Thursday, April 18, 2019

Not Today




I have this insatiable bad habit of noticing the broken and seeing the damaged, and then immediately my mind and heart begins racing and my brain begins looking for solutions, remedies to heal, to help, and to pull all those broken pieces back together. I’ve always been this way, probably because that’s what I’ve needed most in this world.  But, I’m really working on retraining my heart and my brain to say, “Not today.” 
There are many little quips and memes that I pull from the card catalogue in my brain to help.  One of my recent favorites, probably because I just visited the zoo, is to remind myself, “Not my monkey; not my zoo.”
Why this change of heart?  Because I allowed myself to get lost, becoming stuck in that frame of mind and trying to save everyone around me.  I’m the one that drowned.  I’m the one that ran out of air.  There was no one there to save me. I lost sight of all MY goals being so concerned with everyone else.
Please don’t get me wrong. I STILL care. I STILL worry. I STILL desire to see those I love healed, healthy and happy.  I just came to the realization it’s not in MY power to give that to them.  I can’t save them.  They have to want to save themselves, heal themselves, and be happy with themselves.  JUST LIKE I DO.
That’s what I’m doing.  I’m healing myself. I’m working on getting my body, mind and soul back to a healthy medium.  I am working on MY happiness. I’m not there yet, I’m just beginning, but I am walking in the right direction. Some days I take giant leaps, and other days I curl up in a tight ball and hold myself so tight just to feel arms wrapped around me.  It hurts.  God it hurts. Dealing with failure always hurts.  Being unloved and unwanted by those you loved most ALWAYS hurts. Recovery always includes a mixture of pleasure and pain. 
My good moments now outnumber my bad moments.  I smile more often than I cry. My body is changing, getting stronger, slimmer, and more tanned and toned.  My soul is mending one tiny rip at a time.  I’m being surrounded by light instead of fighting alone in the darkness. My tribe is coming together and lending me strength and courage.  My daughter is my biggest light and inspiration. My friends are beautiful to me. My new friends are water to my soul.
We’ve got ONE life, people, just ONE.  I can’t afford to keep wasting what precious little time I have left in this world on stupid, shallow, vain, and selfish things or people.  I value MY life too much to allow that bullshit to drag me down. I want my life to have value, to have meaning, to not be a waste of space.  I am fiercely guarding my life from the stupid shit and people that don’t give a shit about their own lives and want to drag me down. I am learning to let people solve their own problems. You want to waste your life chasing after a drug instead of love – go for it.  You want to be angry and spend all your time being destructive and blaming the world for your problems, being a manipulative asshole instead of becoming a decent human being – go for it. You want to be a shallow person and tick off your notches by fucking whoever whenever instead of investing in a real relationship – go for it.  You want to hide from the world because it’s too uncomfortable, too inconvenient, or too scary to get out there, to face rejection, to face your fears in order to succeed in life – go for it. Don’t look to me for help anymore, because the only thing I’m going to say is, “Physician, heal thyself,” walk away and then shout to the heavens, “Not today!”

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Hidden and Visible Scars



We are a visual society; no doubt.  We are bombarded every day with visual images that appeal to our desires and even our dislikes.  I’m a part of the ‘we’.  I love pretty things. I love art, nature, the wonder of the universe, the shape of a man, and colorful food makes me hungry.  But beneath, in the making, in the growing, and often in places we can’t see - there is a mixture of hidden and visible scars that led to the beautiful image in front of us. Many of us never notice these scars, because it takes a different kind of eyes to see them.
I was blessed in the aspect that I was raised by a blind man.  I learned before I could I walk to “see” differently. It’s like a native language, and not really something that one can fully learn as an adult with the same degree.  While a new language can be easily obtained, that natural fluidity is something else entirely. I lend this ability to see differently to one of the main foundations in my writing as well.
My eyes are drawn to the hidden and visible scars of the human soul, and it’s often very painful.  The feelings sometimes are so overwhelming I just crumble inside, yet also inspiring that I can’t help but smile. I see people differently, I see beauty and cruelty, I see depth and shallowness, I see love and indifference when I meet a person, especially when I’m simply talking to them face to face. I try to avoid their eyes, because that’s when I see them most clearly. Their scars don’t scare me away, but intrigue me.  Their imperfections I find the most beautiful. 
None of us are perfect.  I think I’m an amazing person.  I would be intrigued by me. I love that woman I see in the mirror, because even though she has accomplished many things, and has an energy that is almost uncontrollable – I see her visible and hidden scars.  I see that small white scar on her left breast where once death dared to attack. I see those huge, long white lines that run down the length of her stomach and remember the years of suffering and freedom that followed. I see the small white scar from the blade that wanted to kill me.  I see the little burn marks and remember that scared little girl that once thought her world would always be filled with darkness. I see the Cesarean and stretch marks that were gained bringing the three most important people into my life – lives that was created within me and that I brought into this world. I also see the scar of the child I never got to hold.  I see the loose skin, the graying hairs, the beginning wrinkles, the cottage-cheese thighs and other signs of getting older.  I see the limp hair and weak teeth due to chemo and vitamin deficiencies.  I see all those things – yet when I look at myself I see a beautiful soul.
Some will never see beyond a pretty face. Many will never able to get passed a fat ass, a broken tooth, flabby skin, or something else very shallow.  We are a visual world.  We want the world to accept us and all our hidden and visible scars, but we are not willing to do the same for others.  We want everyone to understand our pain, our hopes, our dreams, but often unwilling to listen and be a support for someone else’s pain, hopes and dreams. That’s why I love pets.  Pets don’t give a damn how you look – they care about how you treat them. If you love and feed them, you are the most beautiful thing in the world to them.
I know I’m weird, and odd, and definitely not typical – because I’m drawn to the deep.  I’m drawn to what I can feel when I close my eyes, more than what I can see when I have them open. I’m attracted to souls, not faces, not even if they look like Jason Mamoa.  I’m drawn to a presence that allows me to feel safe, to feel free to be myself, to feel unafraid to show my scars. But the world is superficial. It’s one of the reasons I’m often afraid to meet new people. In my experience it doesn’t go so well.  It’s human nature to put our best foot forward and greet the world with a smile.  Because of who I am, the energy I express, how I speak, or how I’m open, or what I’ve accomplished - I am often placed on a pedestal, loved by an ideology that was created in their minds, and desired by an imagination of who they want me to be – and in reality they meet a simple woman riddled with hidden and visible scars.  I am still all they imagined, just their vision changed. The fall hurts, no matter how big or small.  With this vision of mine, I always see it when it happens – and it happens a lot. 
I can’t control how the world sees me, or loves me, or doesn’t.  I love me JUST the way I am.  I am enough. I am beautiful regardless of my imperfections and my scars. I am a good woman. I have a good heart. I can hold my head high because I am filled with integrity. I have been through hell so many times, yet refuse to let it embitter me, or break me, or use it as an excuse to become a mean, cruel, and selfish person.  I’m not perfect, but I possess a perfect love.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

A Proactive Vs a Reactive Life





Regardless of any faith, there are some fundamental truths in the universe that help us succeed as we maneuver through life.  We only get one life (well, unless you believe in reincarnation).  We only get a small measure of time while we occupy some space on this big blue planet. We have to share that space with about 7 billion other people, animals, and other forms of life, but we only have one drop in the bucket of eternity to do something with the life we’ve been given. I’ve already been here forty-seven years and I’ve a learned a few things in my short time.  However, there is still so much to know. I often seek the wisdom of those who’ve come before, as I try to enjoy the present, to leave a legacy for future inhabitants. One of those bits of wisdom …its wiser to set a plan, count the costs, and then work toward a goal to achieve success – be proactive, than it is to live life by the seat of your pants dodging everything life throws at us  - being reactive.
Maybe it’s just because I’m an A-type personality that deceives herself into believing she has somewhat control over her life.  While, I am well aware that LIFE will always throw things at us that we didn’t see, didn’t plan, or happen to us beyond our control, I believe with my whole heart we have complete control over how we respond and allow those surprises or offenses to affect us. I believe in a higher power that I can’t even begin to understand with the limited knowledge and wisdom I possess, but I have faith nonetheless that Power within me and through me also affects me in many ways. But in everything else …my failure or success is ALL within my power, and responsibility of that failure or success lay with me - the buck stops here. Proactive is taking responsibility. Reactive is making excuses.
In my experience, I’ve obtained many, many successes.  None of them were just given to me. None of them came free.  ALL of them costs me time, energy, money, focus, and sacrifice to make them happen.  ALL of them. I was proactive. My failures in life also have a re-occurring trait, they were things I ‘reacted’ to either financially, physically, or emotionally. They were decisions made without planning, thought, or were even contrary to what I knew was right, productive, or beneficial.  They were ignorant decisions made in the heat of the moment, because I desired them, wanted them, or ignored the warning bells to have them.  I was reactive.   

If we build without planning, then plan to build again, and again, and again, following failure, after failure, after failure, reacting to every change in the wind.
Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

First Steps




No matter what struggle or difficulty or achievement or success we find ourselves, whether it’s physical, emotional, or spiritual, we are not stationary in our positions.  ALL life is fluid.  Everything is always moving, changing, and transforming.  Even within our bodies, we are constantly evolving.  Our feelings change. Our ideas change. Our faith changes.  Our knowledge changes. We are born. We live. We die.  In the midst of that journey, based on our understanding and observation we make decisions that effect that life. Some good. Some bad. Some really good and some really bad. Regardless of the state – it won’t remain in that state for long.
Going through a huge heartbreak and recent death, I have felt many times that it’s too much for me, that I can’t even breathe.  The world I imagined, I had hoped for, and I had loved with my whole heart crumbled around me. I saw the destruction coming, I felt the change in the wind, and I noticed the warning signs long before the walls fell. And I fought like hell to stop them, but I was powerless. For me, the reasons why were not good enough to justify the pain. But the pain came anyway. The storm came and blew against the walls, and the house fell. 
All life is fluid.  The storm has passed. Now comes the calm. At times I thought the storm would kill me, and sweep me away with its waves into the abyss, but I survived. I’m standing in the middle of the destruction, but I’m still standing.  Nothing is recognizable around me, except me.  I’m still here. I’m battered, bruised, but I’m standing. My life has changed from what it was, to what it is, and will change again to what it will be …to change even beyond.
I still see the storm raging in the distance.  I still feel the wind blowing. I still see dark clouds hovering, the lightning striking, and the waves beating against the shore. The storm still exists.  It didn’t fade and its winds are still causing destruction, but it’s moved on from me. I’m not part of it anymore.  I can’t save those within it, but I pray they survive. I pray they get out of the storm, but the only way out requires a first step – as with every program and every faith that exists in this world, the road to recovery, to escape, and to freedom is - acceptance.  
The moment I accepted I was powerless to change anything, that I could see the truth of my situation, my life, and my circumstances as they were -  instead of struggling to hold tight to my hope of what had been and what could be, that’s when the storm finally swept me away. We can’t move forward in our life without acceptance.  We can’t change in ANY positive or good way without the acceptance of the truth. We can lie to ourselves and continue to circle the same issues over and over and over and over again – deceiving ourselves into thinking we can change things, or that WE are in control, but that keeps us bound to our destruction, bound to our pain, bound to chains that weigh us down, making us addicts to our own destruction.  Just as an addict or someone involved in destructive behavior will not, nor cannot, change their behavior until they first accept the truth about themselves.  No matter how much we hope for them, plead with them, try to reason with them – they cannot hear ANYTHING until they accept the truth.  Until then, it is a vicious cycle – over and over and over and over and over – some NEVER overcome.  Healing will NEVER come until acceptance. That is the first step.  In faith – acceptance of who we are and that we are not in control of the universe around us, but that there is a higher power – is the first step. 
I took my first step. I accepted. I am surviving.
Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, April 08, 2019

STAND UP




I may not wear a cape, be bullet-proof, or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but I do defend the weak and put myself in harm’s way to protect others, and that includes protecting myself. I stand up for truth. I stand up to bullies. Does it ever cost me? Yes, many, many, many times.  But, I won’t stop because it’s part of a moral code by which I live. (Yes, I’ve been watching a lot of Dexter later and I too have a code and a Dark Passenger – it may not be to kill serial killers (blood makes me nauseous), but it’s called PTSD and is triggered when danger or bullying is present. It’s THE reason I changed my college major from Early Childhood Education to Business. After doing an internship for a local elementary school, I realized I couldn’t be a teacher, which I was really good, because I knew I would end up in jail if I remained in that profession. I’d go home most evening in tears because I had recognized the signs of abuse and neglect, or lack of discipline which is also another form of abuse and neglect. That internship made me realize I had an elevated level of expectation for parents, and while I saw MANY great parents, I also saw the piece-of-shit scumbags who called themselves parents but were no more than spoiled-ass-selfish bullies walking around in the skins of adults. So, I admire teachers today that are able to handle that knowledge and not allow it to affect them. They are one of my greatest superheroes.

Yes, I’m judgmental.  I don’t care about your faith, your sexual orientation, your skin-color, your genetics, your linage, your social status, your education level, your achievements, your bank balance, or anything you own or don’t own. That’s your business, and I love and care for you as a human being.  BUT, as a human being, I do mind how you treat others and the world in which we all live. Parents – I hold the most judgement and expectations. Parents have the responsibility to care, protect, and TEACH their children what is right.  It is human nature to be selfish and destructive.  Yet, our main responsibility as a parent isn’t just to provide food, clothing and shelter.  Those are the least of our responsibilities. It is to teach our children to think beyond themselves, to be kind, to be compassionate, and to become a productive member of the society in which we all live. It is our responsibility to teach them to be responsible, thoughtful, and self-sufficient. These things can’t be taught by words alone, but by example. Look around, people.  We are FAILING as parents.  We have an influx of disrespectful, unfocused, entitled, non-driven, irresponsible cry-baby bullies entering into adulthood. They are handicapped and their path to success is greatly diminished because they don’t possess the basic skills to reach success, and they blame the world for their failure. Those skills were never honed and developed in their formative years due to coddling and excuses and laziness.  We have a society of enablers and addicts, and I’m not just talking about drugs.  We have an epidemic of emotional and psychological diseases and the biggest is called “excuses”. And how do we help the helpless?  How do you set boundaries and expectations in preparations for a harsh world?  The world is HARD.  The world is SELFISH.  The world doesn’t give a shit what you’ve been through or how you feel.  To succeed in this world, you have to WANT to succeed and then FIGHT for it.  How the hell can we expect a society of crybabies to fight for anything when they have no respect for themselves, for the world around them, or the parents that raised them?  That respect isn’t going to just magically appear.  No, they will be spoiled, disrespectful bratty adults as they enter the work force.  They are and will remain bullies.  You don’t have to be a bigger kid picking on a smaller kid to be a bully.  You just have to be mean, manipulative, and selfish and cause hardship to someone else by abuse of power or position or manipulation. These same childish bullies remain the same disrespectful bullies as adults in the workplace and society. Believe me, they don’t see themselves as bullies. Bullying doesn’t just happen on the playground; it happens in the workplace, at the club, at the gym, on the streets, etc. There are parents bullied by their disrespectful children. There are teachers bullied by their undisciplined students. There are employees bullied by bad employers. Bullying has no preference, it’s an equal opportunity offender.

I’m not a big girl. I may have a big ass, but I’m not physically intimidating by any means.  But, let me see bullying, and meanness, and manipulation, and gossip, and my dark passenger comes active in a protective way.  I’m considered a bitch because I speak my mind and I speak the truth, especially in the shadows of manipulation. It often costs me, because most people are afraid to speak the truth, because they’re afraid to face the costs.  The costs are NEVER fair.

I believe with my whole heart - that IN truth darkness can’t dwell, and prosper, and be successful.  Abuse ALWAYS happens behind closed doors, in secret whispers, and on the flapping lips and itching ears of Gossips. It spreads like an infectious disease among the weak and small-minded. Want to recognize a bully? Be quiet and listen – because they often speak the loudest, and the longest, and they move like a tumbleweed blowing whichever way the wind takes them.  They feel emboldened and justified by their decisions and behaviors and have that constant need to be acknowledged, receive that pat on the back for all their accomplishments, even those not of their own making, yet taking credit for all the work. They don’t like to be questioned.  Confidence doesn’t mind questions, but Insecurity deems them a threat.

So, I stand up to bullies. I speak for the weak.  I speak for truth, even if it hurts.  Truth is the only thing that sets us free.  So, again – I may not wear a cape – but I stand up.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Friday, April 05, 2019

I Remember You




I’m the type of person that gives all herself to whatever she sets her heart upon. When I love, I love with everything within me. When I make a decision, I throw all my heart, soul, and energy into the task I’ve accepted.  If I’ve accepted the task, believe me when I tell you this over-thinker has already thought about every conclusion, every outcome, every risk, and every possibility – and yet I chose.  The Word tells us to consider the cost of something before we set our hands to it. Before we build something, know the plans, know the cost, and know the materials and foundation that will be required to complete the task.  Don’t make plans just to start a task, be determined and make the plans to finish it.  While it’s a ‘nice’ philosophy to live by the seat of your pants and make responsive choices as needs and wants arrive, it’s irresponsible and in the long run costs many times more than what was ever needed or required.  It’s a thief – come to steal any progress or profit.  It leads to destruction because the foundation wasn’t solid, the materials weren’t right, shortcuts were made, and essential lode-bearing beams were never placed properly. I believe my previous world crumbled because of this practice.  My foundation was set on hopes and dreams.  My choices were reactive to emotion and need.  I knew better. No one is blame but myself. I knew better and I chose anyway.

In the middle of this current phase of my life, I’m again beginning to recognize myself.  I’m beginning to see that diligent, hard-working, responsible, frugal, driven, goal-oriented, organized, over-thinking, button-downed, cost-counting, careful, blessed, planning, creative artist that I once was, that I worked hard to develop, and that I fought hard to shape.  I see her plain and clear.  I’ve missed her. I whispered to her in the mirror last night, “I remember you.”

I do not regret my past choices – to love and give everything to the family I chose.  I do not regret the choices I made - because they were my choices. I own my choices, my mistakes, and my failures. I wasn’t forced into making those choices, I wasn’t deceived, and I wasn’t manipulated. I didn’t make a choice because of sympathy or need. I simply loved – and I chose love. That choice came with a high cost - and I paid it, I’m paying it now with every tear, every moment I miss them, and every moment I miss not being with them as our lives go separate ways.  But, I’ve also gained, or more accurately re-gained something just as precious – me. 

I’m building a new life now, and believe me – I’m counting every cost.  Every step I make I take into consideration – everything.  I’m not meant to build something small in this world.  I knew that at a very early age.  I’m meant for greatness.  I’m meant to build something spectacular.  I’m not an average person. I never was, and I never will be. I’ve tried to be average. I’ve tried to be what the world or people I loved wanted or needed me to be, but I’m not meant to be any of those things.  I am created for a greater purpose. I don’t know what that is, but I do know the kind of person I need to be in order to step into that role. She’s been baptized in fire. She’s been shaped and molded in flame.  She’s been kindled in water.  She’s been sculpted by the hands of the Maker of the Universe. I remember her.  He whispers, “I remember you, too.”

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Thursday, April 04, 2019

What Do I Want?


Being single, I get asked the question of what I want, ALL the time now. My answer changes depending on my mood, my experiences of that day, or my expectations at that moment.  Right now, I would like my cable company to answer the damned phone, not put me on hold for nearly an hour, fix their website and stop the bullshit.  Will that happen?  It better happen soon or else I will be taking a long lunch to return all my equipment to their local office and giving them a stern rebuke for their shitty online and phone service.  So, see …depending on the question, the circumstances, and the content – my answer will change. 

I know the question isn’t aimed at what I want for my cable service, but what I want in life, in love, and in my future relationships. But, honestly … how can I answer that question?  When I was five, I wanted to be safe and free of violence.  Well, that didn’t happen until I left home as a teenager.  When I was fifteen, I thought I wanted Herbie Shiflett. Well, I got Herbie, then I got cheated on and my heart broken for the first time. At twenty-one I found a determined and deep love from a loving soldier that promised me a loving future.  Well, that dream was taken away in an instant by a Somalian bullet. At twenty-three I wanted security, kindness, stability and that picket-fence dream for my family. Well, I got it, don’t regret it, but it came at the high cost of no passion or romance. At thirty-nine, I thought I wanted to find a deep love and soul mate. Well, I got that and the devastating heartache that followed when that deep love wasn’t returned.  So, what do I want next? I’m forty-seven, and while I try to think about the positive and exciting things that could possibly be waiting for me around the corner, I can’t help but wonder what horrible pain is waiting to follow.

All I’ve ever really wanted was to be loved and wanted for who I am, just like I am, to be someone’s partner, best friend, lover … balance. I want to belong somewhere and to someone. I want to be accepted and appreciated for who I am, not who they need or want me to be.  So, how does someone go about finding that in a superficial world? I guess what I really want is faith, and hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray
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