Monday, October 17, 2011

Obstacles As Opportunity

‎"Just because the road ahead is long, is no reason to slow down. Just because there's much work to be done, is no reason to get discouraged. It's a reason to get started, to grow, to find new ways, to reach within you and discover strength, commitment, determination, discipline. Right now you may be at the beginning of the journey. What a great place to be! Just imagine all the things you’ll learn, all the people you’ll meet, the experiences you’ll have. Be thankful that the road is long and challenging, because that's where you’ll find the best that life has to offer!" — Ralph Marston

Living with chronic illness, at least for me, means that every change or altered circumstance requires an adjustment that can alter routines that I depend on in order to function well.  And those adjustments take time; they take a commitment to work it through, to find ways to incorporate the changes into a new routine that doesn’t take away from hard won progress.

I’m in the midst of that process now and, sometimes, I simply resent the time and energy it takes.  Why?  Because it doesn’t leave me enough to do the things I truly love – to make art, to create in some way, to produce something positive or interact with things outside of myself.

But change is the only constant in life and how we deal with change defines our journey.    I allow myself some momentary angst, frustration or even self pity – almost always with a set limit, and always knowing that it’s an act of release that allows me to move into a greater energy of determination and discovery.

And so I make the effort to stay connected, even if the effort is necessarily small.  I continue to read, to learn, to explore even when I’m not currently capable of applying those things in concrete ways.  I’m in a place right now where I can be inspired, but don’t have the focus or the energy to actively follow that inspiration.  I’m not making art; not art journaling; not creating with my hands; so for now, I keep track of those inspirations and note them down so that I can return to them later.   To not be accepting of where I am would only delay the changes that I need to make. 

I choose instead to see my current obstacles as opportunities to find new ways of moving forward; new ways of living my life in the best way possible.  I am more than my illness, more than my disabilities, more than any obstacle that life could provide.

Every chance to rework the way I live my life is also a chance to be more authentically me; to be more present and more alive.   I haven’t yet gotten to the place where I can say that I’ve befriended my illness or my disabilities, but I AM learning to befriend myself, with all of my quirks and challenges.  It’s a progression, an inherent part of growth.  I can’t help but feel that the point at which I am able to embrace even what I may now see and experience as negatives will be the point when I truly transcend them. 

For now, I’m grateful to the people and the community that I’ve gathered around me.  For your generosity of spirit and abundance of creativity, for your patience and understanding, and for the inspiration that fuels my days.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Girl Effect

As a girl growing up in an a strictly male friendly environment  I learned through both spoken and unspoken messages that being me was not a good thing.  That silence and being as invisible as possible was by far the safest  thing for me.  Not that there really was much safety in a family harboring multiple abusers.  Not that my silence improved the abuse and neglect or silenced the many derogatory and negative statements made to and about me within my hearing.

The fact that I am a strong, loving, compassionate woman has little to do with my birth family, and everything to do with my having had people in my life, from outside my family, who took me under their wings.  People who showed me different ways of being in the world and healthier ways to interact with others;  who nurtured me, encouraged me, believed in my worth.
From a neighbor woman inviting me over to read books, to family friends who ‘adopted’ me on the weekends and over holidays, to my best friend’s mother who taught me how to deal with the changing body and emotions of an adolescent, to my mother’s friend who took me out occasionally for lunch and ‘girl talk’,  to the librarian who guided my reading choices and encouraged my love of books,  I was lucky and blessed to have Angels in my life. 

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I truly realized the vastness of the gifts that each of them gave me.   Things that seem simple, but that made it possible for me to grow into a woman capable of transforming and transcending the anger and pain; into a mother capable of raising my family in more positive, loving ways.

We are all pebbles in the pond, never truly knowing where the ripples lead.   Yet every action we take, no matter how small, ripples out into the universe and into other people’s lives.  The word of encouragement that you give may be a lifeline; the action that you take may allow hope and courage to shine within someone elses life. 
Never think that you can’t make a difference, or that making a difference calls for more resources than you have.   We all have gifts to offer and what seems small or inconsequential to us may be the miracle that allows another young woman to survive and flourish and gift the world with her presence.

Be the pebble in the pond for the girls around you.  And for those who share this world with us, in places and countries physically distant from us, please check out the wonderful work of The Girl Effect and learn how you could be the change for them as well.  If you have a blog, please consider joining with me and participating in the 2011 Girl Effect Blogging Campaign