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 Rebirth Ring

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. ❤

Following the Crumbs…

(excerpt from The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book)

A few months after my fifty-first birthday, I no longer knew who I was. I don’t mean I had amnesia or anything, but the person I’d always thought I was didn’t seem to exist any longer. As my sons had become self-sufficient and independent young men, my role as their mother was different, and, as the only female in my family, I sometimes struggled with trying to figure out how I “fit in”; my profession had changed so much I no longer felt I belonged in it; and two close 20-year friendships, that had once defined who I was as a friend, had ended abruptly, leaving me feeling unworthy of friendship and unlovable. There were all at once a lot of holes in my life, and I felt like a loser.

Who the heck WAS I?

During the Year of Insanity I put a lot of thought into that question. Just when I’d start feeling like I was hopelessly lost in the wilderness, and would never find my way back to my real self, one of my fellow classmates in “Earth’s preparatory school” (as Mary Baker Eddy described our time here) would drop a crumb on the forest floor that would help lead me the right direction. I don’t think many of these classmates had any idea how important those crumbs were to me. So, to those of you who dropped the crumbs, I want to take a moment and tell you that you saved my life, and I whole-heartedly thank you for that.

Henry Drummond writes (in The Greatest Thing in the World): “The people who influence you are people who believe in you… To be trusted is to be saved. And if we try to influence or elevate others, we shall soon see that success is in proportion to their belief of our belief in them… It is when a man has no one to love him that he commits suicide. So long as he has friends, those who love him and whom he loves, he will live, because to live is to love… The withholding of love is the negation of the Spirit of Christ.”

I have discovered, as I’ve lived my Middle Book, that I am over-the-top wealthy with friends. There have been times when I’ve felt my friends’ expressions of Love towards me lifting me up and supporting me – giving me the buoyancy I need to stay afloat – and when I write “lifting me up” I mean that in a literal sense – I have felt myself – not my body, but my thoughts – literally rising.

I’d like to share a couple of instances with you of times when this happened for me – and I’d like to ask that as you read through these examples, you insert yourself into them – insert yourself as the person who is being shown love, and then insert yourself as the person who is showing love. Because, dear reader, the love that was expressed towards me is yours, too. You are the loved, and you are the loving.

***
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 peoples’ lives. That day my book’s reviewer had tapped into that power.

***

I emailed my wise friend, David Allen, to get his thoughts on “identity” – he always has good stuff to share with me. I told him that I’d reached a point where I didn’t know who I was, anymore – it felt like all my anchors were gone – my job wasn’t the same job, my role as a mom wasn’t the same role, I wasn’t really a mountain-climber, anymore – who was I?! His response was one of the most profound pieces of writing I have ever read, and I’d like to share it with you:

“Karen, I know this feeling. A few years back, before I met you, I went through a similar experience. Up until that time I had identified as a completely self-reliant runner and professional designer who could succeed at anything I wanted to. That was me, or at least, that was who I thought was me. Suddenly, all that was gone…I felt like I had lost my entire identity…Then, one day it hit me. I am not any of those things. Those are things I do, not things that I am. Here is what I am: I am creative, curious, and kind. I like children and I like teaching. I enjoy physical activity. I am a storyteller and I like to make people laugh. I like to do things. I like to make things. I love to learn new things. And I love my family. Whether I am working or running, I am still all of those things. No matter what others may say or think, I am still all of those things. These are the things that never change. These are the things that make me, me. Sometimes I make mistakes and screw up, but that doesn’t change any of those things, either. I am not always happy, but I am always grateful for the things that I am. And I don’t worry anymore about the things I am not.”

***

I’d met David on a religion discussion forum – he was a self-avowed atheist – but other than our difference in belief about God, we’d found we had a huge amount in common with each other. There were several other people I’d met on the forum – most of them atheists, like David – who had become valued friends to me. One of these valued friends was a brilliant wit named Jamie Longmire, who lived in Nova Scotia with his talented artist-wife, Kathi Petersen. Not long after I met Jamie, he “brought me home” via email to introduce me to Kathi.

Before too long Kathi and I were email buddies – emailing each other regularly twice a day. Kathi had been through some pretty major challenges in her life, and could relate to a lot of what I was going through. She understood my thoughts about not wanting to use medication to get relief from the depression – understood that I felt there was something I needed to learn from my experience. She understood, too, when I told her that I’d found I could be happy even when I was depressed. Kathi wrote:

“…something… that occurs to me … is that we all have to live our own lives, and grow from our own hardships.
“I was in a Jungian dream group once and one of the women was saying something about how she could be just as conscious and psychologically grown without having had a dark night of the soul, and you could tell people were thinking ‘yeah right’ … I hear peoples’ stories sometimes, maybe some television interview, and they end up talking about their really pivotal growth ‘dark night moment,’ and it is something that seems so insignificant …but you have to have the whole context of peoples’ lives. I think it is hugely important for people to grow from their own experiences…

“I actually think in a way that it is very important not to tell someone, when they are upset about the bad time they are going through, ‘Well look at that guy, he has no arms or legs and he is a professional motivational speaker and has written two bestseller books’ … I’m saying this because I think in a way, the hardships (while all different) have a BIG sameness about them, and that the answers have a HUGE sameness about them. It is… about people who are suffering, and people finding out that the suffering isn’t a necessary part of life. The hardships may be … but the suffering not necessarily. I have thought that having bigger challenges can sometimes allow people to learn this more easily (trial by fire?) – to learn that life can be full of joy regardless …”

***
I remember clearly the moment when I began to wake up from the depression: I was talking with my husband, Scott, about how the people around me were telling me these wonderful things about myself, but I just felt detached from their words – like the words had nothing to do with who I really am. I told him I felt like a fraud. He looked at me and started laughing. “Karen,” he said, “everyone else knows who you are, you’re the only one who can’t see it!”

The way he said it – with such conviction and so kind of matter-of-factly – I felt something lifting from me, some burden that had been weighing me down. I went out for a walk, and everything around me looked lighter and brighter. I felt stirrings of joy. For some reason I’d been feeling like I had to “steal” happiness – as if I didn’t deserve it. But I think that it was at this moment when I began to accept that I had every right to be happy.

***

“Be happy at all times and in all places; for remember it is right and a duty you owe to yourself and to your God to retain the right, no matter how loudly the senses scream.” – Edward A. Kimball

“You never know what the tide will bring in…”

One night during the depression, I got an encouraging call from my youngest brother, David, who had heard I was struggling. Near the end of our conversation, he said something that has stayed with me in the years since then. “Karen, did you ever see that movie with Tom Hanks where he gets stuck on the island?” Yes, I told him, I’d seen that movie. “For four years he was trying to get off that island,” my brother said, ”and then one day the tide brought in that piece of metal that he could use for a sail. He wasn’t expecting it. He couldn’t have known it was going to come in with the tide. But it saved him. You never know what the tide will bring in that will save you.”

And, man, ain’t that the truth? Just as 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 that God offers us, every moment, I’ll find everything I need to get me off my mental “island.”

(Excerpt from The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book.)

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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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Depression and Rebirth

The death of Robin Williams has been a hard one for a lot of us to process. We loved this man. We loved his energy, his zany over-the-top take on life – we loved how he made us laugh, and we loved his kindness. And those of us who have experienced depression ourselves feel a kinship with him in his struggles with mental illness.

If you are dealing with depression, I’m here to tell you, my dear friend, that you WILL get through this. And, trust me, when you come out on the other side – and you WILL come out on the other side – you will realize that it was all worth it – all of it. The pain won’t last forever, I promise. Accept it, sit in it, don’t try to fight it, learn what you need to learn from it. The pain won’t leave you where it found you – it’ll push you closer to your own rebirth. Rejoice!

It will get better.

photo of a forest in the Pacific Northwest by Karen Molenaar Terrell

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings… – Psalms 40:2

Wilderness: Loneliness; doubt; darkness. Spontaneity of thought and idea; the vestibule in which a material sense of things disappears, and spiritual sense unfolds the great facts of existence.
– Mary Baker Eddy

Sorrow has its own reward. It never leaves us where it found us.
– Mary Baker Eddy

Coming to Your Senses

Sometimes you have to lose your mind to come to your senses. – Dan Millman

May is Mental Health Month. If you have ever struggled with mental health issues – or are struggling right now – I just want you to know that you are not alone; you are loved; there are people who care about you; and there are people (ahem… me, for instance) who have been through what you’re going through and have come out the other end of it in one piece – wiser, more empathetic, and more conscious than before.

We’re all in this together.

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” – Kathryn Sockett, from The Help

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.
 – John Greenleaf Whittier