Gratitude

I had a rather lousy day today when it was supposed to be joyful. A day of paradoxes. There was a ceremony I had decided to participate in though I had had a feeling that the person I was there for would do everything to make me feel unwelcome. And she did. Simply because of too much pride and messed up priorities. Because of rebelious youth and too little love.

I’ve discovered that love is a thing one learns. Love contains pain and patience and resilience and many tears: liquid ones and solid ones, literal ones and invisible ones. When young, we mistake passion and smiles and kisses and hugs for all that love is. We do not see the hidden part of the iceberg. We do not get why mom is mad and dad is disappointed if we put ourselves in danger or we simply misbehave. We see our courage only, we trust our eternal health. We disobey rules and then ask for comfort and then disobey the rules again. How stupid is that? “I’m tired” is something we can solve with a 12 hour sleep or even less – and “just let me sleep” has the sound of a bark, not the faint plea we’ll make much later on. We keep being children for much longer than we like to admit.

And so today, as I was trying to make sense of the inexplicable abominable behaviour of the dear person in question, I suddenly had this sense of peace and profound mysterious understanding that, precisely because I was not receiving thanks or gratitude, I found myself not grateful enough. That I am good enough to exist as I am, yes – but not grateful enough. (For there is a difference, and a big one it is.) That no matter what I will do and how much I would love, I cannot love like God. This reminded me of a beautiful quote I once read somewhere, and I forget the source: “The greatest saint’s love for God does not compare to God’s love for the greatest sinner.”

And so tonight I am willingly grateful. For everything. In my freedom of choice which God has bestowed upon my spirit at birth, I decide to be grateful. For the good, the bad and the ugly, for all the harsh lessons, for every single smile and encouragement I’ve received in my life so far, for the doors that got shut and the windows which opened, for my health and that of my family, for the terrible teachers I’ve had who have truly enhanced my appreciation of the good teachers, for family and friends, for fights and make ups, for failures and successes… for who God shaped me to be, most of the times against my will.

I love you so much, Lord… I do. There are no words. But You know. And in your infinite love and perfect understanding, You Who sees into the depth of my heart, will accept this imperfect plea for forgiveness and my gratitude for this life of mine.

There’s one more little feeling that I have tonight – that gratitude and love are entwined in this ball of light which is all that survives death. Quite literally.

Start Close In

….Start right now

take a small step

you can call your own

don’t follow

someone else’s

heroics, be humble

and focused, 

start close in,

don’t mistake

that other

for your own.

Start close in,

don’t take

the second step

or the third,

start with the first

thing

close in,

the step

you don’t want to take.

 (David Whyte – River Flow: New and Selected Poems)

Healing

I come from a deeply affected country. Started off as a healthy happy easygoing child. Grew up surrounded by love and doubt, in the same measure. My mother was the living image of the Theotokos, not only her name was Maria. The kind of person who would go to bed crying and wake up with a smile on her face. My father was a talented man who had been deeply wounded at four years old when his mother abandoned him and by the constant belief that he was not good enough at anything he did. He made me feel I was never good enough, tough legacy to pass on to a dear strong child. She made me feel like I could conquer the world just by having faith. Little wonder they fought often, my mom and dad. They could not reconcile the pain inside. Like everybody around, they did not fully get why they had to lie and pretend life is good when there wasn’t any food, any freedom, any understanding. They were not stupid, of course. Just that the rules didn’t make sense. Because there is nothing to understand in the mindful destruction of the spirit.

There was massive schizophrenia in my country, still is. The Party said one thing and you had to follow its lines everywhere. By conservation instinct, people had chosen to tell themselves and their children differently inside their homes. To keep sane, apparently. Little did they know that “sanity” was also crooked. Truth was twisted, lie was queen. Doubt was in every corner, just like danger. You’d always have to pretend, or have your shield up – that wasn’t much different from all history of defense against attackers coming from all directions, literally. No big deal – just that it makes a people tired.

And tired they grew, by the days, by the years. Battles, struggles, tiredness got embedded in bones, can’t shake them off. Personal success was not celebrated outside the Party’s victory. The Church was suffering along. There were few people who’d heard about God. I remember I’d always wanted to see a Bible – it would have been a bonus to actually read it. After communism fell, I got one from an evangelic Christian in England. She genuinely thought she was bringing “the good news”. She didn’t get the people had stood by mere grace of God, that they had been Christian to the core, before apostles walked on Saxon fields. God has amazing ways, indeed.

It is hard to write about this. I have been battling the shadows in my life for too long. My optimism still erupts through the cracks now and then, and people wonder at my beautifully carved mask. Many don’t know it is a mask. Sometimes, I even think it is not a mask. I forget. I don’t know any more. The pain is eating me inside, literally. It made its bed and I do not know how to kick it out. I do not trust. I’m married to a beautiful man from the same country, tough luck. No matter how much I try to heal, he won’t. So firm is his mask, it has become his face. He does not understand where the problem is. “There is no problem.” When the problem is evident, he detaches himself from it, he leaves the room. How does one heal when the Party tells you there’s no need, you are already in heaven? How does one heal when you change countries to find the same lie blossoming all around, and your dear one, the one you’ve trusted, tells you this is it, you must comply and be joyful, what more do you want? How do you live with fear, with doubt, with failure and WHERE in God’s name can you find comfort?

How can I make the tears stop?

They talk about balance in books and self-help shows and blogs. Balance yourself. Better yet: balance yourself while being kicked.

BUT. I. DON’T. WANT. TO. BE. KICKED. ANY. MORE.

Then stop kicking. Empty your mind of your thoughts and let God in. Not as easy to do as it sounds. Then focus. You can’t. OK. Look here: YOU CAN. Discipline.

Repeat after me: I CAN. Walk on fire. Not because you want to, but because you have to.

I. DON’T. WANT. TO. WALK. ON. FIRE.

Walk with Me a little more, He says. One day the pain will cease.

That is His promise. There is no doubt in this. Whatever the damned party told you.

Change the pattern. Break it. Take pleasure in distorting it. Love your laugh! Get your paints out and draw long lines and curves and flowers and bees and streets and houses and smiling people with big, huge mouths. Paint the rain and the snow and cry a little more. BREAK. PATTERN. Yes, it’s schizophrenic. Yes, the pattern is there. Yes, the breakthrough is there too. Yes, you’re mad but you’re not mad. Yes, you won’t see God in flesh. Yes, He’s there. Yes, here’s a smile and a kiss and a long loving unconditional hug from your little one. Yes, it’s possible. Yes, your heart beats and belly doesn’t hurt as much today. Yes, you can’t breathe. Yes, you can!

Yes, you are free.

FREE. FREE. FREEEEEEEEEEE……….

IMG_0424

For you

I love you.

Don’t jump so, I know you don’t believe me. You’ve been beaten and terrorized and told you’re no good, why would you believe anybody telling or treating you differently?

Whatever you did, it was not enough, it was never enough. And you persisted to carry on, to live, to hope, to get… where? Here. Now. Not much, not perfect. Does it matter? Whatever.

You want to die. I get it. Been there, done that. I still do it occasionally. They say you can only die once – well, that may be true physically, but man, the spirit dies and dies and dies. Sometime it feels it will never end. That’s called hell. Wanna go on like that? You know very well it is quite possible. You need to find a way to stop it.

Would you please start believe? I’m not talking about perfect belief, there’s no such thing. We hear about this everyday. There is no perfection, although the ads and shows insist there is and people still buy into it. What the fuck. It’s a maddening merry-go-round, right? The darling social media of our New Age is full of gurus who tell us there’s no perfection, and they advise on how to do this and how to do that. They have their role, you know. They keep you going. You read their little article, and it makes you feel good for a moment or two. It gives you hope. You might even tell yourself: I’ll start do that to feel better. You do it for a day or two, and then you relapse, it’s even worse than before. Sure you are addicted, haven’t you figured that one out? My, and you thought you were clever. You’re addicted to the “lack-of-belief” syndrome. It’s very common, you know – it is precisely because of that, that we have so many “apparently-no-reason-for” depressed people, especially young ones. Too bad there are no rehab places for ordinary people.

There used to be a place, it was called church. It’s not what it used to be nowadays, though to tell you the truth, it’s never been perfect. It was a bit better in the beginning, aren’t all beginnings like that? Hopeful, loving, caring… But then life happened. So the church became too earthly powerful at some point and that spoiled its game, naturally. It started itself to believe it can literally offer heaven on earth, though the papers said differently. In other cases, it was so beaten up and twisted to suit the political system, it nearly succumbed. Very often now, it does not believe in its mission anymore and it doesn’t fight. Blurry, blurry, lots of grays, lots of interpretations, loads of guilt. Well, guess what, this church, this “heaven” was run by people. The vertical ones were slashed. Some of them hid themselves in the woods, the pressure is too much to bear, they can barely take care of themselves, never mind others. The church is a wreck, good morning! It’s hard to find a priest who listens to God these days.

So who am I to tell you differently, again? I am not a priest, I am not even a man. I’m not me here (hint: it’s Him.) I’m not much good myself. I wake up many mornings and am not grateful to be offered another day, not even to myself. I should. Hey, I didn’t kill myself yesterday, you know? I gave myself another chance. For what? To live another day like yesterday? Shit. Why do I believe something is gonna change today that didn’t yesterday? Why do I believe that someone will tell me how good enough I am? Maybe ’cause I haven’t yet totally stopped believing it’s possible.

So here, I’m telling you this, courtesy not of an Internet guru, but of the very Holy Spirit: I love you. You’re worth it. You have gifts that no one else has. That being unique stuff is really true. There is no one like you and you are a gem. You would not have been born otherwise. You are not a mistake. You are here because somebody bigger than anything anyone can possibly imagine created you after His image and His likeness. You can be like God – just not on your own. Drop that bit, it keeps you from seeing the big picture. That little pride thing in your mind is the hardest to leave aside. You know, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone lately saying you believe with your heart (actually, I did: it’s one of the slashed vertical monks, he’s had his share of earthly shit).  We live in a rational world, Descartes is still the biggest guru – which is why, rational and organized as I am, I dislike him profoundly. He declared “Dubito ergo cogito. Cogito ergo sum.” – and a huge bunch of stupid guys actually fell for it. They still do! (You’d think they actually think when they keep repeating it. Well, duh… No.) The first part is certainly true: I doubt therefore I think – yes, the mind balances right and wrong, makes decisions. But the second part is such a TRICK! I exist because I think?? So where does that leave all the mentally handicapped? The suicidal guys like you and me? The imperfect, the bullied, the homeless? In the sewer, of course. That is what we cannot reconcile! If I don’t think this way, I must be broken. If my mind cannot make sense, I’m unworthy, not good enough to figure it out.

I can’t escape this hell. I belong in the sewer.

No, you don’t. You do NOT belong in the sewer.

You belong in heaven.

You’re real. You’re a fighter – Yes, you don’t want to fight anymore, you’re tired. I get it. But hear this: you’re one of the best soldiers. You did not choose that gift – who in their right mind would choose to constantly pick up the sword on an invisible battle field? This gift was given to you. It’s an out-of-this-world honour, don’t you dare throw it away. You’re one of the vertical ones. You’re worthy precisely because you cannot sweep the truth under the carpet.  The light can only brighten up the room when on the table, not under the bed. Believe in your light, you know it’s still there. It was there this morning when you woke up. Take it from under the bed and put it on the table, that’s all you must do. What? You can’t find it? Naturally you can’t, stupid! It’s invisible, it’s not from this world. It is not the literal light, come on, even your lousy mind can get that. It’s the light of your life. It’s the love of your life. It’s right there, in the middle of your heart. Now pick it up gently and look straight into it. Can you see how beautiful you are? As beautiful as God. And you’re not alone. He has your back.

I love you.

Leaving behind

North America. The continent with three countries of which only two count – this is the common understanding. Actually, only one country counts, the United States. Canada is an appendix, no matter how much Canadians resist the truth and are offended by it. Let’s not get into the whats and the whys now, suffice it to say they’re not exactly loyal to the queen anymore – just on paper.

As an immigrant, it depends very much when you arrived here, and what were your reasons for leaving in the first place, and where you came from. If you like small places and small corners, please be aware that North America has big roads and big corners. You can easily get lost if you don’t have a vision. Suppose you come with a vision – or you acquire one in the process of integration. You’ve better chances if you stop in the States; in Canada they’re not visionaries. Or maybe they are, here and there, but not quite (those who truly are, end up in the States, yes). And despite their declared tolerance to cultures (again, on paper), indigenous people particularly dislike immigrant visionaries. “Indigenous” doesn’t mean the First Nations tribes – those are too remote, too non-involved, and completely lost in the WASP type of culture which dominates “North America”. In this context, indigenous are all the immigrants who settled here at least one generation before that which tries to integrate itself in turn. That’s one problem.

If you have unresolved business from you come from, North America is not the place for you. Unresolved business can mean properties, aging parents, childhood lovers, you name it. Sooner or later, you either drop that business altogether, or you’ll have to cross the ocean to and fro to solve it, which makes it unnecessarily expensive and tedious – don’t believe those who say we live in the world of affordable fast travel, at some point, it’s about your body growing old and not dealing well with planes and that overseas shit. In North America, people are starting over – or so they say. Some sincerely try. You can’t start over if you didn’t let everything else die first. It’s hard but it’s a must. And then you need a new identity, which is why America, i.e. the States, work. In Canada, multiculturalism is encouraged – that means you don’t have to leave it behind. It’s a means to justify “nice” power as opposed to “corporate” power. Is it any wonder this country doesn’t have a sense of direction? You may not understand your neighbour but you’ll have to be considerate if s/he fights in the middle of the night and doesn’t let you sleep, or leaves garbage around. That’s because your neighbour doesn’t give a damn about politeness and “civilization”. In multiculturalism, some cultures are more equal than others, just like animals in communism. Well, after all it is an “ism”. And it has its price. That’s another problem.

It’s also a matter of money and social status, of course. Wherever in the world you are, if you’re on the top of the power ladder, you’ll be the one making all the rules. That’s because it’s always been like that and, more importantly, because God is dead – have you heard? Not much since, about a hundred years. Still, it makes some difference. So if you’re on top, why would you leave, right? Right. It’s the paupers who immigrate.  But then again, there are paupers and paupers. The very interesting ones are those who would do anything to get to the top – the likes of middle-class gentlemen from England or Holland who amassed fortunes in the New World, or shrewd Eastern Europeans who’d lived through communism and are the best supporters of lefties in North America. Why? It’s called trauma. They think it’ll heal once finances are in order. It’s OK to get “other people’s money” and give it to the poor, as long as it’s not their shirt they need to give – or what’s in their pockets.

And then there’s love – that reoccurring funny theme of life. You accompany someone who wanted to leave, you stay, you try to make it work and reconcile shit. It’s a process, they say. What doesn’t kill you, makes you “stronger” – that’s another way to say “numb to shit”, ’cause you guessed, you can’t really reconcile it. And you find joy in the gratitude for those things which did work, for your un-celebrated successes, for those small corners you managed to sweep clean, for every breadth you take and every move you make, even if they watch you. Do not be fooled, there’s still someone around the corner, the devil is still alive and kicking. The very , very good news is that God is too. Trust me on that.

CATEL_SI_USA

(Photo by author, Istanbul, October 1997)

Figure Out What Your Purpose Is

I’m done with exploring the problems in my life. I’m reading books on serious motivation now and I aim high! And because I’ve always wanted it all (despite the naysayers’ ‘advice’… “oh, but you really can’t have it all”), I’ve made up my mind to beat the doubt and reach for the sky. So I’m highly recommending this book by Grant Cardone – “Be Obsessed or Be Average”. Did you guess, Cardone is crazily successful. Here’s a list the author draws, which helps in figuring out what your purpose is. Write your answers down, I did!

Personal Interests

What excites me now?

What is so exciting to me that I would do anything to accomplish it?

What bores me?

What is the thing or things I have always wanted to do?

What don’t I want to do, no matter the payoff?

What do I do that causes me to forget to eat?

What have I been interested in since childhood?

 

Money Motivation

What am I willing to do for no money?

What would I like to do for a lot of money?

If money had nothing to do with my life, what would I do with my time?

What amount of money would give me the security I need?

What amount of money would I need to have choices?

What amount of money would I need to have financial freedom?

What amount of money would I need to really make a difference for the better?

 

Skills and Talents

What can I do better than anyone?

What are some of my native skills?

What have I always been good at?

What have I always been bad at?

What skills or talents do I have that I ignore?

What am I terrible at and should not be doing at all?

What do I do that is a complete waste of my time and talent?

In what areas do others think more or my abilities than I do?

What are the skills I need to develop?

 

Market Research

What is a product or service that I have complained about repeatedly?

What great idea have I had for starting a company or inventing something that I haven’t followed through on?

 

Legacy

What do I want to be remembered for?

What contributions can I make to society that I would be most proud of?

What do I want to make sure people never say about me?

 

Inspiring People

Who are five successful people I admire?

What are those people doing that I admire?

What do those I admire have in common with one another?

What quality do I wish I shared with those people?

What do I have in common with that list of people?

If I could meet anyone, who would it be?

Who is the most supportive person in my life?

 

Lifestyle

What makes me feel good?

What gives me energy?

What activity bores me and doesn’t make me feel good?

What things am I doing that I regret later?

What bad habits do I need to stop?

What good habits do I need to start?

What do I need to do more of that would make me feel better about myself?

 

What if…

If I were going to write a book, what would it be about? What inspirational lessons would I draw from my life?

If I knew I couldn’t fail, what would I do?

If I could be known for one great thing, what would I want it to be?


THAT’S IT!

Now go ahead and WRITE YOUR ANSWERS DOWN! Cardone says: “Then, at the same time tomorrow, do it again. And then do it again the next day and the day after that. Over time you may notice that you come up with new answers or that the same answers keep coming up. You may see surprising patterns or be reminded of a dream that was buried long ago.”

Whatever it is, do not give up! You are here for a purpose and if you haven’t found it yet, NOW is the high-time to find it.

 

 

Marriage

It’s one of the seven mysteries of the Church. Some consider it equal to monasticism, some even harder. Like any mystery, it’s hard to understand from the outside. Single people don’t really get it, and only some divorced or widowed ones do. Many of those inside it don’t get it. So why this fuss, you’d ask – and who gets it, if any? Well, those who live in it through Christ.

Remember that moment when you first saw particles of dust floating in the lit air? I still find any such moment full of awe. Even if there’s not a hint of wind, they’d dance, unable to sit still. Suspended in the light, content to just be. Part of God’s creation, tiny and unknowing as they are, they participate in the mystery of life. They’re so beautiful. And the daisies which have started blooming in my yard. “Solomon in all his glory wasn’t dressed like them.” And yet we fret, we worry, we get sick with anger and frustration and what-not at things, and situations, and people – particularly close ones. We forget God, every single second. It’s a hard exercise to remember.

And so it is with marriage: it starts off in a suspended blissful hope that everything will always be all right. He’s here, she’s here. We both are and we want to be. ‘Want’ is a key word. Free will and life – the only rights we have as human persons. The rest is invented. We get it, mysteriously, without much explanation. The world is good enough, we are enough for one another and alas, how do we take that for granted! Of course we do, we didn’t get to the ‘hard work’ part. That usually starts with the other funny blessing, the kids. But that time might come – even before the kids – of mystery breach, that moment when doubt creeps in. He’s so insensitive, why on earth did I choose him? She’s so annoying, where’s that book or beer or site? In the beginning, making up is easy. Youth helps, nice body – I’m sorry, baby (incidentally, none of the two really knows what forgiveness really is, never mind how to ask for it). You want to believe, you want to keep the mystery going. This mystery is one of the nicest ones, why wouldn’t you? Then there’s the second time, and the third time, and the fourth… you still want to believe but it’s getting harder and harder. You rely on your mind (dangerous!), body (even more dangerous!) and spirit (which is the least dangerous but it’s the trickiest ’cause it gets depleted by the second). One day, you wake up and the hope is gone. What good was it? What good is it?

It’s pretty much downhill from there. Some get divorced, others stay and bully the other –  or one another. Everybody suffers, it’s a crack in the pot which was once whole. Japanese mend cracks with gold so you can see the crack and remember. I find that Kintsugi technique wise. In some cases, counselling helps – most often than not, those are not the cases where the couple comes from a strongly patriarchal society (add to that historical or personal trauma, and you may not have any counselling at all). Some remember to pray, or if they’ve never known how, it is their high-time of learning. When both pray, the gold spreads to the cracks and makes them shine, they say. Some mysteriously mend the relationship without faith in a higher authority – or so they pretend. I do wonder where those get their strength to pick up and continue. And there are still those who will stay in the marriage and turn to Christ for love when their partner would not. Those are martyrs no less than monks and nuns who accept to be crucified along with God.

Why would someone choose marriage then?

Well, it IS a mystery.

kintsugi (pinterest)

(photo credit: Pinterest)