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The Movie of My Life

Affirmation:  I live a Christ centered life of love, peace,
joy, gratitude and compassion.
 
 
Jason
Becker, Not Dead Yet
, is the name of the movie we were invited to
view.  It was the premier and it was
being held to benefit Jason Becker and the ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,
aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease) Foundation.  We
were guests of Cytokinetics which is a drug development group doing research to
aid in the treatment and cure of these types of diseases. We didn’t know Jason.
We knew nothing about his story but the invitation was for a group of us to
travel to a club, Bimbo’s, in San Francisco and have dinner and watch the
film.  We were already in California at
the time so it was an appealing invitation. 
We entered the club, got a beverage and then went to meet Jason.  He was in a motorized wheel chair and there
was a line to meet him.  He could no
longer move any part of his body other than his eyes and some facial
muscles.  He was surrounded by what I
assumed to be family members and caregivers. 
 
 
My first impression of him was how handsome he was.  We had been told a little about Jason’s story
before we arrived.  He was a guitar
virtuoso from the time he was five years old until he was eighteen when he was
diagnosed with ALS.  The disease
progressed very quickly and while he was able to record a lot of his work
before his upper body deserted him, he had to drop out of the David Roth world
tour. He had been recruited as Van Halen’s replacement. He was now 41. His
father had developed a system of communication that allowed Jason to
“talk” with his eyes.  It was a
matrix system and it depended on how many times he blinked and what direction
he rolled his eyes.  His parents and
caregivers could spell out the words Jason was indicting and then they would
share his comments with the visitor.  We
were next in line to meet him.
I’d
never met anyone with ALS and I’ve never really tried to have a conversation
with a paraplegic.  But, he had his
interpreters with him so I wasn’t too concerned.  We approached and I confessed to him that I
was new to his story but I was looking forward to becoming one of his newest
fans.  He made a few eye movements and
his father told us he had just responded, “awesome.”  Awesome was exactly what I was thinking and
after we watched the film, awesome was exactly the word I would use to describe
this young man’s talent, the dedication of his amazing family and friends and
his undaunted courage.
 
A
diagnosis of ALS is considered a terminal diagnosis.  There is no cure.  There is no treatment.  There is no hope.  Normally, one would die within a few years of
the diagnosis.  As of this date, Jason
has been alive for 23 years after the diagnosis; he’s “not dead
yet.”  Not only is he still alive
but he’s still composing music.  His
father has come up with another way to help Jason compose the music he can
still hear, the music he’s still creating in his mind.  My husband, Sandy and I were inspired by
Jason story.  We are inspired by Jason
himself and by the love and support he has gathered around him.
 
 
The
next morning I sat with another event attendee and we began to discuss all we
had learned from the night before.  We
shared our newfound appreciation for Jason and his family.  I then shared that after last night’s
experience I found myself asking the question, if someone was to make a movie
of my life, what would be in it?  Jason
is only 41.  Most of the movie revolved
around his first eighteen years and the accomplishments he had already
made.  It appeared he was on his way to
becoming one of the all-time great guitarists. 
He was on his way to becoming a legend. 
I’m not a guitar aficionado but even I recognized several of the names
of the people in the movie who spoke about him. 
He had already commanded such respect as an artist and as a human being
by the age of eighteen that twenty-three years later, these famous musicians
were still giving testimony to him and his talent.
 
I
don’t know about you but I must admit that if my life’s reputation had to depend
on what I’d accomplished up until my eighteenth year, it would be very lacking
in accomplishments.  I’m sixty-seven as
of this writing and I would hope that I have finally achieved some measure of
respect for a lifetime of loving effort. 
What would a movie of my life include? 
What would a movie of your life look like?  When discussing this with my friend, we found
ourselves focusing on the virtues of kindness and love.  As long as our movie focused on promoting
those two qualities, we decided it would be a good film.
 
I
once saw a really scary movie with Robin Williams about an internal camera
device that was implanted in everyone at their birth and was extracted when
they died.  His profession was to put
together their obituary in film form from their camera.  He was supposed to be one of the best because
he could edit the film of even the most cruel, horrendous behavior and make the
obituary a glowing commendation of the deceased.  It was so disturbing that I shut it off
almost at the beginning but the concept left me with a lot to think about.
 
The
day will come when someone will be piecing my life together to help others
remember me.  It’s inevitable.  What will my “movie” say about me?  Will I need a professional editor?  Will it be a comedy or a drama and what will
it be rated? Have you heard the advice about writing out your own obituary so
you can decide before you die how you want to be remembered and then take the
steps necessary to paint that picture?  I
know no matter how we craft our lives not everyone will appreciate what we’ve
attempted to do no matter how kind and caring we have acted.  If it happens so be it but I shouldn’t expect
to be recognized for my good works. 
Really, the most important part of all this is if I did my best, my utmost
to live a life worthy of my own respect and that of my God.  Kindness, forgiveness and love are the three
qualities I’d like the movie of my life to revolve around.  Hopefully, I have a few more years left to
make sure the ending of my movie is as close to my ideal as it possibly can be.

 

Just Pick Up the Phone

Affirmation:  When I quickly and directly resolve an issue,
I feel less stressed and more peaceful.

This is the age of electronic
communications.  On Longmire, one
of my favorite TV shows, Longmire’s deputy checked the victim’s phone for text
messages rather than for phone calls. 
And, that was the correct method for finding out about the victim’s
activity.  It’s so very easy to send a
text, an email or a tweet but it isn’t necessarily the quickest way to
communicate with someone.  One day my
grandson texted me from another room in our home to ask me a question.  I thought he’d left without telling me and I
panicked but he hadn’t.  He’s 13 at this
writing.  If he continues along this
path, he may not make it to 14.

Recently, I’ve had several
situations that were making me a little anxious.  In all cases I had emailed the person or the
company and had either not received an answer or I didn’t get the answer I
wanted.  The first issue was with amazon.com. I had bought a faucet for our
kitchen.  The kitchen was being remodeled
and by the time the plumbers were ready to install the faucet, my return date
had passed.  The faucet didn’t fit.  When I went online to return it, I got the
pop-up that it was too late to send it back. 
I was quite annoyed and then I thought, “Just pick up the
phone.”  I had a quick conversation
with a very nice person and he waved the return date so I could send it
back.  It was easy but if I hadn’t made
the phone call, I’d still own that faucet.

I was on a roll now.  I’ve become my Mom’s financial
caretaker.  She’s always done an amazing
job with her resources but it had become too much for her.  Her credit card bill came and I put it on the
shelf.  For the first time in her life,
her next credit card bill came with a service charge on it.  Oh my! 
I was in trouble!  It was quite a
penalty for a very small overdue balance. 
I picked up the phone and spoke with a very nice young woman.  I guessed she could immediately see the bill
had never been late before and she immediately took off the penalty fee.  Whew!

It seems this is the lesson I
needed to learn at this time.  Once I
began looking at different situations with an eye towards finding easier,
quicker resolutions, more and more opportunities kept presenting
themselves.  I found with each episode
that came up if I acted immediately and directly rather than just mulling over
what to do, I was less stressed and more peaceful.

The faucet wasn’t the only
remodeling snafu.  We had hired a very
nice young man to be our contractor and he seemed quite efficient.  At the beginning of the project he put
together some sort of computer notification system than showed us the exact
time of each part of the job and the exact cost of every single step.  Over the next few weeks that program would
pop up almost daily with some sort of time change or even worse, some sort of
price increase.  Needless to say I was
becoming more and more anxious every time I’d see an email with his company’s
name on it.  At first I found my stomach
would knot up and my head would begin to ache but then I changed my approach
and when something was changed, I’d call him and many times he’d relieve my
anxiety with a detailed explanation or he’d remove the extra fee because he’d
made a mistake.  (I chose to believe it
was an error.) With that phone call came the ability for me to take deeper
breaths and relax about whatever was being presented.

Even with my family I’ve noticed
how often we now text or email one another rather than calling, although not as
readily as my grandson.  All too often I
wasn’t getting an answer to my questions or they were wondering why I hadn’t
replied to their queries.  Usually it was
because the emails got lost in the ether somewhere.  But, with a simple phone call, whatever
question we had would be resolved, immediately.

 

Since this was my
lesson for now, I began to wonder if I shouldn’t apply it to my prayer life
too.  How often did I obsess over some
life issue that needed to be let go of and turned over to God?  What if I took my new lesson and rather than
letting the issue weigh me down, I immediately “picked up the phone”
and shared it with The Lord?  What would
that look like?  What number would I
dial?  I closed my eyes and sat quietly
and envisioned the phone.  It wasn’t a
cell phone.  Interestingly, it was an old
fashioned phone like the one in Dr.
Strangelove
with Peter Sellers and it was red. 
Of course it was because in the movie the red phone was a direct line to
the President.  I didn’t need a phone
number at all.  I just needed to pick up
that old fashioned red phone and God would be on the other end.  God is always on the other end, waiting for
me to call.  Once I’ve taken the time and
made the effort to connect, I am connected. 
No, the situation may not be resolved as quickly as it was at amazon.com or LL Bean although it might be, but I
quickly realized I felt better about my concerns.  By taking the time to “call” God, I
felt less stressed and I felt more peaceful.

What Was I Thinking?

Affirmation:  I carefully choose my thoughts. 
 
This year’s 2013
Pink Ribbon Yoga Retreat has just ended. 
It was our 9th retreat.  You can
gather more information about it from the web site, www.PinkRibbonYoga.org or you can find us on
Facebook.  The retreat provides women
breast cancer survivors with support, coping skills, and relaxation.  It is designed to be both nurturing and
empowering.   What happens over four days
and three nights?  Miracles happen. 
 
 
This year 29
people attended the retreat. We always take an intention to guide our planning
and this year our intention for this year’s retreat was “On Wings of
Joy.”  We borrowed a thousand paper
cranes from the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program and hung them from the
rafts and Nancy Soho, one of our committee members, created mobiles for
everyone.  She hand folded 5 paper cranes
for each one and then added a hand cut card from which they hung.  Along with Irene Talton, our gifted
yoga-off-the-mat instructor, they crafted inspirational words on the top of
each mobile.
 
We have a very
specific format that the retreat follows. 
It’s proven to be extremely beneficial for creating a healing
environment for each individual and for the group as a whole.  Over the years we’ve discovered that if we
provide a single meaningful word for each person they are more comfortable
speaking in our opening circle.  This year
we used the words on the mobiles to initiate sharing.  We then left the mobiles hanging on the back
of the chairs and reused them for our closing circle.  I think only one person got the same word for
both circles and that was me.  It was
“healing.”
 
Healing is one of
the miracles that take place during these four days.  I know because I always come away feeling
healed.  I like to hope that it’s a
complete healing from all my ailments: mind, body and spirit but I don’t know
that for sure.  There certainly could be
some rebellious cells floating around inside, although I hope not.  I do know, however, that I come away feeling
rested, valued, calmer, centered, nurtured and empowered.  I know too that all those positive emotions
can lead me, my body to a place of better physical health and even if I am not
cured of all my ailments, I know I am healed. 
There is a difference and I know I am not alone.  I know it because over the last nine years
the women, who have participated in the retreat, have told me so.  It is true.
 
 
 
The very first
thing we do when the retreat starts is to provide an atmosphere of safety.  We encourage everyone to respect the
confidentiality of any sharing that takes place.  We ask that only one person speak at a time
and that everyone else simply listen.  We
ask that each person use the word “I”, not the third person
“you” or “we.”  We
let everyone know that sharing is optional and that silence is not only
accepted but valued.  Before the next
person begins speaking, the last person must declare that they are
“complete.” 

We tell everyone
that this is their time, all four days and three nights.  We have all sorts of wonderful offerings but
their first responsibly is to take care of themselves and so if they need to
take a walk or a nap or to just have some quiet time, then that’s what they
should do.  Of course, if they want to do
yoga on the beach, try creating a water color of spirit, participate in yoga
dance, eat ice cream with the group, try the meditation sessions or experience
laughing yoga, they are welcome to join in. 
One other thing that quickly becomes apparent is the lack of judgment
that permeates the event.  For at least a
short while no one has to hide whatever might cause one to be embarrassed in
the outside world.  With that, the women
can simply be.  There is no striving, no
pretending.  It’s liberating.  It’s another modality that promotes
healing.
 
One of our
traditions is to jump into the ocean after the early morning yoga.  There’s something very magical about floating
on the warm waves early in the day with a group of friends.  One morning I was quite tired and I thought
maybe I’d skip the swim and just head back to breakfast but I wore my swimsuit
just in case.  The yoga ended and several
ladies headed towards the water.  I
joined them.  As I floated over and
through the gentle waves, I couldn’t imagine what I had been thinking that
would have kept me from this amazing experience and then I realized, I often
find myself in really neat situations that I was initially hesitant to
join.  Sometimes they involve big steps,
like when I joined my daughter-in-law and traveled with her to Ecuador and
other times, they’re small steps, like jumping into the ocean.  Each time, however, I find myself wondering,
“What was I thinking?”
 
Perhaps, if we
paid close attention we’d discover that most of the time we’re not very clear
about what we really want or what will make us really happy or perhaps what our
best choice is.  An example would be when
we choose to have that second helping of something that tasted really good but
which is not good for us.  How often have
any of us done that and then shortly afterwards wondered, “What was I
thinking?”  It would be wonderful to
always be clear about our decisions, to always be mindful but it’s a practice,
a life-long practice.  We can only stay
alert and be aware.
 
 
After the retreat
is over I find myself asking that same question about having this idea of a
yoga-beach retreat for women breast cancer survivors, “What was I
thinking?”  What made me think it
would become a reality?  Did I believe
that it would turn into such a powerful, healing experience for so many
people?  Where would the money come from
so everyone could afford to attend? 
Where would we find a place to stay? 
Who would volunteer to be our teachers? 
How would we advertise?  There
were dozens of questions and challenges to making this a reality.  “What was I thinking?”  I was thinking this was a good idea and if I
moved forward and it didn’t happen, well at least I tried.  It’s better to try and fail than to never try
at all but it didn’t fail.  It
happened.  It happened and it has
provided comfort and healing, support and respite to more people than I had
ever imagined.  “What was I
thinking?”  I don’t really know what
I was thinking but I do know I’m really glad and actually very proud that I was
thinking at all. I’m thrilled that the retreat exists and that because of the
work of so many wonderful people, we achieved the creation of such an amazing,
awesome experience.  As of today it’s
been over a week since the retreat began and I am pleased to say I am still
floating on the “wings of joy.”

What Do You Live For?

Affirmation:
Every day I invite God into my life.
In Rediscover
Catholicism
, Matthew Kelly asks many interesting questions and he presents
many topics for contemplation.  One of
the questions is “What do you live for?” He tells the story of
Abraham Lincoln calling in a soldier and asking the soldier to deliver an
important message.  The soldier tells
Lincoln, “Sir, I would die for our cause.”  Lincoln says, “Son, I have thousands of
men who will die for our cause.  What I
need is one man who will live for it.” 
I love that story.  It made me
question myself.  What do I live for?  Where do I spend my time, talent and
treasure? 

Rediscover
Catholicism
is a
three hundred page book which is distributed for free.  I received it at my church in Cary N.C., St
Michael the Archangel.  I think we were
encouraged to give it to someone who has “fallen away” from the
church but I felt I could use something to reenergize my faith and so I brought
it home and promptly put it on my shelf. 
There it sat for several months along with a whole stack of other
“mean to read” books.  Do you
have any like that? 

One day a fairly
new friend and I were discussing the Church and she began to tell me about
Matthew Kelly and his book, The Dynamic Catholic.  She’s seems more sure of our Church than I
and I was interested in what she had to share and quite taken with her
enthusiasm for this author and his passion. 
I then realized his book was sitting right there with us.  It felt like I was being directed by Spirit,
by God, to read this book.  I began using
it as a prelude to my journaling in the morning, as I like to do with different
reading material.  My intention is to read
something inspirational at night, I have recently been focusing on the New
Testament, and something motivational in the morning.  For the last few weeks, I’ve been reading Rediscover
Catholicism
.

It’s very easy to
focus on the faults of the Catholic Church. 
It’s no different than focusing on the faults of the world, the government,
any organization, friends or family. 
It’s very easy to sink to the level of non constructive criticism.  It’s easier to go to a negative place than to
a positive one and the Church is a magnet for that criticism.  It has had many serious problems as an
organization, devastating behavior that cannot be justified. When I refer to
the Church, I am referring to the hierarchy. 
The patriarchal leaders who determine the philosophy and tenor of
Catholicism. Even with all its blemishes the Catholic faith has provided me with the
tools to help me deepen my faith and to grow in my relationship with God.  Matthew Kelly’s book has helped me, my Small Christian Community
study group, another study group called the Women of Grace and recently a few
new friends.

One of the
concepts presented in the book The Celestine Prophesy by James Redfield
is that there are no coincidences; everything that happens is
“supposed” to happen.  We are
always in exactly the place and time within which we are created to be.  The choice of what we do and how we choose to
perceive the situation, however, at that moment is completely ours.  One  of
my daily prayers is “Come Holy Spirit fill the heart of Your
faithful.  Enkindle in me the fire of
Your love.” It warms my soul to say that prayer.  It truly is the desire of my heart.  I want to live a Christ centered life of love
and forgiveness and service and when I say that prayer and invite God to fill
me with Divine Presence, I feel hopeful. 
“Ask and you shall receive, knock and it will be opened.”  In my quest to unite my will to the will of
God I have been drawn to activities and people who are guiding me, inspiring
me.  I once had a friend who always
seemed to be running into people, even strangers, who needed her help.  I asked her about her propensity towards this
mission and she told me she asked God everyday to send her people she could
help.  It seems so simple, doesn’t it, if
we can just remember to ask?  I’m a great
believer in answered prayer.

My faith is
growing.  My relationship with my God is
becoming stronger.  Thank heavens because
it makes my life richer and more peaceful. 
I find more and more opportunities to learn about my faith and to sink
deeper and deeper into its comfort. 
Looking back on the last year alone, I can see several invitations I’ve
said “yes” to which have led me to a more appreciative attitude
towards Catholicism.  The strongest
influence has been the newer friends who have entered my life and have chosen
to reach out to me and include me in their lives.  It’s been a tremendous joy, an honor and a
privilege to become their friend.  Each
presents their faith in a different but vibrant, loving way and I am inspired
by it.  Recently, one of the women said,
“I love my Church.”  I love my
Church!  It was wonderful to hear someone
say that.  I too am guilty of focusing on
the faults and not the beauty of my faith. 
“I love my Church.”  I’m
not there yet but perhaps with my daily prayer the Holy Spirit will lead me to
fall in love with it too.  I know I’ve
fallen in love with the men and women of my church who are in my life and who
with each encounter lead me into that rich, deep relationship with God I so
desperately desire.