The Ponderer

Let My Tragic Lesson Be Your Reminder

Sacred | Art by Angela DiGiovanni

Several months ago when a client kept insisting to Mark and I that she sent a check, we chalked it up to the old cliche, a sort of stall tactic. But when she called and said that it had been cashed, we became concerned and had the situation investigated. It turned out someone had stolen our mail and forged our name to deposit the check into his own account.

Because the bigger issue was federal mail fraud, the police decided to prosecute the man who did this. We knew this man, and we were astounded that he would do this. He was nice to us. He was friendly toward us. He had recently suggested we barbecue together. He was our neighbor.

It turns out that he had additional court related situations other than ours, as well.
This is what dual nature looks like. Where your friendly neighbor can become so desperate he is willing to commit mail fraud, forge your signature, and steal from you. This is what desperation can do to a man.

Because he was an immediate neighbor, we had to see this man frequently. We were told we weren’t allowed to talk to him or approach him in any way. It was hard. It was awkward. My heart went out to him. I wasn’t mad at him. I know what desperate looks like. I know what utter despair feels like.

While circumstances were slightly different, as we did not intentionally steal money to use it for our own gain, we have faced our own accusers when after failed investments in the market crash, friends and family lost money… a lot of money, unrecoverable amounts of money, people’s nest eggs, people’s equity. I live with despair over it every single day, even years later now. We live with a bad reputation and assumptions and judgments that may or may not be true about us from people who were very dear friends at one time. From others, we also live with indescribable mercy, that humbles to the core. It’s one of the most brutal and shameful experiences of my life and has left irreparable damage to my soul.

So I didn’t want to approach him to yell at him, or question him. I simply wanted to see how he was doing. I wanted to tell him that we forgave him. I wanted to help make his burden lighter. This all might sound corny, but when you’ve been to the bottom of despair like we have been, the last thing you want is for anyone else to go through it. It is one of God’s ways of teaching us compassion and mercy, I think; our deepest aches in life become our greatest opportunities of service to others.

We had stopped seeing him around, and I started having premonitions of him being dead in his house, that he had killed himself. It was so unlikely to not see him for so many days, so that is where my mind went. It went there because I have felt that level of despair, where you just want to go home from where you came because you can’t take the shame anymore. Life can be so hard, cruel, and complicated, and so I worried for him.

I called the detective in charge and begged him to come to his house to see if he was
alright – that his car had been parked for three days in front of his house, but that we
hadn’t see him come or go. I told him my fear, that perhaps he took his life. It was then the detective told me that his car has been parked and we haven’t seen him come or go because they had booked him in jail. My heart rended for him. For his family. What had we started? What could we have done differently to have remedied this course in a more civil and dignified way? It was too late, and out of our hands as it was the police who were prosecuting him, not us.

He got out on bail and was back home days later. We were still under order not to speak with him. Eventually he got evicted and so our lives weren’t crossing paths anymore, yet we kept ‘running into him’ in different towns on different errands. I asked God why we kept running into him. What were/was we/he supposed to learn? Was I supposed to say anything? What should I say? Tell him you forgive him, let him know how you feel, was the answer I received. But I didn’t do it. I had four opportunities. But all I could think of was the order we were given to not speak to him or approach him in any way. He could be dangerous.

Yesterday was his sentencing.

He never showed up to court.

He was found dead.

As you can imagine, my heart is heavy. I share this story because I hope it has an impact. If we can be merciful to someone, let’s do it. If we can forgive someone, let’s do it. If we can tell someone we forgive them, let’s do it. If we can lighten someone’s burden, let’s do it. Life is hard, precious, and complicated. Let’s give people the benefit of the doubt when we can. We don’t know the level of fragility of a human life and soul. Our ‘rightness’ will never be more important than another’s human condition.

Or a child’s dead father.

Or a wife’s dead husband.

Or a parent’s dead son.

May his soul find peace, and may God have mercy on him.

Please pray his family may find peace and comfort.

#ButByTheGraceOfGodThereGoI

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The Tapestry of My Life

The Tapestry of My Life in Collage

All of the modern day gurus, such as Anthony Robbins and Joel Osteen, are telling us not to accept things as they are, but to instead create the life we want. I’ve lived many years of my life subscribing to this philosophy.

But what happens when things are out of our control? What’s happened to me is a torrent of unnecessary frustration and pain. While I’m sure there is a time and a place to create the things in life we want, isn’t there also a time and a place for surrender? Surrender is what I am subscribing to at this time and place in my life. And while it may sound abhoring and weak to some, it feels like exactly where I need to be to be free of the chains of outcome and control.

Interestingly enough, as with many modern philosophies in life, the ancient gurus preach a different twist on this philosophy. They teach surrender. “You must learn to accept with love whatever comes your way,” says the movie The Nuns Story. (Thank you, Joanne, for directing me to this – what a whirl of inspiration I have been receiving since reading these words.)

Admittedly, years ago, I would have gagged at this quote. I would have thought how poor and miserable it would be to live in that space of victim and non-creation. But having been through too many circumstances which I’ve tried to control, and can’t seem to despite my very best efforts, I’m finding peace and freedom in ‘surrender’. I’ve let go of ‘victim’ and ‘surrender’ being synonomous.

Marcus Aurelius says, “Accept the things to which fate binds you.” and “Accept whatever comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny, for what could more aptly fit your needs?”

I am finding his philosophy not only freeing, but highly romantic as well. I picture a gorgeous tapestry, woven together piece by piece, with fragments I don’t understand… their color, their shape, their size, and not until the tapestry is complete, or my life is over, perhaps it won’t be until then that I can see the picture and how perfectly beautiful all of the lessons fit together until I was ripe enough to fall from the vine, or pass through this life. The beauty of the thought brings peace and trust to my soul.

Until then, I’ll remain open and available to all the things my soul longs for. But I’ll let go of the chains of control that leave me in bondage to the have-nots. Instead, while fate works out my tapestry, I will live with intention and surrender, with gratitude for the blessings in my life.

“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.” -Marcus Aurelius

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Hold Onto the Child

Hold Onto the Child
my grand-daughter, Anela

hold onto the child
that’s sleeping in your arms
promise you will be there
when life gets cold and hard

hold onto the child
who wakes to see you smile
it’s a little bit of heaven
for just a little while

now the days grow short
with still so much to do
while time, precious time
puts on its running shoes

and the years roll on
right before your eyes
just like a falling leaf
against the autumn sky

hold onto the child
that lives inside your heart
that longs for love and laughter
and wishing on a star

hold onto the child
your faith from long ao
there’s time for dreams of flying
you’ve got to keep on trying

there’s time for dreams of flying
before you have to go

~Cardon and Stirling

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Who Are You?

enneagram chart

For as long as I can remember even into my early childhood, I’ve been predisposed to being a sad and lonely person.  I’ve often felt on the outside, a stranger and alien to this world, merely watching with intrigue and confusion, and being lulled by anything melancholy.  Only, sad and lonely aren’t necessarily always bad companions, they are comfortable ones – surely an idea that my non-introverted friends likely could never understand.

It wasn’t until I was 27-years-old that I finally was able to accept my melancholy nature, even embrace it and feel ‘normal’.  I read a book that explained the Enneagram and immediately identified with the Five and Four types.  Pleased, I realized I was in great company (Fives): Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, John Lennon, Emily Dickinson, and Vincent Van Gogh, to name a few.

We are called The Investigators of this world, because, more than any other type, we want to find out why things are the way they are.  How does the world and our inner worlds work? we wonder, always searching, asking questions, diving in deep; never easily accepting traditional thought or doctrine, and desperately needing to test the truth of most assumptions.

One Five mused, “a day without learning is a day without sunshine.”

But with our insatiable need to learn, comes daunting insecurity, where we often stay buried within our own minds, never risking failure; only joining the world when we’re certain we know how to do things.

Fives revel in knowing things others do not, the secret, unusual, often hidden things of the world.  Fives deplore convention and never need social validation, often leaving us viewed as eccentric and socially isolated.  Practical problems are often left unattended as we become fixated on new innovations or discoveries.  Like, who cares that the laundry isn’t getting done, or dishes are piling up around the sink, I’m creating a beautiful piece of art, or learning about the cosmos!  This often leaves us unable to function in the real world.  I relate to this.

Healthy Fives at their best are visionary, extraordinarily perceptive, making profound contributions to society.

Unhealthy Fives at their worst are preoccupied, shunning anything that diverts their focus, abrasive, isolated, phobic, and prone to suicide.

There are other introverted Types in the Enneagram, including the Four, which is my ‘Wing’.  Everyone has a ‘Wing’, or a close second. Four’s need to be individualistic, create and surround themselves with beauty, profoundly creative, introspective, sensitive, emotionally honest, self absorbed, moody, hyper-sensitive, depressed, alienated, and despairing.

Four’s believe there is something fundamentally wrong with them (something I believed until I read about the Enneagram).  They are socially awkward and feel different from others.  (Famous Fours: Alanis Morissette, Anais Nin, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Johnny Depp, and Virginia Woolf, to name a few.)

Love this, quoted straight from the book:

“Healthy Fours are willing to reveal highly personal and potentially shameful things about themselves because they are determined to understand the truth of their experience—so that they can discover who they are and come to terms with their emotional history. This ability also enables Fours to endure suffering with a quiet strength. Their familiarity with their own darker nature makes it easier for them to process painful experiences that might overwhelm other types.”

If that’s not me, I don’t know what is (just look around my blog and Chronicles!).  I’ve always had an uncanny ability to analyze my life, my self, my experiences like a third party, objectively and logically judging and making decisions about my own life, rather than reacting emotionally.

Other signs that you are an introvert are:

  • you need hours alone every day
  • social situations exhaust you
  • small talk is hard for you (and bores you to tears)
  • you are mistaken for aloof, arrogant, or rude

Introverts are not necessarily shy, they just find other people tiring. :-)  It is estimated that about 25% of the population is truly introverted.  My uncle shared a great article with me, called “Caring For Your Introvert”  that I highly recommend if you are one, or if you have one in your life.  It will make you feel normal if you are one, and it will shed some light on the introvert(s) in your life if you aren’t one.

If you take the Enneagram test, please share in the comments what your Type is and what you learned about yourself!  (If you poke around the site a bit, you can find a free sample test.)

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The Problem of Pain | Blaming God

The Problem of Pain

Today my heart aches for a long-time friend of mine whose sister is in hospice care for cancer.  Her sister is my sister’s age.  It brings it home.  It challenges all the beliefs I theoretically have about pain.  “The Problem of Pain“, by C.S. Lewis is on a small list of books that I believe saved me at one time or another in my life.  I find feelings of confusion rise up in me and I have to remind myself about the Problem of Pain and Blaming God.

After reading the book, here are the thoughts I wrote down as I processed it:

***

8/27/03 (Note: Right after my separation from first husband)

God is love.  He loves me enough to challenge me and throw me into the fire.  He wants me to be as loveable as possible and thus must refine me.  Refinement is not absent of pain.  It is, in fact, painful by nature.  So often it clouds the memory of the beauty that will come.

I do not believe it is my purpose to be happy, nor any mans.  It is my purpose to respond, as the creature, to my Creator’s love for me.  Though it is by living the purpose He created for me that I will be happy.  Man is to know joy, and to know joy is to know pain and sorrow.

Our free will comes with the price of how we choose to use it; how we choose to manipulate non-sentient, inanimate objects and nature.  What can be used to build up, can also be used to destroy.  One complains about peddling uphill while the other enjoys the ride down.  Is the hill evil?  Is it the intention of the hill to cause pain, or even joy?

Is God “good” when a man uses a plank of wood to build a fire and warm his family and “bad” when that same plank of wood was used to hit someone over the head?

This is the problem of pain.  What is useful and pleasurable for one man, is the demise of another.  God cannot make separate rules for the same object.  While He is omnipotent, he is not insane.  His laws are constant and reliable.  While, yes, He creates miracles, they are just that… miracles.  A miracle wouldn’t be a miracle if it was the norm.

He loves us enough to demand perfection out of us.  The more trials in our lives – the more He loves us.  Our complaints, it turns out, are not that He doesn’t love us enough, but that He loves us too much.

***

I don’t believe that God brings every single trial into our lives for specific purposes.  Some trials are simply the consequence of man, our fallen nature, our dying earth.  (Though, all trials are opportunities for growth.)  When we point the finger at God, if He were to respond in like kind, could justifiably point His right back at us.

Will He intervene? We wonder.  We hope.  We pray.

My prayer for us all is that we allow the dross to be chipped and burned away with all the grace and gratitude we can muster, so that every beautiful facet of the diamonds that are us can sparkle in perfect purity.

Please say a prayer for my friend, her sister, and their family – for miracles in grace and comfort, for miracles in recovery or transition.  For the sake of privacy, I won’t disclose their names, but I can assure you that God knows them.

Thank you, friends.

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