Searching for Inspiration

In the face of the shock, fear, disorientation, PTSD-type symptoms, sleep disturbances, and physical manifestations many of my friends and I have been experiencing following our recent election, I have needed to spend time in sacred silence … a time apart for reflection. During this time I have been strengthened by encounters with strong souls who have the leadership qualities I admire. These are the people who have come my way through film, literature, and television. I will continue being on the lookout for more of these massive characters because they give me hope and help me transcend my shock and fear. I pray that this blog post contributes to the strengthening of the souls  of all who read it.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” ~Khalil Gibran

In the face of the election of a man who has threatened to use the nuclear option, has little-to-no impulse control, and who will have access to nuclear codes, I am

Inspired by Courage

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Friday evening following the election, friends loaned me a DVD of a documentary about courageous women from Libera engaging in peaceful protests for peace: Pray the Devil Back to Hell. According to the filmmaker, she had difficulty finding footage of the original events because journalists perceived these women as “a pathetic-looking group” that didn’t warrant their attention. This “pathetic-looking group of women” took down a violent dictator without firing a shot and brought peace to their country. speaking-truth-to-power

Their leader, Leymah Gbowee, hadn’t led an exemplary life and didn’t think herself worthy of directing this peace movement. The women reminded her of the failings of Biblical leaders who grew into their greatness and insisted she had the qualities to lead them. She grew in her courage to speak truth to power and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for providing leadership for the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace. The courage of these women inspires me and gives me hope.

~ ~ ~

In the face of the election of a man who displays blatant disrespect for and abuse of women … a man who threatened to incarcerate a woman challenging his bid for election … who sees women who work outside the home as “a dangerous thing” … a man who mocks disabled people like my daughter … who tries to disempower others by calling them “losers,” I am

Inspired by Wisdom and Greatness

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Then on Monday evening, I watched the 2013 movie, Mandela: Long Road to Freedom. I watched as several other men were imprisoned with Mandela on Robben Island  from 1964 to 1990 … twenty-six years of their lives. Those other men came out bitter and revengeful. Mandela came out angry and forgiving. I wondered how these men who went through the same prison experience came out so differently. I wish I could remember Mandela’s exact words to the white men in the government who had imprisoned him. His sentiments were that he didn’t want to become like them. He didn’t want to live in their hell … the one they created for themselves by victimizing people who they feared because of their difference … by imprisoning and trying to silence those struggling for basic human rights and freedom.mandela-live-in-a-way

Mandela refused to take up arms, even though many wanted him to. He refused to stoop to the level of his captures. His Spirit could not be held captive. And because of that, he became one of history’s greatest leaders. He tackled issues related to institutional racism and ended the practice of violent racial segregation in his country. He advocated for racial reconciliation and developed methods to achieve it that are practiced even today.

“There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.” ~Dostoevski

victor-franklThen I remembered having read Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. He chose how he would respond to being imprisoned in Auschwitz. While his outer life was being ravaged by the infliction of hate and cruelty, he developed a rich inner life focused on love and beauty. Inspired by those martyrs he witnessed in the camp whose inner freedom was not lost when they suffered and died, he chose spiritual freedom and dignity.

Mandela and Frankl made use of the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation afforded them. They chose to be worthy of their suffering. They are examples of true winners. These great men inspire me and give me hope.

~ ~ ~

In the face of the election of a man who has so much difficulty saying, “I’m sorry,” I am

Inspired by Authentic Connection

“Err in the direction of connection. We long to know each other soul to soul.” ~Elizabeth Lesser

Elizabeth Lesser, one of four sisters, was a perfect match to serve as the boneelizabeth-lesser marrow transplant donor for her sister with lymphoma. Elizabeth describes herself as the “woo-woo” person in the family. And so her sister, a nurse practitioner with a scientific mindset, was surprised that Elizabeth was her perfect match. However, she had lymphoma and time was of the essence, so she was willing to risk trying Elizabeth’s “woo-woo” suggestion. Elizabeth wanted to give the bone marrow cells the best chance at healing her sister and believed that the unforgiven, broken, unexplored places in their relationship could weaken their effectiveness. She asked her sister to enter into a process of healing their negative assumptions about each other, the assumptions that had calcified into disconnecting behavior.

marrow-a-love-storyIn her memoir, Marrow: A Love Story, Elizabeth describes what she calls the work of a lifetime … finding the balance between loving yourself and another well. Her book is one of the next on my list. I heard her describe the journey she and her sister embarked on — a journey of finding that balance in their relationship. While Elizabeth acknowledges that not everyone is safe to be this vulnerable with, she and her sister took the risk. They didn’t have time to waste, so they plunged in responding to the question, “How did I hurt you?” They listened deeply without their usual defenses and assumptions. Then they asked, “Will you forgive me?” They did this until there was nothing left between them but love.

Elizabeth’s sister described the following year as the best year of her life. Even though it was filled with pain and fear, she had never felt more clearly herself. She had come home to herself. Elizabeth learned a valuable lesson, too. She learned that she didn’t have to be a perfect person to be just the right person for her sister at this crucial moment in her life. Elizabeth said she felt more “at one” with her sister than with anyone else … the great mystery of knowing themselves in their grand simplicity when two “enoughnesses” meet.

Elizabeth’s earlier book, Broken Open, inspired me during a time of struggle in my life and I had the opportunity to tell her that when I met her while attending classes at Omega, the life-long learning institute she co-founded. I consider her one of my spiritual teachers.

Elizabeth is a woman who, having tasted the dignity and goodness of her own soul, sees and respects the dignity of others. She inspires me and gives me hope.

“Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts …” I Corinthians 14:1

It would mean a lot to me if you shared in the comments section of this blog or on Facebook:

  • who inspires you

  • how they inspire you

  • and how their inspiration contributes to you.

Changing How We See

“Your eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is sound, your whole body is full of light; but when it is not sound, your body is full of darkness.” ~Luke 11:34 RSV

In my October 8 post, “Scales Falling From My Eyes,” I shared how my former students enthusiasm about seeing me again and sharing about the difference I had made in their lives led me to go back to my motel room, look in the mirror, and say to myself, “Linda, I think it’s time you started looking at yourself differently.”

When the student is ready, the teacher appears

I find it interesting and awe inspiring how the Universe conspires to help us grow. Almost as soon as I said those words, I was led to listen to Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. I was aware of Susan’s book at least three years ago and knew I wanted to read it, but somehow I didn’t get to it until just the right moment to be able to garner its wisdom for me.

Teacher Number 1

quiet

In Quiet, Susan addresses how our society moved from being a “culture of character” to a “culture of personality.” Whereas we once valued good deeds performed when no one was looking, we now value magnetism and charisma. Instead of Abraham Lincoln as our ideal, we now idolize movie stars with just the “right” facial features and body types.

Listening to Quiet, I heard  Cain point out just how significant appearance is in our society. That has become abundantly clear in a most hurtful way in our recent presidential election. Our success in life is judged by the standards set for supposedly “the most beautiful people in the world.”

Awakening to the effects of our “culture of personality’s” influence on me, I didn’t like what I saw. I didn’t like it that I felt the sting of viewing myself negatively because I fall short of our society’s standards of beauty. I didn’t like it that I look longingly at the women who do possess our society’s standards of magnatism and charisma. I didn’t like the difficulty I have seeing beauty in those who don’t fit our cultural standards.

I wanted to rid myself of this scourge.

Teacher Number 2

In my October 29 post, I wrote about meeting Rick Guidotti at the Myotonic Dystrophy Conference held in Cincinnati on October 22. As an award-winning fashion photographer, Rick has photographed women and men who are considered the most magnetic and charismatic among us … our culture’s most beautiful. But he grew frustrated with being told who was beautiful and who he had to photograph. Because he sees beauty in diversity and finds it in places where others wouldn’t even think to look, he changed his life and is making an enormous difference in the lives of many others.

Because he SEES beauty in everyone

 

The mission Rick committed to through Positive Exposure is to transform the way the world views beauty. Wow, do we need that today. He wants to change public perceptions of people living with genetic, physical, intellectual and behavioral differences. One out of five children  in the United States is born with a disability making the need for society to understand and respect children and adults living with these differences critical. Positive Exposure’s educational and advocacy programs reach around the globe to promote a more inclusive, compassionate world where differences are celebrated.

Rick’s book, Change How You See, See How You Change features over 50 genetic syndromes through portraiture and personal narrative, giving expression to each individual’s heart and soul. It invites readers to see beyond diagnoses to the humanity we all share.

Thank you, Rick, for changing how I see.

I look forward to seeing how I change.

Now that my eyes opened to my faulty way of seeing, some synchronicities (The Divine’s way of remaining anonymous) began popping up all over:

More Teachers

A Tribute to Discomfort

On Pushing Through A Struggle:

“There’s incredible amounts of raw human and natural beauty happening everywhere.” ~Cory Richards

 

 

and

Sir Elton John speaking about his modernist photography collection:

“I was seeing through different eyes. I saw beauty that I’d never seen before.” Sir Elton John

Link

Glass Tears

 

 

and

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Heidi Bright noticing my attempts on Facebook to find beauty in the midst of cultural ugliness and sent me her latest blog post with this quote from Elsie de Wolfe:

“I’m going to make everything around me beautiful. That will be my life.”

Read about Heidi’s experience finding beauty in the midst of a terminal cancer diagnosis in her memoir:

 

and

Then I picked up one of my favorite spiritual books, The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram: Nine Faces of the Soul by Sandra Maitri, and read this:

spiritual-dimension-of-the-enneagram

 

“Yes, I see who you believe you are, but let me  show you what and who is truly beneath those beliefs. Let me show you your jeweled possibilities.”  ~Sandra Maitri

 

 

 

 

I am beginning to see my jeweled possibilities.

Link

8a35f-smiley2bsun2bface

A Life Well Lived

November 7 1933-November 5, 2016

Wayne B. “Dutch” Brady ~ ~ November 7 1933–November 5, 2016

“A life well lived,” the priest repeated. New to the parish, he didn’t really know my uncle. He couldn’t have known how true his words were as he paired “a life well lived” with “the importance of family” to my Uncle Wayne.

When I spoke with Terri, Uncle Wayne’s and Aunt Rosie’s youngest daughter, I asked her to tell me about his death. He had fallen, had a bleed in his brain, his kidneys were failing, and he had been in the hospital, in ICU, for a couple of days. On the day before he died, he was stepped down from ICU and  his vitals were improving.

At one in the morning on the day he died, Terri was awakened by a call from his nurse. He was agitated and they couldn’t calm him down. He was calling for Terri. The nurse asked if she would come.

When Terri and her husband arrived about an hour later, she had a meaning conversation with him that she told me she would treasure forever. During the visitation held on Wednesday, November 9, I heard more about that conversation from Aunt Rosie and Terri.

Uncle Wayne told Terri to write down everything he was about to tell her. He had his financial affairs in order and told Terri where she would find what she needed to take care of her mother after his death. Uncle Wayne’s hobby had been woodworking. He told Terri to write down the names of each person and the gift of his tools they were to receive. Once he had accomplished that, he relaxed and declared, “I’m going to die today.” By 2:25 that afternoon, he was gone.

During his funeral on Thursday, one of Uncle Wayne’s granddaughters sang with tears in her eyes. Her strong, rich, melodic voice led us in singing the most uplifting of hymns. Later she told me she had chosen all the music for his service. I’m sure Uncle Wayne was beaming his pride from the other side.

At the luncheon following his funeral, I was invited to sit with the family. In my mind’s eye, my cousins were still teenagers — my last significant contact with them. Now they are parents and grandparents. I marveled at the family these two produced.

wayne-rosie-wedding

April 16, 1955

 From these two came four.

Tim, Ted, Tammy, and Terri

From those four came twelve.

Grandchildren, the center of Uncle Wayne’s and Aunt Rosie’s lives.

And from those twelve have come nine.

Great grandchildren who  may never know the importance of their great grandfather’s intention for his life.

But they will benefit from it.

Around the table, I observed my uncle’s children relating to their nieces and nephews and grandchildren with such fondness and care. I watched Ted’s daughters wrap their arms around their father with obvious affection. He beamed devotion as he returned their endearments.

I couldn’t help but notice the contrast with the family gatherings of my youth after my parents, brother, and I moved to my mother’s hometown, New Bremen, Ohio. My mother and her three sisters talked loud and bickered with each other, jangling my nerves. Uncle Wayne, only nine years older than I and like a big brother to me, tried to lighten things up with ornery antics.  At ten years old, I came to see their behavior as the scars they bore as a result of growing up with a violent alcoholic father. I didn’t know my grandfather because my grandmother divorced him when my mother was pregnant with me.

In my forties, I read about patterns of behavior members of alcoholic family’s adopt in order to survive. To my surprise, I found myself in those patterns that get passed down from generation to generation, even when the active alcoholism or addiction is not present. I recognized in myself the hero child/lost child patterns.

I thought my family would enthusiastically support my archeological dig into family history. As astute as I had been at ten about the source of their scars, I had no appreciation for the depth of the pain just below the surface of their merry-making, fun-loving personas that often grew contentious. At first, my mother tried to answer my questions, but one day she said, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” With that she closed the door.

I only asked Uncle Wayne once to tell me about his father, someone I could only remember seeing once when I was eight. He told me he had no use for his father. “He never helped, Mom. He never supported his family.” Seeing his pain, I never asked again.

After hearing Terri tell me the nature of her meaningful conversation with her dad, the import of his agitation became clear to me. He could not relax until he knew Aunt Rosie, who has health problems of her own, would be cared for. To the end, he was determined not to be like his father. He would take care of his family. Once he had given Terri all the information she needed to take over for him, he was ready to leave behind his pain-ridden body and move on for his next adventure.

A life well lived. May he rest in peace knowing he accomplished his intention. He loved and took care of his family well. And with that, he broke the chain of generations of family wounding and pain.

“Good job, Uncle Wayne. You got it right.”