“You can’t scare her. She survived 2020.”

My dear Humoristian hooligans –

2020 has been a crazy ride, hasn’t it? Dad died on January 19th and two days later the first case of COVID was reported in our state (and the country). Dad had good timing. 2020 has brought COVID-19, murder hornets, wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, plagues, pestilence, political insanity, and every emotion a person can possibly feel – grief, terror, anger, fear, and also immense love, gratitude, and, (especially lately) hope. And, sitting here, I just realized I’m not “ascared” anymore. At some point – maybe when the craziness reached epic and absurd proportions – the fear just dissolved. It was like – okay, what else you got? Bring it on, baby! I think it’s going to be hard to ever again scare anyone who’s survived 2020. (I just had a flashback of one of my favorite cartoons – a lady with a bun on top of her head, whistling in hell – and one of the devil’s helpers saying to him: “We can’t scare her. She was a middle school teacher.” As a former middle school teacher that one always cracked me up. I think that same cartoon could have the caption: “You can’t scare her. She survived 2020” and it would still work.Ā šŸ™‚

Keep working your magic, my friends! Keep shining your light! The world has need of your pluck and courage and unfailing kindness!
– Karen

These Days I’m More Concerned With How I Feel About Myself

“Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

There have been several times in my life when I have had the opportunity to learn more of who I am by being put in a position where I needed to respond to violence, or the threat of violence.

– Once I was waiting to pick up my son from a movie and I saw a young man sitting on top of another young man, pounding his head into the parking lot pavement. Without thinking, I walked into the ring of young spectators watching this happen, and tried to pull the attacker off his victim. I yelled, “Stop it! You’re killing him!” And one of the spectators said, “Lady, you better be careful. This guy could have a knife!” I turned on him and asked him why he was just watching, why he wasn’t trying to help. And then I put my hands on my hips and announced, “I AM A TEACHER!” – like I was some kind of super hero or something and that was going to make them all stop. The guy who was smashing the other guy’s head into the pavement sort of paused then, and looked up at me for a minute, and then went back to doing what he was doing. There were other people there – outside the circle, watching while this was happening – but at one point I remember looking up to see another parent – the mother of one of my son’s friends – had stepped into the circle with me. I remember being amazed by this and she said, “Well, I wasn’t going to let you be in here alone!” That’s always stayed with me – that this woman I didn’t know well had stepped into the circle with me to back me up. Anyway. Pretty soon the police came out and took care of it all. Afterwards I realized what I’d done was pretty foolish – but I was glad I’d done it anyway. I’d learned something about myself that night.

– I remember feeling some fear as I drove to participate in the local BLM rally last June – there’d already been some stories of guys with pistols and rifles showing up at other rallies to intimidate the protesters and I’d heard rumors that there’d be some of these guys at this rally, too. But I remember coming to terms with that as I drove there – praying for the safety of EVERYone there – protesters and gun folks alike. When I pulled into the parking lot, sure enough, there were guys with rifles slung over their shoulders and holsters with guns and assorted other black metal things tucked away in belts and pockets. I got out of the car, pulled up my mask, and made eye contact with a man with a rifle – raised my eyebrows and pointed to my “TRUTH JUSTICE KINDNESS” sign – and I remember he kind of smiled and said, “We hope so.” And in that moment – maybe when I realized these guys with the weapons were the ones who were really scared – all fear just vanished for me. The rally was a peaceful one.

– And this is a story I haven’t shared until now, but I think now is the right time. One time when I was working at a nonprofit school another teacher came out of her office – still talking to the student that was in her office as she approached me – and handed me the note you see below: “We are not SAFE.” I’m going to skip everything that happened after this, except for this one part: At one point I had a clear choice – one choice brought sure safety for myself, but left my colleague on her own (this is the choice I know my colleague wanted me to make for myself) – and the other choice brought possible danger to myself, but meant I would stay by my colleague through this experience. I took a deep breath and chose to stay with my friend. I’m so grateful I made that choice. I don’t know how I’d live with myself if I hadn’t.

And I’m happy to say that’s what it all comes down to for me now – I’m no longer so concerned about how other people feel about me – these days I’m more concerned with how I feel about MYself. I know I won’t always make the “right choice” – I still mess up majorly sometimes – but I’m learning more and more I can trust myself – and there is a certain power in that, you know?
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Grateful for Our Connection

Back in February and March – when COVID-19 was first making the news – I had terrible fears for a loved one who was traveling though Europe. (Maybe someday I’ll share more about that.) My terror caused me to pull out all the tools I’d acquired in my life to get me through troubling times – and one of the chief tools was expressing gratitude for all the good in my life.

I remember lying in bed one night in particular – my thoughts were all agitated and I couldn’t find peace.Ā I was just staring at the ceiling, trying to calm myself, and I started listing in my thoughts all the people I was grateful for in my life – my sons, husband, Mom and Dad, siblings, nieces and nephews, in-laws, friends from grade school, junior high, high school, university, Mount Rainier friends, neighbors, colleagues, church friends, Humoristian friends, FB friends, WordPress friends – and then I found myself including people who might not be considered “friends” – people I thought had maybe treated me unkindly or unfairly, people I’d had a rift with – and I found myself genuinely grateful for THEM, too, and for my connection to them.

It was a cosmic moment for me. I felt my connection to all of God’s, Love’s, creation – and each and every expression of Life. I knew this overwhelming gratitude that I’m not solitary and alone in this vast, infinite universe – grateful for my connection to all the infinite expressions of Life. I felt Love’s presence with me – supporting me – sure and comforting and healing and powerful. My fears dissolved away and I was able to go back to sleep.

I’m going to practice having more of those cosmic moments.

And I know those moments begin with love.

Blue Cosmos (photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)

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

Resting in Love

I went to bed fretting and frightened
imagining all kinds of doom
I read a little to settle my thoughts
and finally closed my eyes and slept

I awoke in the dark quiet early hours
surrounded by an all-knowing, loving
presence bigger than the sky – assuring
me of endless, eternal, infinite good

I started to get up – wanting to share this
moment with my FB friends – but then I
stopped, holding on to that moment for
myself, resting in Love a little longer
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

unchanging Love

“O Life Divine, That Owns Each Waiting Hour”

I went for a drive – Scott had the news on and I felt the need to go into my mental “closet” and bring my thoughts close to the presence of Love. I pulled over to watch Mount Baker turn pink in the setting sun and a song from the Christian Science Hymnal came to me – “O Gentle Presence” (with words by Mary Baker Eddy). Here’s a link to my off-the-cuff rendition. Acapella here. No accompaniment. No back-up singers who can do the actual singing for me. šŸ™‚ Just me. Probably off-key. No embellishment or anything. Thank you ahead of time for your kindness.

This line from “O Gentle Presence” especially resonates with me right now – “O Life divine, that owns each waiting hour” – I mean…think about that! God – Life, Truth, and Love – owns, manages, and governs EVERY hour – even the “waiting” ones. There is never a moment outside of Love’s control – never a moment not created by God. Those moments when we’re waiting to learn our loved ones are safe, when we’re waiting to hear the prognosis, when we’re waiting for the plane to land, or the tests to come back, or the quarantine to be lifted – God owns even THOSE moments. Whoah.
– Karen

 

Here are the lyrics to “O Gentle Presence”:

O gentle presence, peace and joy and power;
O Life divine, that owns each waiting hour,
Thou Love that guards the nestling’s faltering flight!
Keep Thou my child on upward wing to-night.
Love is our refuge; only with mine eye
Can I behold the snare, the pit, the fall:
His habitation high is here, and nigh,
His arm encircles me, and mine, and all.
O make me glad for every scalding tear,
For hope deferred, ingratitude, disdain!
Wait, and love more for every hate, and fear
No ill, ā€” since God is good, and loss is gain.
Beneath the shadow of His mighty wing;
In that sweet secret of the narrow way,
Seeking and finding, with the angels sing:
“Lo, I am with you alway,” ā€” watch and pray.
No snare, no fowler, pestilence or pain;
No night drops down upon the troubled breast,
When heaven’s aftersmile earth’s tear-drops gain,
And mother finds her home and heavenly rest.
– by Mary Baker Eddy

 

 

Fear and Living in the Moment

Here’s a Dad-lesson for the times: I once asked Dad (Dee Molenaar) what he was feeling as he careened down that slope on K2, headed for the drop over the cliff and certain death. Was he scared?

No, he said, it was exhilarating! He was totally in the moment. Enjoying the ride. He knew everything was going to go black for him soon – and knew there was nothing he could do about that – so he just settled into the moment and enjoyed it.

And when I’ve thought about his answer, I’ve realized I can relate to it. The times I’ve been most scared – most filled with unspeakable dread – are the times when I’ve focused on the future – on all the many scary things that MIGHT happen – rather than what was actually happening with me right now – in this moment.

When I’ve found myself – in the moment – facing a challenge – it’s not been scary, really. I’ve focused on the problem at hand and dealt with it.

Rock-climbing is all about the moment – I remember a piton clinking down a rock cliff when I was mid-way up a climb once – I remember looking up to the man belaying me and I remember him looking down at me – I remember the exchange of looks – I remember how quickly I faced the moment and hauled myself up that rock face. There was no time for fear. It was very cool, actually.

I remember feeling that same in-the-momentness when I gave birth to my youngest son. I’d been told, suddenly, that there were complications in the delivery and I was going to need a caesarean section. I remember being wheeled down to the operating room and Mom’s face looking at me from the foot of the gurney. I asked her to call a friend (a Christian Science practitioner) to pray and she hurried off to do that.

And, in that moment, as things were happening, I didn’t feel any fear at all. I felt this amazing since of peace envelope me. I was totally focused on the moment. I could feel the love from all the doctors and nurses – wanting only the best for me and my child – I could feel the love from Scotty and my parents, and my midwife. Everything was happening very quickly, but I felt strangely calm – I wasn’t afraid about what MIGHT happen, IF… I was living in that moment.

When I got down to the OR, they hooked me up to all these machines. I remember the eyes of the medical staff looking at the machines, then back to me, and I could see they were puzzled – and then suddenly they were all telling me to push! – like they were fans at a football game, rooting me on! And they were celebrating with me!

My baby was born the old-fashioned way that day. (But it wouldn’t have mattered, really, if he’d entered the world in another manner – the form of the the birth wasn’t important to me.) One of the surgical nurses was actually crying! She said she’d never been able to witness a vaginal birth before – and it was really beautiful.

Later I learned what the CS practitioner had told my mom that morning: “Life loves that baby!”

And I know this, for sure, Life loves ALL of us – each and every one of Her children – it doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing or what the time – it doesn’t matter if we’re on a rock cliff or on an operating table, or in quarantine or on the Moon – Love is there with us, loving us, eternally and always.

Let’s do what we need to do for each other right now, humanly. Physical distance, but not isolation – knowing that we are the very expressions of Love, loved by Love, never separated or isolated from Love. Living in this moment.
– Karen

I found this quote about fear from Eckhart Tolle really helpful to me:
“The psychological condition of fear is divorced from any concrete and true immediate danger. It comes in many forms: unease, worry, anxiety, nervousness, tension, dread, phobia, and so on. This kind of psychological fear is always of something that might happen, not of something that is happening now. You are in the here and now, while your mind is in the future. This creates an anxiety gap…You can always cope with the present moment, but you cannot cope with something that is only a mind projection – you cannot cope with the future.”
– Eckhart Tolle, from Live Real

More quotes about fear:

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less.”
– Marie Curie

“…knowing what must be done does away with fear.”
– Rosa Parks

“Iā€™m not afraid of storms, for Iā€™m learning how to sail my ship.”
– Louisa May Alcott

“Become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid.”
– Lady Bird Johnson

“Fear never stopped being and its action.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

“Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.”
– Eckhart Tolle

 

Solace at the Cemetery

In these panicked times
In these fretful, frenzied, frantic times
I have found solace at the cemetery.
The shells of those who’ve lived
here and moved on
to whatever comes beyond
no longer need to distance themselves
from anyone, from me.
I find peace with them – the chrysalises
of my friends – Mike, Rachael, and Debby.

I wander amid the tombstones, snapping
photos of them, and the spinning wheels –
the bright spinners are the only movement
in the cemetery and I feel
drawn to the movement of their rainbow
spinning, faster and faster as I approach,
in a show just for me.

I’m allowed to be here. In the sunshine.
In the peace of the cemetery.
And no one disturbs me as I wander
through the final beds
for the shells of those who
are no longer scared of what lies ahead.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell