Getting Out of Bed Was a Good Idea

I did not want to get out of bed today. It was dark and cold “out there.” I figured I could just stay in bed all day. Who was going to stop me, right?

But here’s what happened instead: I remembered I wanted to reach out to someone who’d just lost a loved one. So I got out of bed and printed out a photo to make a card. Went to the post office to mail it. Got back in the car and decided to go exploring. Drove towards Padilla Bay. Came upon a humongous branch across the road. Another car pulled off the road and young Elijah got out of the car. Together, Elijah and I moved the branch off the road. I drove on to the Padilla Bay dike parking lot. There was only one other car parked in the lot. When I got on the dike I realized WHY there was only one other car parked in the lot. IT WAS CRAZY WINDY OUT THERE!!! Huge gusts of wind pushed against me and almost knocked me off the path. IT WAS GREAT!!! Now I was awake, for sure.

Drove home. Made myself some avocado toast and cocoa. Put “Mary Poppins” on the television and surrounded myself in cozy memories of Moz and Dad and watching “Mary Poppins” with them as a young girl.

Getting out of bed was a good idea.

“To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings.”
– Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures

Branch Across Road
Elijah

Windy day on the Padilla Bay Dike.

The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book

Season of Shameless Plugs (Day 4):
At the age of 51 I went insane. I did not like it so much, but I sure learned a lot from that experience. I wrote about my journey through depression in The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book. The Middle Book has six ratings now – all five stars! Here’s an excerpt:

On New Year’s Eve, 2007, I was hit particularly hard by the belief of depression – caught up in weird and intense feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. I don’t know what led me to check out my book on Amazon that night, but when I clicked on Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist I found that just that day someone had added a new review for my book. The review read, in part: “Karen becomes your friend, someone you know and love and you know if she knew you, she would love you the way you want to be loved.” I read those words and was so touched by them I began to cry. This was exactly the message I needed at that moment. If I could love others, I had worth. If others could love me, there was hope. I’ve always felt that the man who wrote that review had been listening to the voice of Love that day. He’d been guided by Love’s direction to take the time to write a review for my book – and, because he did that for me, he helped to bring me out of a place of deep despair.

We all have access to an incredible power to bring good to other people’s lives. That day my book’s reviewer had tapped into that power.
***
My eldest son, Andrew, understood that I desperately needed to get away from “myself” – needed to get away from the routine of my life – and volunteered to go with me to the Oregon coast during our Spring Break. His willingness to accompany me on a fourteen-hour drive (round trip) meant a great deal to me and, frankly, surprised me. What sixteen year-old young man do you know who would volunteer to go with his mom on a road trip? We had such a great time. We’re both kind of easy-going when it comes to traveling. Sometimes I would wander, accidentally or on purpose, off the beaten track, and it would take me awhile to find my way back to our route – but Andrew never panicked about any of this. He just let me take him wherever I ended up going, without worry or concern about it. I remember one time we pulled over at a “scenic viewpoint” to find ourselves looking down on a sawmill and pulp mill that was belching up great plumes of smoke. Without saying a word, Andrew and I looked at each other and started snickering – I knew what he was thinking – scenic viewpoint?!

On the way down, we stopped to visit with my beloved Aunt Junie. Here’s what I wrote in my journal about that visit: “Spent the night with Aunt Junie. She is so amazing. She’s like Yoda. I was all weepy, told her I’d made mistakes and had lost close friends who told me I was a bad friend and a bad person. Junie was appalled. She said I am a good person – all her intuition tells her that I am a good person and she has no doubts about that.” Junie believed in me, had faith in me, and trusted in me. And I really needed that at the moment. She told me that “there are no unrightable wrongs, no unforgiveable sins, no fatal mistakes, no fatal diseases, only the eternal now.” To be given hope and a fresh start is incredibly freeing.



Beyond the Year of Insanity

A couple of days ago I wrote a post that began thusly: “13 years ago I went insane. I did not like it so much. But I learned a lot from it. It occurs to me now that the experience I had during The Year of Insanity helped prepare me for the challenges our world is facing right now. I believe mankind is experiencing a collective insanity today…”

The Year of Insanity was life-changing for me. After it was over I found I had to start over and build from scratch big parts of my life – my career, my approach to life, my relationships with friends – because my old way of doing things wasn’t going to work for me anymore. I think this is going to be true for our world, too, once it makes it through its own Year of Insanity.

A few years after The Year of Insanity I found myself in a transition between one job and the next – The Year of Insanity had helped me realize that my mental health was more important than any amount of money and that I could no longer continue in a position that didn’t feel “right” to me. The transition into a new career was a scary, exhilarating, audacious, crazy wonderful time for me – rich with possibilities. I was unfettered and open to whatever new opportunities came my way – ready to create a whole ‘nother career for myself. For the first time I went to a counselor – and she helped me discover for myself what it was I needed to do to bring sanity to my life – what I needed to discard, and what I needed to nurture. Creativity moved up to the front of my life – photography and writing and music. The insane stuff – nonsensical edicts (stuff like that scene from “Office Space” involving “the memo” – you know the one), schedules and bureaucracy, fear and anxiety – got tossed.

And, once I opened my thought to all the infinite possibilities, cool things started happening: I was offered a small salary to work as my church’s Reading Room librarian; I got a contract to proofread and write for an educational publishing company; I made note cards of my photos and started selling them at a little coffee shop; my book, *Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist*, was bringing in a small amount in royalties every month. I wasn’t making a LOT of income at first – it was more a symbolic income, really – but it was enough to give me hope that there was something waiting for me beyond the career I’d left behind. And soon I was offered another job, teaching at an alternative high school, that brought my life purpose and great joy for the next seven years – until I retired a year ago last June.

Love, God, has always been with me – through the good stuff and the “bad” – leading and guiding me, and opening up new doors ahead of me, as other doors have closed behind me. I’ve come to recognize that Love will always provide for me and mine, and that I never need to fear what the future holds; It holds nothing but good – because even the “bad” is transformed into something good when we put Love at the helm.

You know that old adage – “Quitters never win and winners never quit”? Well, I have found that sometimes the bravest and best thing we can do for ourselves – and the world – is to quit the course we’re on when it’s not the right one for us, and start something entirely new.

“No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.”
– Matthew 9

“Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear, – this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

Pinnacle Peak in Mount Rainier National Park. Photo from the Plummer Peak trail. (Karen Molenaar Terrell)

The Year of Insanity

13 years ago I went insane. I did not like it so much. But I learned a lot from it. It occurs to me now that the experience I had during The Year of Insanity helped prepare me for the challenges our world is facing right now.

I believe mankind is experiencing a collective insanity today. And recognizing that is what is going on is giving me some compassion for my world and its inhabitants. I understand what this feels like. I understand that shaming someone who is mentally ill is not going to make things better. Laying guilt on someone going through a massive clinical depression – as I went through – is not going to heal that individual, or the world. Hating someone who is not herself or himself or their self, and is already contemplating suicide, is not going to fix the problem.

Having personally experienced mental illness I know the one and only thing that can reach through the fog of insanity and heal mental illness is love.

We need to recognize that those individuals who are experiencing and exhibiting mental illness right now are not themselves. This isn’t THEM. Their real identity – OUR real identity – is secure and safe – “hid with Christ” in Love – where goodness and purity and intelligence and wisdom and kindness and honesty are eternally, indestructibly qualities of who we ALL really are.

13 years ago I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to today – I contemplated suicide daily. But look at all I would have missed if I’d given up on life then! – All the beautiful new friends I wouldn’t have met! The sunsets and sunrises I wouldn’t have seen! The lessons I wouldn’t have learned! The changes I wouldn’t have been able to make! The love and laughter I would have denied myself! When I was deep in the depression I couldn’t imagine a happy ending to my story. I couldn’t imagine I’d ever get out of it. Couldn’t imagine it ever ending.

But then one day the fog lifted and I awakened from the nightmare. I looked out on the world and I was connected again – connected to the joy and the beauty and a sense of well-being. I had myself back again. Now I’m really grateful for that year of learning – that year of shedding the chrysalis (and that feels like what the whole world is doing right now). I learned a new appreciation for the power of love; gained a new appreciation for the power of a moment and a good, deep breath; I came to appreciate the power of choice; and gained renewed gratitude for all the beauty in Nature and mankind; I gained greater humility, empathy, and compassion for others; and a stronger commitment to my own spiritual journey.

I learned I can be happy even when I’m sad.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“There’s nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.”
– Richard Buckminster Fuller

“The very circumstance, which your suffering sense deems wrathful and afflictive, Love can make an angel entertained unawares.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

An alpine butterfly flits among the flowers on Table Mountain. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

Joyful Without Reason

My joy is not dependent on matter –
not dependent on flattering chatter –
my clothes can be in tatters,
my ego-dreams all shattered,
and possessions scattered –
but I’m alive! I can love! I can learn!
Joy is not something I have to earn –
not something I need a reason
or a special season
to feel.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
– Habbakuk 3:17,18

“Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.”
– Mary Baker Eddy




Lessons from the Year of Insanity

Twelve years ago I went through a massive depression. I’d never gone through anything like that before. It was life-changing for me. At the time it felt like it was the most challenging thing I’d ever experienced. I didn’t like it so much. But now, looking back, I’m so grateful for that time in the “wilderness” – I learned so much from it!

Here are some of the lessons I learned during the Year of Insanity (excerpted from The Middle Book):
“I still have moments of loneliness, and I still have moments when I’m scared. But now I know enough to know these moments will eventually pass. I don’t give much thought to them. I’ve discovered it’s possible to be happy even during these times.”

“…I have found that there’s no way I can predict what form help and ‘salvation’ will take for me. I have found that, if I just keep my thought open to all the good…every moment, I’ll find everything I need to get me off my mental ‘island.”

“Right here, where I might see fear and anger and hate – in this exact same place and space, there’s another universe filled with incredible good – and I have a choice of which one I want to live in, and which one I want to see as ‘real.'”

“I think if all of mankind were able to recognize the good in themselves and in each other – I think this, alone, would transform our world.”

“Think back on the last four years of your life, my friend – become aware of all the things you would have missed if you’d given up on life four years ago: the new friends you would never have known; the sunsets and sunrises you wouldn’t have seen; the lessons you wouldn’t have learned; the changes you wouldn’t have been able to make; the pictures never painted; the photos never taken; the songs never sung; all the love and laughter that you would have denied yourself.”

middle book cover

I felt completely content.

I had one of those perfect moments in life today – the kind of moment where I felt at total peace with the world. I was sitting in the shade of a maple tree on a bench in Boulevard Park – there was a cool breeze that brought the briny smell of the bay and I could hear laughter and seagulls and people chatting cheerily with each other. It wasn’t too cold or too hot. I wasn’t hungry. I had everything I needed. I felt completely content.

And I had a flashback to a day 11 years ago – when I was in the middle of a severe depression and walking through the same park, watching people smiling and laughing, and wondering if I would ever feel happy again – wondering if I would ever feel at peace and content, and be able to laugh again with my friends like the people around me were doing. I remember feeling sort of in awe and wonder at the happy faces around me. I remember sort of letting myself ride on top of the joy of other people for a while. And I thought if I could ever find the joy again I would be sure to share it – like the people around me were doing for me.

I am really conscious of my joy now – and so very grateful for it.

(Seen in Bellingham this morning: Bee on Big Blue Sea Holly flowers. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)

bee on sea blue holly thistle like this one really

The Rebirth Ring

Quote

I wore my “rebirth” ring the other day. A barista ringing me up complimented me on it and asked me about it. I told her it was my “rebirth” ring – that I’d bought it after I’d come through a really challenging time. I pointed to the sapphire on one side – “I was born in September – and that’s the stone for September” – and the pearl in the middle – “pearls are created from struggle – something beautiful from something challenging” – and the sapphire on the other side – “I came through the challenge and was reborn.” She said that was really beautiful, and I thanked her and nodded, and remembered, again, my Year of Insanity…

Ten years ago I went through a massive depression – I’d never experienced anything like that before – I’d always been a kind of naturally happy person – but I went through a year that was, literally, a life and death struggle for me. I couldn’t eat, contemplated ending my life, had a constant dialogue going on in my head, seriously doubted if I would ever feel happy again. It is not an exaggeration to say I wasn’t sure I’d make it through.

It was during this time that I discovered I had a wealth of friendships and love and people who cared about me. It was during this time that I also discovered how strong I am. I gained a confidence that I hadn’t really had before. I came to appreciate what’s really important in life – not material stuff – but love and kindness and integrity and the ability to laugh at ourselves. I have never felt impoverished since going through this. I’ve come to see I’m wealthy beyond anything I’d imagined.

People sometimes talk cavalierly about “choosing joy.” During the Year of Insanity it didn’t feel like joy was a “choice” for me. But now that I have my choice back – yeah, I choose joy. I’ve come to realize that life really is a matter of perspective – of how we look at things.

People have told me that they want my life – or that they love my life. And I guess I should feel flattered by that maybe. But…the thing is… love your own life. Make something of that precious gift you’ve been given. By saying you want my life you discount my struggles, and you discount your own possibilities.

I’ve never wanted to be anyone else. Never. Not even when I was going through my Year of Insanity. I knew, even then, that EVERYone has challenges in their lives. I knew, even then, that most of the challenges in my life were ones I’d created for myself and that it was my job to learn from them.

You – yes, you – have the power to bring love and kindness to someone else – even when you’re going through your own times of insanity. You have a purpose, and a reason for being here. As long as you can love there’s a reason for you to live – I realized that during my challenging time – and it helped me get through it. Let me repeat that: AS LONG AS YOU CAN LOVE THERE’S A REASON FOR YOU TO LIVE. There are people who need you here. Please don’t give up on your life.

You are loved.

via The Rebirth Ring

cropped-as-long-as-you-can-love

Bring Joy in with the Sad

Sitting in sadness and worry
with a free day ahead of me
I ask myself – what do I want
to do? What do I want to see?
what will bring me joy?
Photos, I think. I’ll find
swans or snow geese.
A drive with Dad.
A walk in the fresh air.
Get dressed. Get out.
Bring joy in with the sad.

I go to Dad’s and find
him asleep at the table.
I ask him if he wants
to go for a drive, he
says he wouldn’t mind.

Dad beside me in the car
we pass trumpeter swans
before we go very far
in a muddy field – Mount
Baker and a red barn
in the background – and I
pull over so Dad can gaze
at Baker, and I can take
photos of the swans
as they graze.

Next a stop at the post office –
a package for Dad there
from my cousin, Debby.
Dad pulls out a pair
of cinnamon-scented discs,
wrapped in aluminum foil.
What do you think it is?
Speculaas, he guesses,
and smiles. He slowly
unwraps the treat – foil,
plastic wrap – pulls a chunk
of soft, spicy, speculaas free
and brings it to his mouth
Is it good? Yes, says he,
and nods. I pull off a piece
for me.

Back through the flats
and fields, along the shore,
over the hill and down
the other side, past more
swans, and through town
I bring Dad back to his
home, and into the recliner.
I love you, we tell each other.

As I’m driving back to my own
home, I realize I’m not done, yet.
On impulse, I exit onto I-5
and head for Bellingham to get
my walk in the sunshine.

Seagulls – a dozen, maybe more! –
call to each other and soar
overhead as I walk down
the ramp to the boardwalk.
A little further and I spy
an otter family scampering
and playing on the rocks
A woman passes by
and I point out the otters –
she stops and we talk
for a moment about the joy
of otters – before we each
continue on our own adventures.

I reach the end of my journey
and head back and the thought
I’m thinking at that moment –
the painful pebble that’s caught
in the bottom of my mental shoe –
is, “I haven’t felt like I belonged
for fifty years” and right then
I hear a woman call my name:
Karen!
I turn and recognize a new
friend from a sharing circle I
went to a month ago in a town
forty minutes away from here
and we come together and hug
and laugh and shed a tear.

My new friend and I walk
back together through the park,
down the boardwalk, past the dock,
up the ramp – we share and talk –
and she says she’s happy we met
today and I say, “It’s magic, isn’t it?”
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

 

 

 

 

“I don’t need to claim these thoughts!”

“Stand porter at the door of thought.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

I was in a funk today. There’s been another Christmas tragedy. Don’t want to talk about that, really. But it led me to some dark places in my thoughts. I stopped by to see Dad, hoping that would cheer me up. But he was struggling – questioning the veracity of a Christmas card I brought him from a friend, saying it seemed “fishy” – questionable – and he didn’t trust it. He argued with me about the background in a photograph – insisted it was a stadium with bleachers – which… it wasn’t. I told him I loved him, and he told me he loved me, and I left.

As I was driving home dark thoughts came knocking on the door of my consciousness – thoughts of despair and discouragement and fear for the future. Thoughts about death. And I felt afraid and guilty that I was even having these thoughts. And then I had this moment of clarity: “But I don’t need to claim these thoughts as mine! Just because these thoughts knocked on my door doesn’t mean they belong to me! They aren’t any part of me!” I realized I could choose whether I wanted to let those thoughts enter and be part of my identity, or not.

A decade ago, when I was going through a massive depression, I felt I didn’t have a choice – I felt I didn’t have control over the thoughts that came into my head, and the feelings of despair and hopelessness and guilt – and it all seemed overwhelming at times. But I acquired some tools for dealing with life’s challenges and struggles during that time. First, I learned not to fight my feelings – that only seemed to make the feelings bigger – but to let myself surf on top of them. I learned I could be happy even when I was sad.  And I learned a trick from Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now that was really helpful, too – and that I was reminded of today. In his book, Tolle writes: “Try a little experiment. Close your eyes and say to yourself: ‘I wonder what my next thought is going to be.’ Then become very alert and wait for the next thought. Be like a cat watching a mouse hole. What thought is going to come out of the mouse hole? Try it now.” When I tried that experiment all those years ago (and when I tried it just now, too) – when I waited for my next thought – it didn’t come! I was filled with a blessed, peaceful stillness.

I had a healing today. And it felt like this…
healing