Gratitude and Holiday Choices

Our kitchen sink water pressure stopped working. Barely a trickle. Hot water became hard-won and cleaning dishes took on a whole new level of groaning. A few days in, I was irritated with it.

But then I thought, you know, I’m lucky to have water at all. Or a sink, for that matter. Running water that can heat up, a refrigerator to keep my food, an oven to cook with ease, a heater, and air conditioner to keep me comfortable.

I stopped being irritated by the leaking water pressure level.

I started being grateful.

 

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I am not saying we should minimize the small pains in our lives (talking of real issues here now, not low water pressure).

A bit of perspective is all I’m asking here. Of myself. And if you want to join in, you too.

We are so blessed.

We have so much in this country. There are many things to complain about. But this holiday season, can we please, please, look at some of the great things we have?

 Focus on what to be grateful for. We have many of those. Even in times of pain and suffering.

 

I tend to complain about what I don’t have. What isn’t working. I’ve lived in loads of places where jerry-rigging the mickey out of a problem is what you do. At first, I was annoyed. After a while, I became aware of how ridiculous I was being. I don’t get upset easily anymore and when I do, I remember a lot quicker to take stock of things as they truly are.

 

I remember.

There are children in hospital beds for the holidays, eating out of a tube. Some with cancer that can’t eat at all. Puking everything up. With no friends. Alone and in pain, much more pain than I’ve ever experienced.

There are men and women whose bodies won’t work the way they’re supposed to. So instead, they spend their days and nights in hospital beds or back bedrooms with nowhere to go and not much to do with their lives. There are people, able-bodied and strong, without a smidge of love in their lives. Struggling to make money enough to buy dinner.

There are people who don’t have access to food. Or clean water. At all.

I’m not trying to hit your shame, guilt, or uber depressing buttons. Rather, trying to put this world into a big picture for myself.

I challenge you to do the same. Put your world into perspective. Seek out a joy in your life instead of focusing on your downfalls or afflictions.

 

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This holiday season, I will remember that I am blessed. I will not belittle my real issues and pains in life. But I will always, always remember that I am so very blessed.

I will say a silent prayer, send a hopeful thought into the universe, that those suffering will feel loved by another. They will get what they need without harm to themselves or others.

I pray that you are surrounded by love and can easily see the greatness in yourself and your life.

If you are not the praying type, that’s all good. There are many kinds of prayers. You do your thing. But we could all use a little goodwill toward mankind, don’t you think?

We can use a little nudge, a little reminder.

That hey, I have a home. A family. People who genuinely love and care about me. People who I love and genuinely care about. I have hopes and dreams and goals. I have food and water and clothes and ways of getting everything I need with ease. I am blessed. I have excess.

 

I choose to look at the silver lining. The hidden blessing. The positive side. I am an optimist, even when life has me sobbing or enraged.

I will never give up on believing that there is goodness in this world and in this life. I hope you don’t either. You are worth it. I am worth it.

We can find ways to healthily cope with the pains in our lives. We can find ways to smash the darkness with mini holiday twinkle lights and light it up until the darkness is dizzy with wonder and a little fright. Or personal demons don’t get to dictate that we must live as scared little children, hiding under our beds. They live within us. That gives us the power to feed or destroy them.

 

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Instead of focusing on our tedious tasks and oh so annoying bumps in the road, instead of focusing on the pain in our lives.

Just for today. Just for this moment.

Let’s look at the beauty, soak it in. Breathe in the joys and little wins and laughs and smiles and happy accidents, until we’re so full that the misery can’t touch us.

The gigging toddler. The panting happy dog that wants nothing more than to play with you and love you. A knock at the door. Letter in the mail. Hug from a friend. Call from a long-lost relative found anew. A bright sky. Relaxing, rainy nights.

Let’s stand in awe at the wondrous magnitude of beauty, of brilliance this world has to offer.

None of us are perfect. None of us have realized every desire or dream. But we’re worth striving, becoming, learning, and most of all, enjoying.

Enjoy this life. It’s uniquely yours, for better or for worse. And most of the time, you can choose for it to be better.

Let’s find that naïve, childlike wonder inside each of us. Feed it. Keep it alive. Don’t starve the innocence within yourself. Deal with the reality of the dark days and nights but don’t be consumed by them. Allow the light of this season to push back any darkness encroaching on your rightly deserved life.

This season isn’t about presents or price tags, winning holiday dinner competitions or playing one-upsmanship around the table. It isn’t having the brightest lawn of decorations or the biggest number of shiny boxes and bows under the tree.

It isn’t about my leaky sink. It’s about the ease with which I could get help and the fact that I have water, regardless.

It isn’t about the confusion over Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, or Kwanzaa.

It isn’t about the tree or the candles or the wish lists.

This season is about peace, hope, and love. Forgiveness and new beginnings. And while these things may sound corny or trite, they are no less honest, important, and needed.

Let’s focus on what is right in this world. The best in ourselves and others. The hope for better, for healthier, for more joyful lives, financial situations, and relationships.

What we focus on is what we’ll attract, accumulate, and become.

This holiday season let’s choose to become a little kinder, more hopeful, a lot more grateful, attain a healthier perspective. Let us remember that inner peace isn’t something that comes out of a cereal box or shines up children movies alone.

I wish you harmony and peace this holiday season, within yourself and your life. It’s possible. Depends on our choices.

 

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Hope in the Dark

I’d been having a few really hard weeks in a row. Things that a person can’t control kept stacking up on me. I’d work real hard to better myself but health issues would wipe away any signs of visible progress. I was hurting.

Hadn’t given up. But I was struggling. To keep positive. To keep my head above water. To feel like there was a purpose to my striving to become better, healthier. To connect with why I was fighting, why I kept pushing and trying and trying when nothing good came of it.

Feeling like a burden. Like because I was so unhealthy and sensitive that I was useless and a negative draw on those I loved, even when I was honestly positive and trying to help them.

 

Then I get this random message.

 

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From a woman who has fought injustices and misery to an extent that I just sit in awe of her. She is so strong. A warrior who carries a smile and a frighteningly magickal voice. So wise beyond her years and so, so youthful beyond her trials. She has always been so raw and vulnerable, so gorgeously honest and real and brave. Uplifting.

She has every right to be all kinds of bitter.

But she’s not. Instead, she shares her story with others. She lifts those around her.

A rare person indeed.

A person who sees other people. Truly sees them.

 

She messages me and asks if I’d like something she’s created.

In my fumbling, messy way, I try to explain how honored I am. Though a little sad that I can’t buy it to support her.

You see…

This woman is a creator. Most creators struggle to make money from their art. Especially since artists are shamed for selling their products for *gasp* money. As if we don’t owe creators for bettering our lives.

So when I find someone I like, I don’t care if they’re living on a mountain in a castle made of gold. I want to spend my money on them. Give them a review. Share their awesome creations.

This woman is asking if I’d like her product, for Christmas.

 

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I kinda just broke a little, you know?

But in a good way. A fantastic way. A marvelous, needed, healthy, wakeful way.

In the way that you wake up and realize you’re sleeping walking through a muddy, dirty, and deepening pit when there’s an escalator not a foot away. Clean and free and ready for use. All you have to do is clean up.

I broke in the way that happy tears flow and my heart and head both agree. They remember joyful emotions and hugs and smiles and memories and future hopes and dreams. They remembered strength.

The strength of soft flowers in a storm. Of small infants in a world of noise. Of baby deer, struggling joyfully to their feet for the first time. The strength of love that isn’t cheapened with lies or half measures or abandonment.

When your heart and head agree, you know all will be alright. And it probably already is.

 

I am so grateful for this woman. I celebrate this woman.

This season isn’t about gifts or cards or price tags. It isn’t about trees or candles or decorations.

This season is about hope. Love. Rebirth. Harmony.

It is about remembering to live with joy and purpose and the strength of vulnerability.

This woman is also a dinosaur. You might know of her. If you do, you already know she’s all of those things and more than I could ever put into words.

 

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We need people like this. To shake us awake.

This season can be so painful. Stressful. Unhappy.

When it was created for just the opposite of things. The little moments where love can soothe all the broken and hurting things in and around us. Where hope can bridge the gap between differences. Where truth isn’t about facts or what we can prove, but what we feel and know in our heart and mind and soul.

This season is so much more. We deserve so much more.

The love poured into my life when I’m dangling by a thread always makes me want to do better, be better. Become worthy of the kindness absorbed into my skin by those willing to share what this world so easily burns at the stake.

 

We need each other.

We can better this world. Even if it’s only for one person.

Be someone’s reminder. Be someone’s hope. Bring joy to someone. It doesn’t have to be a big huge ordeal. The little things. The little things can mean so much more than we realize. They can open heart. Or grow scar tissue over broken hearts, leaving inside a spark of something to be wished for. The little things are rarely ever, little.

Accept the same from another.

 

Thank you, Ra.

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Never a Dragon, a Lotus, a Hero

 

To watch someone you love, suffer

That is the worst pain

To have ever known.

 

I have lived through abuses of every kind.

Horrors little children should never know

Memories I’d sell for bubble gum houses

and storybook bedtimes.

Pain that sears through my heart and mind,

Memories in my muscles I cry for

Physical scars,

Emotional scars,

Scar tissue growing stronger

and stronger.

 

But watching someone I love…

These tears hurt worse, somehow.

Somehow they burn

and twist

Until I can hardly breathe

And I loathe watching you go

Knowing you need help

But not knowing how

or what I can do.

 

I know you are strong.

I know you are the

bravest soul I’ve met

I know you can slay your own Princes

and befriend the Dragons lurking

deep inside and all around.

I know you don’t need me

for these things.

But I wish.

 

I wish I could keep the pain from you

I wish I could swipe it away with my tears

or my arms or my words

I wish I could absorb everything

and make life,

fair.

For you.

 

All I can do is hurt with you

Try to help

Understand

Be a shoulder, an ear.

Lend a hand.

But I know I cannot brandish your sword

for you

Not that you need me to.

Not that you aren’t stronger than me anyway.

 

I still wish.

It still hurts worse, somehow.

And yet, I know.

 

I know my scars

Brighten my lips when I know joy,

More brilliantly than if my skin was smooth,

Memory free.

Peace is only found when I

know it is so slippery a prize

after it was ripped away

and I stole it back, one drop of blood

at a time, one struggle at a time.

But I know peace, is the point.

I know joy.

I feel it until I am bursting.

 

I see so many others

sleepwalking.

That’s what pain does

shakes you up

awakens you to your awful state

state of misery or confusion

state of contentedness or settling.

Once awake I knew how to fight

even though I didn’t.

The pain ended up helping me

in a sick sort of way.

It showed me how to fight.

How to stand.

 

I know the horrors of my past

and they know me.

We laugh in the face of the horrors

Climbing through my windows,

Edging into my room

at night, trying to frighten me

with their newness and unknown.

I laugh because this scar tissue

Sees them for what they are.

They are whispers in the dark

Compared to the hideous trumpeting

of my past, my forever scarred words,

lashing into my skin with the blade of no knife.

These new nightmares are cotton candy

and daydreams I spot in the clouds

Compared to the devilish landscapes

lurking in my then.

I know that all that I have suffered

All I have hurt

It lost.

To me.

Without these villains

I never would have

Become.

 

And I know

Your tears will spill and leave.

Your fears will charge and back down.

Playing chicken with you will not work.

I know you will grow scar tissue of your own,

Small battles counting down the time

until they help you slay your next villain.

You will shout in silence

Sob into your pillow

Scream at every smothering glance.

You will find the words to stand your ground

Disperse the hordes that challenge your might.

 

Yes, you will hurt.

And I will hate every moment of it.

I will help you however I can.

I will stand witness to all the snares and wounds

failures and confusion.

I will hurt with you. I promise.

But I know.

You will win, too.

I know you don’t need me to fight these battles

for you

But I will always, always

be here with you.

I will gladly accept these lashings

if it means to stand by your side

As you suffer into Becoming.

 

I still wish you didn’t have to suffer.

It still hurts worse, somehow.

Worse than anything I can remember

suffering inside my own skin.

And yet, I know.

There was never a dragon, never a lotus, never a hero

without suffering to overcome.

 

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by Daphne Shadows

Happy Birthday to a Dead Man

I deleted an email once.

I regret it now.

Now that I think about it, there were two emails that I wish I would have saved.

One of them tied me to him, and both of us to family who came before. Funny how that never seemed important to me. I grew up in an abusive home. Love wasn’t something I associated with family. Consequently, family history was NOT something I understood.

An urge to connect with family before my family …. why was that a good idea? Simply leads to more souls born into families who broke and brainwashed them so that they could then go on to do the same to their children, and so on and so on.

But now I find I’m simply curious. I found a photo of his mother. And I wondered… Who was she? What was she like? Was she tough love or sweet, strict or a secret grinner? Did she like to ride horses? To sing? How did she treat him? What did he think of her?

I guess I won’t find out until I too, am dead and gone from this probationary life.

If I had kept that email…

He sent photos of relatives. People who tied him to people. So they tied to me too.

Curious now. I don’t really know exactly what I feel or what I think entirely. Simply curious.

 

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“Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn.”

C. S. Lewis

 

The second email tied his compassion for me to my spine. Forever wrapping me in the certainty that what was important to me, was important to him.

It was a list.

One I wish I had now.

Nothing huge. But important to me.

You see, Papa was great at psychology. He sent me a list of all the best to read if I was interested in psychology. I was. But I didn’t have eyes to see or ears to hear. I had no heart to feel with, to live with. I was slowly shutting down. Done with living inside a porcelain suit.

Here I am now, regretting that deletion. I am interested in it again. Want to breathe life into the marrow I carry.

I’m left remembering a list in an email that I can never get back.

 

Grief is funny like that.

The things we remember.

I wanted to make an upside down pineapple cake. It was his favorite. Today is the first birthday of his where he is there and I am here. On two different sides of the veil. I don’t have the money though. Perhaps Christmas then. Or Thanksgiving. Yeah. I think that’s a better idea anyway. I’d prefer to eat it on a happier day. One where we can celebrate.

Not that his life isn’t worth celebrating. But it’s the first birthday where he isn’t here, you know? There’s too much grief still. It seems to creep over the good memories and tint them in something grey and

 

He was a great cook. Was a professional chef for a while.

He would have had the best recipe. Would’ve known to teach me the best way to cook it.

Why didn’t I ask him?

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Happy birthday Papa. 83 years today.

I will see you again. You’re in trouble then. Stuck teaching me all your cooking and psychology tips.

See you then.

 

“I think about her everyday. It does get better, Hotch. Losing someone is never easy… but one day, you’ll remember her and you won’t hurt.”

Jennifer Jareau from Criminal Minds

Hi, My Toe Tag Says Daphne

 

When there is nothing to separate the night from the day

No borders in the ether

No fences about our cells

No boundaries for our skin

 

We are lost

No sun

No moon

Yes

No

They disappear

Only void

Emptiness

 

Everything the same

Words without meaning

Form without shape

 

When we only know the lack of walls

The terror of free falling

We don’t even wonder

Are those lipstick marks or bruises?

 

There is no distinction

Only blind attempts

Empty phrases

Hollow veins

 

We don’t realize

We are all in the morgue

Shuffling about

In dull hospital gowns

Bare feet and teeth unbrushed

Pretending to have a pulse

 

 

by Daphne Shadows

The Hollow Hearted Society

Weakness is masquerading as strength, walking among us with flashy muscles and a hollow heart.

What’s worse, is it rubs our noses in it.

What’s worse,

is some stay silent.

 

 

Weakness has slithered into our

Subconscious and rewired our sight

It has ripped from the corpses

Of its victims

And fashioned a strong looking Giant

It whispers

And we don’t turn away

We listen

We don’t fight back.

Is that why some join in?

For the lack of having to care

Exerting energy, compassion

The possibility of vulnerabilty

is it really

that terrifying

the a person would prefer

to burn another alive

so they never

have to learn what

a paper cut feels like?

 

Those who cry from the loss of a loved one

Or a life they thought was real

But found to be lies stitched together by the soul of one who

Pretends to have no heartbeat

-Them

They are eaten alive

By this instant gratifying, short lived pleasure dripping mask

This charade

That somehow

They are weak.

 

We are told the ones who are weak

Are those who fall down

More than once

And sometimes don’t tell

A soul

That theirs is slowly breaking down

And they don’t know what to do

 

We are told the weak ones

Are those who

Wake every day

With the knowledge

That their demons are still

Inside their blood, their skull,

In the marrow of their bones

And they have to fight them off

Again

and Again

And Evermore

Or cede one moment and

Never return to breathe

 

Those who feel

I mean Really Feel

And live like it all matters

Those who find life

Sacred

Worth fight for

Worth spilling would-be murderous blood

Worth dying for

Those who hurt

When another hurts

When a human is ripped away

From another soul

When a dog is

Tortured

A cat set on fire behind that building

Those who sob at home

When they see the pain

On the children’s faces

On tv

Those who ache

Because they can do nothing

For their love

Wrongly Accused

Wrongly Hated

Wrongly Treated

Battered and broken and treated

Like so much trash

Those who want life

But don’t know how to fight

 

 

Those who cry

Who hurt

Rage in their heart

Wish for some

Magical power

To make it all better

 

We are told that these people are the weak ones.

 

That the people who

Shoot for fun

Who hurt because they can

Rape like its a rite of passage

Lie to get what they want

Pretend they feel nothing

When inside

They are bleeding from every cell

That feeds into their

Battered heart

Hardly beating within a hollow

Cage made of bones and paper scraps

The people who give up on

Those who aren’t strong “like them”

The people who ressent those who

Hurt

Who can’t get back up right away

Like they pretend to

Who have to fight the same battle every day

Like they don’t bother to

Who keep getting hit with the same car

In their living room

Where there are no streets

No reason for someone

To drive through their home

And attack

Because they think it is fun

Because it feels good to hurt another

Because they no longer truly feel

Anything

But blood lust

And arrogance

An urge to strike

To force down

To hold mouths shut

and remove another’s power

 

We are told that these people are the strong ones.

Because they pretend they don’t feel

Until they don’t

Because they take what they want

By erasing another’s life

 

We are told that the people who are weak

Are the ones

Asking for help.

What scares me most, is when we believe their lies.

When we don’t stand up

We don’t cry

For people to see

We don’t step up to and beside those

Who have echoed what we know is truth

And speak truth with them

Even thought it is terror in our blood

And our bodies shake

And our hearts pound

But that’s the difference

We let the fear flow through us

as we stand for what we know

is hard

but right

What scares me is when

We don’t grab the hand

Of those who can’t find the words

Or the sense or the hope

And are seeking an anchor

A lighthouse

In another soul

So theirs doesn’t

Burn out

 

Like Gandhi once said,

“A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.”

 

We are all strong and we are all weak. Simply in different places and at different times.

To pretend apathy, hate, the cold heart… is strong, is to end any chance we have at a life worth living. At a world we can attempt to call humane. To pretend we are not who we are, is to put the gun in our own mouths, pull the trigger, and keep walking around, like we are somehow real.

 

Wretched

I wish

Truth

Wasn’t such an allergen.

 

That people didn’t shy from honesty

Like a flame edged sword.

 

I wish

Love

Was given in equal measure.

 

Not plucked from one

And doted on the favorite.

 

I wish

I wasn’t smiling

While my heart

My whole being

Cries

 

The most

Sorrowful

Sobs

Of loneliness

 

Of absolute

Mystified

Bewilderment

 

At how so much

Hate

Is slipped between

Our love

Like so much unimportance

 

We are killing each other

One apathetic gesture at a time.

 

I pray for something

More

Something

Real

 

And hope

With teeth clenched

Eyes squeezed shut

Hands of my heart, wringing

Like an innocent maiden

From long ago

Before everything was cheap

 

While I smile

A hollow smile

That we both know

Is fake.

 

 

By Daphne Shadows