Unrestrained Innocence

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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…

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

I am Nobody but Myself

 

Originally posted November 29, 2011

I am all the ages I’ve ever been.
Anne Lamott

I love that quote!  It is insightful and true.

I am still the little 3 1/2 year-old boy who sneaked his father’s pocket knife and when no one was looking busied himself poking holes in the bottom of a metal Band-Aid can, at least until I jammed the whole blade deep into the side of my left hand I was holding the box with.  The moment I saw the blood is my first real memory of knowing fear.  I remember vividly being scared and then seeing how afraid my twenty-two year old mother was when she couldn’t get the bleeding stopped.  Wrapping my hand that wept blood with each of my heartbeats in a towel she took me to her mother’s house about a quarter of a mile away.  How we got there I have no memory of.

My grandmother was the daughter of a man known in his time as an “herb doctor”.  Country folk depended on such healers for every day medical needs as the closest doctor was ten to twenty miles away.  She knew from watching her father that turpentine and sugar would stop bleeding.  Generous amounts of both were poured on my hand, held in place by a towel and the bleeding did slowly stop.  Except it burned like hell, that’s all I have clear memory of.  I do know my hand healed and when making a face with the side of my hand using my thumb as the bottom of a mouth, one eye is already there; a scar from that old wound.

Still today I am the little boy who entered first grade when I was two months past my 6th birthday.  In the rural south there was no kindergarten except a private one in town the “rich kids” got to go to.  I was not one of those.  Being dropped into the first year of school with basically no preparation it remains abundantly clear today how fearful I was initially.  The whole place intimidated me and I struggled at first.  Gradually being sad and wanting to go home went away.  I caught up, was able to keep up and in time grew to love school.

The seven-year old boy in his second year in grade school is still within me.  I had Mrs. Betty Levie as my teacher.  She was young and liked us kids.  We liked her.  Years later she would be my science teacher in junior high and encouraged me to enter projects into several science fairs.  She even drove me to a regional fair forty miles away that my family had no interest in getting me to.  Without Mrs. Levie’s help I would never have won the regional junior high first place trophy for Zoology when I was thirteen.

A boy of ten’s memory is alive and recalls sitting at the kitchen table with his mother and brother eating dinner when she made her big announcement.  She was going to marry the guy she had been seeing which my brother and I did not like at all.  My mind screamed “don’t do it”, but the words were never spoken aloud.  I knew it would do no good to open my mouth.  Within two years this man we were made to call “dad” showed himself to be mentally twisted and down right evil.  Even if it would have done no good, I wish I had spoken up when my mother asked how we felt about her marrying the turkey!

I am still the young man who moved to Colorado at eighteen who struggled to make ends meet.  Having my car repossessed was an embarrassment I can still feel today.  I stuck it out in Colorado Springs and in time was able to support myself working a full-time and two part-time jobs.  While other young twenty-something’s were partying and having a good time, I was working three jobs.  I don’t regret it though.  That determination I managed to muster served me well then and what I learned from the experience has been a good reference point ever since.

The young man of twenty-three who took a bride of twenty-two is still within. We were both just “kids”.  Outwardly so sure of where I was going while internally scared with no idea what the future held, my young wife was the stability I needed to begin to make some sense of life.  Ultimately the marriage ended up being a mess, but it lasted for two decades, produced a son I love dearly and contained my first lessons of what love was.

And so on… I am the same person I was at 30 when my son arrived, at 40 when my first marriage stated to fall apart and at 50 when I was fired from a job of eighteen years.  All the ages I have been created a life cut into facets like a diamond that sparkles in the light when looked at it from an appreciating angle.  Some detail has faded into the background, but key events and periods that shaped me are vividly within. During the near fifty-eight and a half years I have been blessed with so far, I am thankful to have the ability to remember so much. Gratitude runs deep for it all; the joy, the pain, the happiness, the heartache and the love that shaped and guided me to be the man I am today.

All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was.  I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory.  I was naïve.  I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer.  It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with:  that I am nobody but myself.  Ralph Ellison

Dance in the Moonlight

dance in moonlight

I dance in the moonlight and your ghost in my arms dreaming of what might have been.

I hope that life has been kind to you and that I am not forgotten.

I send warm breezes to kiss your lips that I cannot reach and I envy them.

Time and space has taken their toll, but the memory of you and our lost love lives in the secret places of my heart.

We cannot know what the fates have in store for us as the future has yet to be written.
I wonder, will the paths we choose bring us back to each other or further apart on divergent paths, never to meet again in this life.

I only know that my memories of you warm me like a soft blanket against winters cold grip, comforting me when I feel I can no longer stand strong against the hardness of life.

We will not waste our precious time on ‘what ifs’ but yet in fleeting moments they invade my thoughts without invitation and that is when I dance in the moonlight with your ghost in my arms.

A poem titled “Ghosts” by Sherry Potter
https://goodmorninggratitude.com/2012/08/30/thank-you-sherry/
https://goodmorninggratitude.com/2012/11/25/thinking-there-is-one-more-stair/
https://goodmorninggratitude.com/2012/08/31/thank-you-doug/

What I Learned About Love the Hard Way

First posted on August 10, 2011  

 1 – Who you marry will affect your life more than you can imagine.  Your life may be better for your choice, worse because of your choice or both at different times.

2 – Divorce hurts more than you can imagine.  If love is truly present it is a kind of death that takes forever.

3 – It really is not difficult to fall in love; it is difficult to stay in love.

4 – There is NO one “soul mate” for each of us in the world.  As a person evolves, grows and changes there are many possibilities over time.

5 – Being swept off your feet by another person is more about what you feel inside about yourself than what the other person feels about you.

6 – Intimacy takes a long time to grow and develop.  It can become very strong, yet it will always be very fragile.  What takes years to build can be destroyed in seconds or with a single choice.

7 – Forgiving is a choice and one you make just as much for yourself as the other person.  Often forgiving someone else is far easier than forgiving your self.

8 – Some of the greatest growth of our lives is in love relationships and a good deal of it comes from pain and heartache.

9 – Just because a good relationship does not last forever does not mean it did not work.  It just means it lasted for its time.

10 – Be sure to learn from a past bad relationship.  What you do not learn will be a lesson taught to you again.

11 – If someone is worth your love, then love them without reservation or restriction.  Give your complete heart.  Don’t hold back.  Give your all.  Giving only part of yourself will only get you a part of the other person.

12 – Every time you loved and were loved there is no mistake.  It was a gift no matter how things may have turned out.

13 – There are few ways in a loving relationship to hurt someone more than being unfaithful.  The wound may heal but there will ALWAYS be a scar.

14 – Don’t fall in love with who you think a person might be someday.  There is a good chance they never will be.  Only fall in love with who someone is now.

15 – No matter how much love is present, you will have bad times.  You will fight, you will disagree, and you will have problems.  It is the human condition.

16 – You can’t love someone you don’t like.

17 – Scars from past love only tell you where you have been.  Be careful judging a present relationship with them.

18 – No person can be everything to you, nor can you be everything to any one person.

19 – No one is perfect.  If you can’t see past some imperfection and bad habits you will be miserable in every relationship.

20 – Everyone wants to be loved, but some people do not know how to love you back.

21 – If you are not a good listener in a relationship, you won’t be heard when you speak.

22 – Secrets are poison and will damage a relationship at the very least and at the most, destroy it.

23 – Let unimportant things go.  Give in.  Forget about it.  If you don’t, you’ll end fighting much more than you should.

24 – Loving someone does not make them a better person.  It makes you a better person.

I am grateful to know these things now.  Lessons learned the hard way, are lessons learned best.  There is deep thankfulness for the ones who loved me who were my teachers.

There is no remedy for love
but to love more.
Henry David Thoreau

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

“Soft Hearted”

melted heart

Maybe you don’t see,
Little things get to me,
A silly comment, words unmeant,
Things merely insignificant
Spend hours in my head,
They tear at my heart,
And don’t cease
Till its apart.
poemofquotes.com

There was never a time I don’t remember being soft-hearted, even as a little boy. Clearly I recall before first grade giving my uncle something for my first cousin. She was younger and had cerebral palsy. Giving her a prized rubber cowboy I kept safe in a drawer was my way to show I cared.

At nineteen I quit my job and moved a thousand miles with my roommate because he was relocating and needed help. I took off ill-prepared with no job and little money but it all worked out.

Close to ten years ago I relocated out of the country for the woman in my heart. Living on a tiny island where she wanted to be is not something a poor swimmer like me would ordinarily choose otherwise.

Professionally, I have stayed at jobs much longer than I wanted in order not ‘let down’ the people who worked for me.

More times than I can remember have been denials of my hopes and wishes in order to give to someone else.

Today I don’t really regret any of it, but do acknowledge the pain my actions caused me. For long years there was a struggle with thoughts like, “I do all this for them and they don’t appreciate it” or “I give and give and give. Why can’t they see what I need?” or “After all I have done for you, you do this to me!” I admit there is selfishness in those notions. To give with unspoken strings attached is not true giving. In every instance there was a lesson to be learned, but I had to wait until the ember of each emotion died down.

What remains behind of those things given in the past are stories I tell myself. Over time the tales have improved to where I can see my willing participation in each episode. Once the emotions settled and my part was exposed there came teaching that allowed me to see beyond the aches of a soft heart. Ultimately I realize now everything given eventually looped back to benefit me in one way or another.

“..It occurs to me that the peculiarity of most things we think of as fragile is how tough they truly are. There were tricks we did with eggs, as children, to show how they were, in reality, tiny load-bearing marble halls… Hearts may break, but hearts are the toughest of muscles, able to pump for a lifetime, seventy times a minute, and scarcely falter along the way. Even dreams, the most delicate and intangible of things, can prove remarkably difficult to kill.” Neil Gaiman

I am grateful for each time I have been hurt, misunderstood, left-out, given more than I got or was left behind. Such are what made my soft heart strong.

Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching,
and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be.
I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.
Charles Dickens

Anniversary of Our Declaration of Independence

First posted on July 4, 2011 by James Browning

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America,

declaration-with-glasses-large

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled… solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown…

Ever wondered what happened to the fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence? Here are examples of the price some of them paid:

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the revolutionary army, another had two sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships resulting from the Revolutionary War.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Perhaps one of the more inspiring examples of “undaunted resolution” was at the Battle of Yorktown. Thomas Nelson, Jr. returning from Philadelphia noted that British General Cornwallis had taken over his home, but that the patriots were directing their artillery fire all over the town except for the vicinity of his beautiful home. Nelson asked why they were not firing in that direction and the soldiers replied, “Out of respect to you, Sir.” Nelson quietly urged General Washington to open fire, and stepped forward to the nearest cannon, aimed at his own house and fired. The other guns joined in, and the Nelson home was destroyed. Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis’s Long Island home was looted and gutted, his home and properties destroyed. His wife was thrown into a damp dark prison cell without a bed. Health ruined, Mrs. Lewis soon died from the effects of the confinement. The Lewis’s son would later die in British captivity, also.

“Honest John” Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she lay dying, when British and Hessian troops invaded New Jersey just months after he signed the Declaration. Their thirteen children fled for their lives. His fields and his grist mill were laid to waste. All winter, and for more than a year, Hart lived in forests and caves, finally returning home to find his wife dead, his children vanished and his farm destroyed. A few weeks later, John Hart was dead from exhaustion and a broken heart. Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

New Jersey’s Richard Stockton, after rescuing his wife and children from advancing British troops, was betrayed by a loyalist, imprisoned, beaten and nearly starved. He returned an invalid to find his home gutted, and his library and papers burned. He, too, never recovered, dying a broken man.

William Ellery of Rhode Island, who marveled that he had seen only “undaunted resolution” in the faces of his co-signers, also had his home burned.

Only days after Lewis Morris of New York signed the Declaration, British troops ravaged his 2,000-acre estate, butchered his cattle and drove his family off the land. Three of Morris’ sons fought the British.

When the British seized the York house of the wealthy Philip Livingston, he sold off everything else, and gave the money to the Revolution. He died in 1778.

Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge and Thomas Heyward Jr. went home to South Carolina. In the British invasion of the South, Heyward was wounded and all three were captured. As he rotted on a prison ship inSt. Augustine, Heyward’s plantation was raided, buildings burned, and his wife, who witnessed it all, died. Other Southern signers suffered the same general fate.

These were men who believed in a cause far beyond themselves. These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing straight and unwavering, they pledged: “For the support of this Declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

My entire way of life and the freedom to live it I owe to those 56 men. I am deeply grateful for their courage, fortitude and sacrifice.

Read the full Declaration of Independence at: http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence.
It is force; like fire, a troublesome servant
and a fearful master. Never for a moment
should it be left to irresponsible action.
George Washington

Chains Of Resentment

chains

My finger was pointed at others for a long time. I was the way I was because of them, or so I thought. Wrongs inflicted by others were my frequent justification for how I behaved. Sometimes what I did was worse than what had been done to me.

Wisdom that I was behaving badly did not suddenly descend on me one day. Instead, a morsel at a time my mind and soul learned better. When I stopped letting my field of view be filled with what others had done, I began to get an honest look at myself. A little at a time the truth became mine that is contained in the saying “hating is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die”.

Hatred is like a long, dark shadow.
Not even the person it falls upon
knows where it comes from, in most cases.
It is like a two-edged sword.
When you cut the other person,
you cut yourself.
The more violently you hack at the other person,
the more violently you hack at yourself.
It can often be fatal.
But it is not easy to dispose of.
Please be careful…
It is very dangerous.
Once it has taken root in your heart,
hatred is the most difficult thing
in the world to shake off.
From “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”
by Haruki Murakami

… forgiveness is NOT a gift you give to another, but rather something you do inside of yourself, for yourself. The other person need never know.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation – nor does it mean you have to allow a behavior that can hurt you to continue to hurt you. Forgiveness is, in essence, the acknowledgment inside of yourself that the person who has wronged you in some way is a fallible human being – and that, like a human being, they made a mistake worthy of your forgiveness. Forgiveness sets you free.

Forgiveness lets you remove the pain you carry inside of you that you feel was done by another’s wrongdoing. The other person need not admit the wrongdoing. The other person need not make amends. The other person need not do anything. Forgiveness is something done inside of yourself, to release you from the pain of the wrongdoing. MD Lynn http://voices.yahoo.com/forgiveness-gift-give-yourself-84466.html?cat=5

Being an imperfect human being, all my animosities toward others have not evaporated. However a considerable amount of such loathing is long gone. For others such feelings are considerably reduced. And, there are still a few old wounds that sting. In earnest I am working on those. I am grateful to be free of the majority of the shackles holding grudges put on me. Even the chains of remaining blame are growing lighter, day by day. Gratefully, the light of forgiveness is doing away with my chains of resentment.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that. ]
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
Martin Luther King, Jr.