The Rebirth Ring

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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

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The Middle Book

Yeah, I think what we’ve got here is a case of “middle child syndrome.” My middle child of books, The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book, has been a little over-looked lately. So maybe it’s time to give her some attention. 🙂 Here are some excerpts…

But this is one of his clouded times and
He’ll out of ‘em enough to shake the tree
Of life itself and bring down fruit unheard of…

– Edwin Arlington Robinson

***

My son and I recently talked about my previous book, Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist. I told him that book was true for the person I was then, and I’m glad I wrote it, but I couldn’t write the same book now. Andrew told me I should write another book then, for this time in my life. I told him that my recent life experience has been kind of dark. He said I should write about that then, and he started talking about trilogies – how almost every life story has three parts – the first book is usually happy and innocent, the second one is dark and challenging, and the last book is the triumph book. Andrew said it was time for me to write “the middle book.” He assures me the book about the golden years will come, but he says that book can’t come until the middle book gets written.

So what you see here is me sucking it up and writing The Middle Book…

***

At the age of 51 I went insane. I did not like it so much. But I learned a lot from it.

Eckhart Tolle tells us: “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.” He asks, “How do you know this is the experience you need? Because,” he says, “this is the experience you are having at this moment.” I really like how he puts that. My thought is that something is only a challenge to us when there’s a lesson to learn from it. Two people, in other words, might find themselves in identical situations – and one of those people might coast through the situation, and the other might stumble through it – depending on where each individual is in her spiritual progress.

If somebody had tried to talk to me about mental illness before I’d had this experience, I wouldn’t have had a clue what they were going on about. Mental illness was something that happened to “other” people.  Mental illness was not something a madcap Christian Scientist would ever know anything about, right?

Yeesh.

Here’s some of what I gained during this time: a new understanding and appreciation of love; a greater sense of gratitude for the power of a moment, and of a good, deep breath; a greater appreciation for choice; renewed gratitude for all the beauty in Nature and mankind; greater humility, empathy and compassion; and a greater commitment to my own spiritual journey.  I’d entered The Year of Insanity an untested “youth” – gliding through life’s challenges on a kind of cavalier, simple joy, without really having to put much work or effort into my mental frame of mind. By the time I exited that year I had a much deeper understanding of God, and who I am, as God’s expression.

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Things I Learned from the Year of Insanity

(All photos [except the Big Hand Karen photo, by Scott Terrell], were taken by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)

The other afternoon my husband and I went out for dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant. For whatever reason, I was feeling cranky.  Put upon. Impatient.  And then I saw the leaves on the tree outside the window, and I remembered what those leaves had meant to me during the Year of Insanity. I remembered a time when I hadn’t had a choice in how I felt – when I couldn’t seem to “make” myself happy, and had no control over what was going on inside my head. And I remembered the pledge I’d made to myself at the end of that long, dark time when I had a choice again: So long as I had a choice, I would never, ever choose sadness over joy. And right that moment, I let go of the crankiness, and, watching the leaves flicker on that tree outside the window, chose to enjoy my time at the restaurant.

The Year of Insanity was a whopper for me. I’d never experienced anything like it before – and don’t see a need to ever experience anything like it again 🙂 – but, looking back, I am convinced that I needed to go through that time. I learned so much from it – one of the chief things being that even when I’m depressed, I can be happy – even when I’m sad, I can experience joy. Another important lesson was that the pain passes – always, always. It doesn’t last forever. I learned I was strong. I learned I could survive.

There were certain things during that year that seemed to bring me peace when i looked on them. I can’t tell you why my distressed thought was comforted by these things – why they were the objects that seemed to calm me during that time – but I can tell you what they were: The leaves on that particular tree outside the Italian restaurant; sailboats on the bay; my hands; butterflies and dragonflies; seagulls in flight; and big bright sunflowers.

One of the things that happened to me during that time – and that has stayed with me – is that I began to – I was forced to, really – tune in more intensely to the beauty around me – I began to notice things in my surroundings that I might have just walked by in the past: Little insects on flowers; all the varied colors in the sky and water; clouds – I’d never so appreciated clouds before this time! The insanity forced me to live moment-by-moment, taking each moment one at a time – being grateful to have survived that moment before moving on to the next one. I learned to stop the constant dialogue in my head by taking a deep breath and focusing on the gifts of that moment – the dragonfly over the water; the sailboat gliding by; the flickering leaves on the tree. “Thank you, God, thank you, God, thank you, God” became my mantra. 

And one day I woke up and came back to myself.  I remember walking down the ramp toward the boardwalk – the bay stretched out in front of me, and a ray of sunlight breaking through the clouds and sparkling on the water – and I was free.

 The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. – Robert Green Ingersoll

 Step by step will those who trust Him find that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” – Mary Baker Eddy

(More about the Year of Insanity can be found in The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book.)

http://www.amazon.com/Madcap-Christian-Scientists-Middle-Book/dp/1477442456/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1378217527&sr=8-1