Sunday, February 27, 2011

One Writer's Search For Meaning

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.~Viktor E. Frankl


All weekend I've been sick, nursing a cold/sinus infection. I've been pretty miserable, but trying to "will myself better" so I can go to work tomorrow. I've allowed myself to be sick, and to take care of myself, to sleep and drink a lot of tea (lemon/ginseng and orange/jasmine tea with hot water and honey), broth, and watch what I want on television (mostly Netflix) and just laze around.

This is not my normal state of being, I assure you. What brought my sickness about is a run down immune system caused by stress and worry. Stress of mind, body and spirit. Worries that haven't manifested or may never manifest, but they still keep running through my head. I keep running on the hamster wheel, going nowhere, not allowing myself time to think, time to sleep, or time to just BE. It finally caught up with me.

As you all know, I dream of being a published writer, someday.

I write here on my blog and tell all my little stories and adventures thinking someone out there must be reading it, even if it's only a handful of my family and friends. I used to wrote articles for the local newspaper, and I'm re-writing and editing a few novels I have written and finished, thanks to National Novel Writing Month in the past, but I never seem to get any further than that. The writing gets pushed back, or I get distracted with something else, or I find some excuse not to finish what I started.

Why? What is the point of writing if you are not going to share it with the world? Why keep doing it? Why not just publish something, ANYTHING, and get it over with? What's the obstacle that keeps me from finishing my so-called dream?

Fear. Fear of success. Fear of failure. Fear that I will change and that everything will change (which is really silly, because EVERYTHING changes. Nothing is stagnant forever). Well, that is part of it. Mostly, I feel that without becoming a writer, my purpose, my life, is really meaningless. Without the actual act of writing, even for a blog, or a journal, or even a letter or a thank-you card, I feel I am not fulfilling my life's purpose. Everyone keeps asking me when the book is going to get published, when I'm going to have it in their hands and available to buy. I always say, "I'm working on it. I'm editing it. Soon. Soon." But then "soon" never comes. I am not only lying to them, but I am lying to myself. That's wrong. Not fair to them and not fair to me either. I didn't really understand why I was doing this, and how to move beyond it to the place I really want to be. I keep sabotaging myself. 

This weekend I did some reading. I ordered a book I've been wanting to read for a very long time. Since I was sick this weekend, I finally gave myself the time to read it. The book is called, "Man's Search For Meaning," by Dr. Viktor Frankl. If you have not read it yet, please, get this book by any means necessary and read it. If you have children, especially teenagers, give it to them and have them read it. It's that important.

In this book, Dr. Frankl describes in detail his life as a prisoner in four concentration camps including Auschwitz. You would think the subject matter would be depressing, and sometimes it is sad, and I did cry in some parts and at the end, but it is also full of hope and inspiration.

He tells how he and his fellow prisoners could see when someone had lost hope, the signs of their soon to be demise, their inability to get dressed, to even go to work, even if under threat of a beating by the SS guards, how they would just sit, literally in their own juices, smoking their last cigarette, until they died.

It is very dangerous, and deadly, to lose hope, to believe that there is no meaning to your life, when you are faced with such unavoidable circumstances such as unemployment, prison, or death. He details how you can survive the three most horrible things: pain, guilt and death and do them with dignity. That if a man has meaning in his life, something or someone to live for, he can survive anything. And even if it is not possible for him to survive, he can hold his head up high and stand up with honor, while facing death or disease.

This is a man, who lost his whole family: his elderly parents, his young and pregnant wife, his brother, and came back to Vienna to help those after the war, and also in the process, helped himself. He wrote this book in 9 days.

That's not a typo. Nine (9) days. And he went on to marry, have children and continue his work until he died in his 90's in 1997.

But most importantly, he found a way to live, to love and to work to help others. He was able to put that nightmare behind him, find the beauty and humor in that experience and go on to be a joyful, grateful human being, with meaning in his life and his life's work. So many times, the odds were against him surviving, and yet, he made it, because of his attitude toward his situation. He was able to see, even in that horrible place, the beauty of the mountains, the trees, the flowers, the sunsets, and the spirits in his fellow inmates.

Most of what is stressing me out is real: the threat of unemployment again (I keep having bad dreams of it happening again), of not being able to provide for my family, of failing again at my writing, at not measuring up to my expectations or the expectations of those I care about (mostly my expectations are almost impossible to achieve), being good at everything and when I'm not, beating myself up for it, blah, blah, blah.

Now, after reading this book, I ask myself. What is there to fear? If this man could go through losing everything and becoming just "a number", as he describes it, and then write something touching millions of readers and helping them out of the abyss of their despair, and it continues to inspire teachers, therapists, and writers, then isn't it the purpose of every write to touch the life of one person with their words and their work, and leave a legacy behind that will be as true today as it was when it was written? Isn't that why we all write?

We surely write for ourselves on one level, even if it is just to calm the voices and the storms in our heads and get the words on the screen or on the page. But ultimately, we write for the reader, hoping on some level, we are able to help them escape, or laugh or cry or be touched or excited, even for just a little while. And to inspire future writers to take up the pen, or hit those keys.

A blog will disappear with the stroke of a key. And while I really enjoy writing this blog, that is not what I want. I want a legacy. I want a permanent legacy. I want a real, hold in your hands book with my name on it. I want someone to say, as I did tonight as I closed the last page of Dr. Frankl's book, "Thank you for writing this. Thank you. It's what I really needed right now."

I'm feeling much better.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Everybody Is God's Somebody

When I get home from work each night, I have a typical routine. I take a shower, grab a little snack and settle in to email on the computer or watch some television. I sometimes stay up late enough to watch a replay of "Oprah." I watched it last night and was inspired by a set of twins, Helen and Ellen, who are in their eighties and serve food to the community in a small place called "The Love Kitchen" in Knoxville, Tennessee. There was also a younger woman by the name of Dani Johnson, a millionaire, who did work in The Love Kitchen for a show called "Secret Millionaire."

Dani Johnson was no stranger to struggle or striving. She was abused and neglected by her parents, and at the age of seventeen, she became pregnant. By the time she was twenty-one years old, she was homeless. In a little over 2 years, with only a pay phone and the trunk of her car, she began selling health products and was soon a millionaire. She is now happily married for 19 years and has five children. As part of the show, she was supposed to live on $40 per week.

$40 dollars per week. 

She said on the show that it was actually too much money. She said for one person, she was able to keep money in her wallet and survive and thrive on that amount of money. She said even now, as a millionaire, she and her family have a budget of $100 per week. That might explain why she is a millionaire! 

As she was living this way, for about a month (I'm not completely sure, I haven't watched the show), she was to find people in the same situation she was in, who would inspire others. And in the twin sisters, Ellen and Helen, she most certainly found inspiration.

Their motto, taught to them by their father, is "Everybody is God's Somebody."

He also said, "There is no race. Only the Human Race," and told them to "never eat the last piece of bread off the table because someone might be hungry and come looking for it."

I got a great kick out of watching these ladies, and they said they would never slow down. "Lord, if you come to take me, take me on my feet."

I am happy to say that they received a check from Dani Johnson on the show for $20,000 and Oprah contacted Kroger's and they donated a year's worth of food to The Love Kitchen, which will feed the thousands they feed every week and then some. I'm sure because of the show they will reap even more than they have sown, and I am happy for them and the community that needs it so desperately.

I know there are more people like Dani, Helen and Ellen in this world, and I thank them for the work they do. Blessings to them all and the people they serve.

To learn more about The Love Kitchen, go here, or you can find them on Facebook.

And for more on Dani Johnson, visit here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

I got home from work on Friday night and found these sitting on my table. I have the sweetest man in the whole world. He warms my heart everyday, and it's not because he brings me flowers. He does it by making me laugh, going to work everyday, doing the dishes, the laundry, shoveling and plowing the driveway, and by just snuggling with me on the couch. He doesn't have to do anything at all, but he does lots of things for me that help me out everyday. I am so grateful to have a man who loves me for who I am, warts and all, and who makes me feel like I'm the most important person in the world, even if I don't think that way about myself. He encourages me to live my dreams, to be the person I want to be not the person everyone expects me to be. He's the love of my life and I love every minute I am with him and when I'm not, I'm counting the minutes until I can be with him again. Thank you for all you do for me, honey, and know how much I love you on this Valentine's Day, and everyday.

And Happy Valentine's Day to everyone else out there. I wish for you all, a love as great as mine. :)

Sunday, February 06, 2011

February: Curse or Blessing?

February is a strange month for me. If anything significant is going to happen to me in my life, it usually happens in the month of February.

I have no idea why the shortest month of the year is usually the most turbulent for me. I don't know if it has anything to do with my astrological sign (Gemini) or how the planets are aligned in any particular way for me or if it just is that shit happens to me a lot in the month of February. It has been both a blessing and a curse for me.

Ironically, the curses have a way of turning into blessings.
Many years ago, my parents separated in the month of February. The blessings were, we all ended up in Minnesota where we were all able to start over and have a great life together and on our own.

I found out I was pregnant with my son, Alex, on Valentine's Day, almost two weeks after I broke up with his Dad in 1989. This turned out to be a blessing for many reasons, but at the time, I was scared to death and didn't know what to do. Alex was born on May 5, 1989.

My mother found out she had breast cancer and she had a masectomy in February of 2000. Good news is, she has been cancer free since then and has not had to have any further treatment.

This year has been kind of quiet, so I'm curious to see what happens. And I'm anxious to see what I will learn from the shortest month of the year.