front of me and I stubbed my toe badly. I dropped the box and the coffee jar broke. I was so disappointed and humiliated plus my toe was hurt and bleeding.

The breakfast was held on the plate by the foil and that is all I arrived with to give my Father through my tears. No one got on to me. I was not in trouble. I was only disappointed with myself. It was the first of such a feeling I can remember and a little of my innocence was lost that day.

I am grateful to remember…

I miss so much the person
that I was before the world
tore me up in so many places.
C. Joybell C.

I Love You Like….

poem from sisterWritten by a baby sister to her older sibling for a “cupcake” themed baby shower

My family of origin was a mangled mess of divorce, dysfunction and parental abuse.  Losing contact for many years with most of my family was a method of coping and survival. While I’ve stayed close to one brother, I have three half-sisters that are close to my heart who I have not been in touch with for a long, long time. Finally I concluded the abusers continue to have control as long as we remain apart.

Today after close to two decades I will reconnect with one of my sisters. I am excited beyond words to see her. I am sooooo grateful life is allowing me the chance to reconnect. See you soon sister!

For there is no friend like a sister
in calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
to fetch one if one goes astray,
to lift one if one totters down,
to strengthen whilst one stands.
Christina Rossetti

They Learn


I forgive the ones who during childhood showed the wrong ways I should live.  I am deeply grateful to the people who later showed compassion and love to a boy in a man’s body. I have a good life because of you. I apologize for the pain I caused.

The fastest way to be a bad parent
is to never let your child be a kid.

Remember Your Reflection


How some one sees me is only one view.

Each interpretation of the person I am is different.

None is completely accurate, not even my view of myself.

Humility and gratitude are the best paths to self-awareness.

I am perfectly imperfect.

I am unique.

There has never been another just like me. There never will be.

Coming to know my true self is the path to an enlightened view of others and the world.

How very important it is, to see the reflection of yourself and to keep that reflection in sight— despite how much you have been pushed and shoved, forgotten and ripped, lied to and deceived! It seems like the number one most valuable thing you can carry with you is the constant appearance of your own reflection for the beauty and wonder that you are and it’s a fight and a struggle to keep that. If you had a treasure box filled with magical things— this would be the one thing it seems like people want to destroy or to take away or in some cases to even make their own! But you must remember your reflection, you must see yourself illuminated and you must remember, against all odds, remember. C. JoyBell C.

Today my gratitude is simple but large for the my growth in the last ten years. Sometimes I forget until I see an old photograph or read something I wrote long ago. If a year can make a big difference, then with dedication a decade can be utterly life changing. I am the ‘poster child’ of proof that big change is possible.

Just because I liked something at one point in time
doesn’t mean I’ll always like it, or that I have to go on
liking it at all points in time as an unthinking act of loyalty
to who I am as a person, based solely on who I was as a person.
To be loyal to myself is to allow myself to grow and change,
and challenge who I am and what I think.
The only thing I am for sure is unsure,
and this means I’m growing,
and not stagnant or shrinking.
Jarod Kintz

Your Very Own Self


It starts innocently enough, perhaps the first time you recognize your own reflection.

You’re not yet 2 years old, brushing your teeth, standing on your steppy stool by the bathroom sink, when suddenly it dawns on you: That foam-flecked face beaming back from the mirror is you. You. Yourself. Your very own self.

It’s a revelation—and an affliction. Human infants have no capacity for self-awareness. Then, between 18 and 24 months of age, they become conscious of their own thoughts, feelings, and sensations—thereby embarking on a quest that will consume much of their lives. For many modern selves, the first shock of self-recognition marks the beginning of a lifelong search for the one “true” self and for a feeling of behaving in accordance with that self that can be called authenticity.

A hunger for authenticity guides us in every age and aspect of life. It drives our explorations of work, relationships, play, and prayer. Teens and twentysomethings try out friends, fashions, hobbies, jobs, lovers, locations, and living arrangements to see what fits and what’s “just not me.” Midlifers deepen commitments to career, community, faith, and family that match their self-images, or feel trapped in existences that seem not their own. Elders regard life choices with regret or satisfaction based largely on whether they were “true” to themselves.

It’s also a cornerstone of mental health. Authenticity is correlated with many aspects of psychological well-being, including vitality, self-esteem, and coping skills. Acting in accordance with one’s core self—a trait called self-determination—is ranked by some experts as one of three basic psychological needs, along with competence and a sense of relatedness.

Yet, increasingly, contemporary culture seems to mock the very idea that there is anything solid and true about the self. Cosmetic surgery, psycho-pharmaceuticals, and perpetual makeovers favor a mutable ideal over the genuine article. MySpace profiles and tell-all blogs carry the whiff of wishful identity. Steroids, stimulants, and doping transform athletic and academic performance. Fabricated memoirs become best-sellers. Speed-dating discounts sincerity. Amid a clutter of counterfeits, the core self is struggling to assert itself.

“It’s some kind of epidemic right now,” says Stephen Cope, author of Yoga and the Quest for the True Self. “People feel profoundly like they’re not living from who they really are, their authentic self, their deepest possibility in the world. The result is a sense of near-desperation.” From an article by Karen Wright http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200804/dare-be-yourself

Here I sit showing the signs of age: reading glasses, mostly gray hair (but grateful to still have hair!), untouched natural lines on my face, memory not as razor-sharp as it once was, a paunch at my waistline, a few ages spots on my arms and so on. I have never given serious thought to changing any of it except losing 25 pounds. All of it is me just as I have naturally evolved.

It’s a personal thing, but I think for me there would be something dishonest about hair dye or plastic surgery. As a man it would be bothersome if I did remade myself synthetically and other guys found out. I’d not casting aspersions toward men who do, just saying that it’s not right for me.

Being real and authentic has become more and more important to me as the years have passed. I’ve earned every line on my skin and every gray hair. My face and body is an accurate living record of my life. I am 100% grateful to be who and what I am. It took a lot of hard work to get there.

The authentic self
is soul made visible.
Sarah Ban Breathnach

Intention, Decision and Chance


Does the walker choose the path,
or the path the walker?
Garth Nix

When I was younger destiny seemed out of my control.; a predetermined path to eventual destinations. I grew up, became an adult and stopped thinking much about fate. My mantra was “if it is to be it is up to me”. I was lord and master of my life in those days, or so I thought.

A false sense of clarity is a frequent symptom of youth and my case of the “Mr. Know-It-All” virus was worse than most. Growing up in the chaos of a dysfunctional family caused me to end up with an over developed sense of self-reliance. I learned to survive. My belief was only person I could rely on was me. I entered adulthood believing what Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

What worked for a while when life was simpler, did not serve me as well when life became complicated with career, marriage and a child. Well into my thirties I began to see that where destiny had placed me had a lot to do with my decisions.

My problem was choices made in my 20s and 30s were too often not the best ones. Good or bad choices, they helped shape my fate just the same. “Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences”, wrote J.K. Rowling. Over time I came to make better decisions because I tired of living with and trying to fix choices made recklessly. Better decisions made my destiny better. Seems simple now, but arriving at that realization was anything but simple.

Today I think of destiny as a cosmic soup of intention, decision and chance seasoned with the divine. In the throes of making a big decision it’s never clear exactly what is influencing me. The best I can do is take my time, pay attention to my feelings and ask for outside input from friends and my higher power.

I am grateful for the wisdom life lends a person who is open to learn.

There’s nowhere you can be
that isn’t where you’re meant to be…
John Lennon

Promises, Promises

promises ave and realiry way

A promise kept is a healthy, living thing. A broken promise lives in the land of the dead.

Wikipedia explains a “promise” to be: commitment by someone to do or not do something. As a noun promise means a declaration assuring that one will or will not do something. As a verb it means to commit oneself by a promise to do or give.

Unfortunately I learned about promises as a child from parents and adults who made them easily and broke them with even less thought. The flimsy guarantees behind what the grownups pledged taught me it was ‘normal’ to make and break my word in romantic relationships.

Is this what sadness is all about? Is it what comes over us when beautiful memories shatter in hindsight because the remembered happiness fed not just on actual circumstances but on a promise that was not kept? Bernhard Schlink

After I point I can’t blame childhood caregivers at all. It’s my belief we can only hold our parents responsible into our 20’s at the latest for bad habits and behaviors they taught us by example. After that age being an ‘adult trainee’ should be over and the fiber of one’s character should become choice rather than conditioning. I was a slow learner.

Some of my usual behavior looks to be anything but admirable in hindsight. It took time, but the difference between habit and what is honorable slowly came into focus. My childhood conditioning fostered many of my typical practices that were in fact dysfunctional. Just because I do something with regularity does not make it good. A habit is just a habit.

As a fully grown man, cultivating healthy habits and behaviors was not an easy process. It was a bit like preparing overgrown land for growing crops. First what is already growing had to be cut back or removed. The rocks and roots had to be cleared from the soil before successful planting. Likewise, my first task was recognizing the unwanted and unhealthy tendencies that had grown with in me. Afterwards the clearing out of “rocks and roots” could begin. Only when those two steps were practiced could I successfully plant and nurture new ways of behaving.

Words can be twisted into any shape. Promises can be made to lull the heart and seduce the soul. In the final analysis, words mean nothing. They are labels we give things in an effort to wrap our puny little brains around their underlying natures, when ninety-nine percent of the time the totality of the reality is an entirely different beast. The wisest man is the silent one. Examine his actions. Judge him by them. Karen Marie Moning

On my left upper arm is a tribal tattoo that means “honor”. At the time it was created I did not yet fully deserve it. It was something for me to grow into. While imperfect, today I endeavor every day to deserve the symbol permanently etched on my arm. I’m grateful for each bump in the road that taught me, every peer in recovery who listened without judgment and to my Higher Power who has made possible that which I could not do alone.

I  know it is a bad thing to break a promise,
but I think now that it is a worse thing
to let a promise break you.
Jennifer Donnelly

When You Look Back

C_-S_-Lewis-Desk-and-StudyThis morning browsing for a quotes something C.S. Lewis wrote came into my view: When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up. Those words started me thinking how absurd a good bit of what society defines adulthood is.

Long ago I grew tired of being young although our society holds youth as it’s holy grail. The 20s and 30s were exhausting as I tried to fit in, succeed and act like I knew what I was doing when I really didn’t. Somewhere in it all, I started to become ‘me’. In some ways mature for my years and in others quite childish for my age. That was the start of becoming a man. Lesson: Don’t be in too big a rush to lose everything behind related to childhood. Innocence is often a clear scope for looking at things accurately.

To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. C.S. Lewis

The changes from twenty-one to thirty years of age exceed all my combined changes of all other years. What level of maturity I did  attain came mostly from painful experience and no other place. Lesson: The only real ‘truth’ anyone can ever know for certain comes from their own experiences, especially the painful ones.

Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. C.S. Lewis

Most of my life I have been afraid of love; fearful of being hurt. What life taught is love always bring suffering to balance its joy. Without that certainty, the love I have come to know would have far less meaning. Lesson: The greatest and deepest love will in time bring the greatest pain. To fear the latter is to deny one’s self the former.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. C.S. Lewis

My heart and mind are buzzing now with the lines of thinking C.S. Lewis put me on today. I was only ten years old when he passed away, but his legacy lives on for me as a favored writer, teacher and adviser. I owe a debt of gratitude to C.S. Lewis’ best friend, JRR Tolkien, for introducing me to Lewis in an article I read about the two men when I was at a young, impressionable age. Within the fantasies they spun I found wisdom I will always be grateful for.

Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes,
but when you look back, everything is different…
C.S. Lewis

Fitting In


In high school, everything revolves around “fitting in.” Adolescents are basically children in bigger bodies (with some hormones sprinkled in). If one does not fit in, one does not get to play in all the reindeer games. It’s lonely not to be allowed to join in with the others, and no one wants to be lonely.

About two weeks into their freshman year, most high school students figure out that the more they “fit in,” the greater the benefits and privileges — and this makes it much easier to get all those things they need to feel like they matter… to feel loved. They wear the same clothes, they “hang out” in the same spots, they talk the same, they act the same . . . and, as a result, there is very little tension among them. Something for everyone; and most everyone ends up finding the clique that’s right for them.

Soon, however, all the students discover that, no matter how well things are going in the clique, they still feel like they don’t “fit in” because their clique isn’t accepted by everyone else or because not everything about them fits into the clique – if they were really showing all of themselves to those around them.

Even the most popular kids feel lonely much of the time because being popular means they have to hide a lot of who they really are from other people. They know, on one level or another, that the reason they are so well liked by so many people is because most of the people don’t really know them at all — they only see the outer persona (the image of something that may or may not exist within the person behind the mask). So, they live in fear much of the time – fear that the other kids will find out their secret… that they are not perfect.

The point of all this is that most of us are not in high school anymore. We’re out here in the “real world” trying to earn a living, find and keep mates, take care of families, and more. These are extremely challenging and time-consuming (and often frustrating) tasks to accomplish. And, on top of all of that, we’re also trying to find purpose and meaning for our lives . . . to be happy, to find joy, and more. We need to experience all of these aspects of being human to find peace and to find fulfillment – to feel complete.

What we have discovered, however, is that being grown up is even harder than being in high school! But, we learn and grow with the passage of time and experience. Eventually, we begin to take our lives into our own hands, even if it means not always fitting in. That’s when things really start getting interesting.

The older and wiser we become, the more we realize that accomplishing all of these worthwhile goals involves a whole lot of letting go of the things that allow us to “fit in” with the majority. And that isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s pretty darn hard. It means becoming more self-aware and identifying those aspects of our egos… it means facing the fears that inhibit us; it means accepting ourselves and other people, regardless of differences and imperfections; and it means finding the courage and strength to be the person we want to be, even if that person doesn’t get to be the king or queen of the prom. By Sloan http://tamingtheinvisibledragon.com/2012/08/07/being-the-person-you-want-to-be-self-esteem-fitting-in/

It is not that I don’t care what others think of me, it’s that I don’t care very much. I am not completely immune to the desire to fit in, but such wants are far down the list underneath needs such as “happiness”, “contentment”, “peace of mind” and “a life lived well”. Simply my attitude is “I hope you like me, but if you don’t that’s your loss”. I am grateful to care, but not that much, about what others think of me. I am far more interested about “fitting in” with my ideals and hopes for myself.

Nothing we can do can change the past,
but everything we do changes the future.
Marcus Aurelius