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Last week I overheard a lady on the bus say:  “It’s terrible, there’s no shadows on the ground from the sun, it’s just terrible!”

She seriously sounded like the world was going to end if the shadows didn’t come back so I, of course, quickly glanced out of the bus window and was able to see the shadow of the bus on the sidewalk…  Whew!  That was close!  To be fair it was a really faint shadow because of the smoggy atmosphere but the shadow was most definitely there so I don’t think she had very  good eyesight.  But like many of the tangents in my life it made me think…

A shadow is essentially proof, in darkness, that something is standing against the light, blocking it from reaching the surface.  Shadows can be very dark or very faint, depending on your light source and the opacity of the object causing the shadow… and, apparently, your eyesight.

A shadow is not good or evil in and of itself, it’s all in how you perceive it.  Some examples are:  The lady on the bus viewed the absence of shadows as something terrible and unnatural, scary even but people under trees in the middle of a hot summer view shadows as a blessing.  At night, when a statue is lit from the bottom the shadows make the face look very creepy and it becomes a wonderful place to sit and tell ghost stories.  When that same statue is lit from the top it appears normal and your ghost stories have less umph.  Walking from bright light to deep shadows can be unnerving because you can’t see anything until your eyes adjust whereas going from deep shadows to bright light is usually quite nice.  Your perspective changes everything, eh?

My musings turned me towards wondering – where the shadows are in my life?  What bad habits are standing up, against the light and causing a shadow on my surface?  Where am I dark?  Is the darkness OK?  Am I providing people shade or scaring them with my shadows?  What I am using for my light source?

For me personally my light source should be my Bible because it is the standard of my faith and I believe it is the written word of God.  “Should” obviously implies that it isn’t… not really.

I had to apologize to God this morning because I haven’t been a very faithful follower of His for the last few years…  I allowed my circumstances, my bad shadows, to drag me down and I’ve just kind of stayed there for quite a while, having elaborate pity parties and pushing away the people who love me.  I’m trying to change but definitely can’t do it by myself, I need God’s help!  Thankfully His mercies are new every morning…

Next weekend, for my 40th birthday, I’m going out-of-town on a trip with my two best friends, (who are finally going to get to spend some time together, whoo hoo!) and I’m just going to bask in the shade of our girlfriend-ness.  We are all believers but my friend from high school has a very strong faith and I really need that encouragement, that renewing right now.  I’m ready to start my relationship with God over and want their support.  I need to reach back to the people at my church who have reached out to me and try to start over.  It’s time to come out of the bad shadows and make a new beginning!

My family has been working our way through the first season of the TV series, Once Upon A Time, which is more or less about fairy tale characters living in the real world not knowing they are fairy tale characters and it winds it way back and forth between the fairy tales (with many very interesting twists) and their modern-day lives in a tiny town “somewhere” in Maine.  The focus of the series seems to be on finding your “True Love”.  The characters say things like “True Love’s Kiss can break any curse” and “Nothing is more powerful than True Love’s Kiss”.  Fairy tales are intertwined making various characters the main role in multiple stories (Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are the same person in this series as are Rumplestiltskin and The Beast, etc.)  Aside from the first two episodes this show is very family friendly (it’s a bit gory in the beginning) and has plenty of action/adventure scenes to please boys and men and family-appropriate romance for the female heart.  Once Upon A Time is well done and has fascinating twists and turns and it’s really made me think about True Love.

I’m watching an episode with my husband and it’s where the Snow White character and the Prince Charming character are falling in love in the real world, with no memories of their fairy tale life and love, photos of them together were taken and shown to Prince Charming’s real-life “wife” (they weren’t really married but it’s complicated so let’s just skip to the point…) and she looks at the pictures and asks another character “Have you ever been in love? Because I’m beginning to realize that I haven’t.  The way he looks at her and she looks at him, that’s True Love and I’ve never had that…”  So my husband looks at me and asks “Are we In Love?”       Really Awkward Moment!       I tell him yes we are but we’re still working on the mushy-gooshy part of it, which is true.  He is content with my answer but his question inspired me to investigate “True Love” a little bit more.

Dictionary.com defines “Love” as:  1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.  2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.  3. sexual passion or desire.  4.  a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.  5. (used in direct address as a term of endearment, affection, or the like): Would you like to see a movie, love?

Given these definitions I should have “feelings” for my husband and children (or anybody) to qualify me as “loving” them.  I think my feeler is broke but does that really mean I don’t love them?  As Stephanie pointed out in her comment on an earlier post (“Do You Miss Me”), and I’m going to summarize what she said here, I do lots of stuff for my family, including sacrificing my own wants and desires to meet theirs – so my actions say I love them even if my feelings don’t.

The Bible says in I Corinthians 13:4 – 8:  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

This definition of love is all action.  Love Does Stuff for the one(s) it loves.  Feelings don’t really even enter into the picture here, whereas in the dictionary definition you pretty much have feelings only.  Hmmm…  I definitely have one but not so much the other…  I’d like to have passion and affection in my family relationships.  And just to clarify – I want passion to and from my husband and affection to and from my kids and other family members and even friends.  I don’t want to run for public office in the future and have some weirdo out there misquoting my blog…  I will continue my actions of love towards others but what I really want at this point is feelings to and from other people.  I want to feel again.  I’d like to have passion for my husband.  I wouldn’t mind having passion for my art and my music again either.  I want my feeler fixed but that’s probably another blog.

So which one is True Love?  I think Hollywood places too much emphasis on the feelings part of Love and not enough (or hardly any emphasis at all) on the actions of Love and that one little re-definition has destroyed more relationships and marriages than could possibly be counted, in my humble opinion.  Gazing deeply into each other’s eyes and giving way to rising hormones is only creating feelings which come and go based on your circumstances.  The pursuit of “True Love” is really just like my dog chasing the red laser beam light.  He can’t ever catch it but it flashes over him in quick bursts.  Feelings, like a wild animal, cannot be caged and contained.  The whole point of a reading a romance novel is to experience the feelings of the heroine when her suitor finally captures her heart.  When the book is over the feelings fade and you need to read another one, and then another one…  That is not True Love.

The Bible also says:  Perfect Love casts out Fear  (I John 4:18) and Love covers a multitude of sins (I Peter 4:8).  So add that to being patient, kind, not envious, not proud or boastful, honoring to others, not self-centered, hard to make angry, doesn’t hold grudges, happy with the truth, protecting, trusting, hoping, perserving and never failing and I think this is what I want to be my True Love.  How about you?

I have horrible eyesight.  In fact, I am legally blind without corrective lenses.  Seriously, on my own I can’t even get close enough to the mirror to put my eye makeup on and actually see what I’m doing, it’s that bad!  (One eye doctor said I had 20/400 vision… when I was in my 20’s and it gets worse every year.)

I received my first pair of glasses at age 10, although I probably could have used them sooner.  When I was a sophomore in high school I was desperate to get contacts so I could wear sunglasses… and when I finally did I instantly fell in love with my “new view”.  No more looking at life through an oval frame and being unable to see anything outside of it.  And sunglasses!  What a “Hallelujah” moment!  I had never been able to wear sunglasses before and now, in the shades of my dreams, I felt  awesome and for the first time in my life maybe even obtained the status of “cool”.  <happy sigh>  Life was good.

Then, about 10-ish years ago somebody came out with the Night and Day contacts.  You can wear them 24/7 for a month and then you’re supposed to throw them away and put a new pair in.  I LOVE these contacts!  I get up in the morning and put a drop of regular ‘ole saline in each eye and I’m good to go for the day.  As time went on (and money was always short) I discovered you could wear each pair for more than one month.  In fact, some of my contacts would last six months or more before my eyes would start to feel irritated.  The last pair of contacts I wore for 15 months straight… yes, I know that’s probably bad for me but I have an eye doctor appointment in less than a week and every doctor I’ve ever had has marveled at how healthy my eyes are, even if they aren’t particularly useful for seeing anything on their own.

In preparation for my next eye appointment I have removed my contacts and started wearing my backup glasses.  I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to go back to the “old”, much more limited way of seeing things.  Once again I can only see what lies within the oval “frame” of my glasses.  Now I know why those huge, giant lenses were so popular back in the 80’s, you could see a whole lot more out of them!  My peripheral vision has literally vanished as I cannot see anything outside the frame of my glasses.  <sigh>  Also, due to the strength of my prescription, things tend to look slightly rounded when I look down – which is particularly annoying when I’m trying to walk down stairs… where exactly are they?  Hopefully I won’t have to put up with these glasses much longer…

Now, to turn the topic slightly to where I’m truly headed – I’m realizing that some people view life through Contacts and some people view life through Glasses.  The Contacts people have peripheral vision and the same view of the world as people who don’t need their vision corrected.  The view of the Glasses people is, by necessity of the glasses, limited, forcing them to view life through a frame outside of which everything is fuzzy, or at least less clear.

The pluses of the Contact People?  They are able to see the bigger picture, all the little details around the edges are more visible and it is easier to consider whether or not they should become bigger details.  The pluses of the Glasses People are that they are more focused on what they do see and everything they focus on they look at intentionally.

Of course they each have negatives too – the Contact People can get distracted by having so much more to look at.  Something will catch your attention “out of the corner of your eye” and you turn your whole body to look at it.  Maybe you didn’t want to look at it and turn away or maybe you did and you continue to gaze upon it until you are satisfied.  Regardless, your focus was interrupted.  The Glasses People can only see what is within the frame of their glasses and miss things that might turn out to be important.

So which one am I and what is better, to be a Contact Person or a Glasses Person?  I’m not sure and I don’t know.  The obvious answer to which is better seems to be Contacts – to see everything.  But should everything be seen?  Is a focused, narrow vision better?  When I first started writing this I would have told you being a Contact Person was good and being a Glasses person is to be an old fuddy-duddy but it’s been five months since I started this post, I’ve had my eye exam (eyes are still healthy, yay! but my prescription changed again, boo!) and so much has changed in the last six months that I’m just not sure I want to see “everything” anymore, I think I want more focus in my life…

I guess I would have to say since God created people to see without glasses it appears to me that having a Contact view of life is how we are designed to function.  Of course, that’s only when we’re young – as we age most people require glasses for one reason or another.  So maybe we need both types of people.  Maybe the young, who can see more, are supposed to help the ones whose vision has gone fuzzy, to explain to those who can’t see what is out there and find a way to bring the picture into focus for others.

In the meantime, I’m realizing that the Glasses People are such by either choice or necessity and the Contact People need to be compassionate when they point out the facts and details that a Glasses Person either can’t or won’t see.  And the Glasses People need to accept the fact that they do have fuzzy vision and be gracious about receiving assistance from those who can see the big picture.  We need to love each other enough to “bear one another’s burdens”, to practice random acts of kindness and to be selfless enough to honor others by caring more about meeting the needs of another than your own.

And there I am, in a completely different place than when I started this post but I think where I am now is better than where I was.  Life is good and getting better!

I think deep down inside every woman wants a magazine-perfect home – Picture this:  You walk in the front door and smell a light fragrance that reminds you of spring and burning candles at the same time. Soft light floods each room, revealing the sparkling clean that is everywhere.  In the bedrooms, sheets match the comforters, pillows, bed-skirts, curtains and the area rug.  Bathrooms are painted in soft aqua tones with shells and ocean accents with fluffy towels folded neatly into baskets and smelling as nice as the day you pulled them out of the dryer.  In the Kitchen there are never any dishes in the sink and the refrigerator is full of good, wholesome food that looks  amazing and tastes fabulous. The counter tops are covered in glorious mounds of baked goods that are sinfully calorie laden, created with the express purpose of soliciting complements about what a clever cook you must be to make such exquisite pastries.  Throughout the house are lush carpets with no traffic wear patterns and never need vacuuming, hard-wood floors that never need sweeping yet they are waxed and polished to the point of reflecting your face like a mirror.  All you have to do is float from room to room enjoying the picturesque perfectness and never cast a care to how it actually stays that way because you’re in a magazine home.  This is the modern woman’s fairy tale, eh?

<pause and reflect on what a life might be like if you lived in a magazine-perfect home…okay, that’s enough, now come back to reality>

Real Life is full of my spouse, children and pets making messes everywhere.  Especially messes that smell bad, really bad.  Real Life means the sink – and counter tops – are covered in dirty dishes, the inside of the microwave has spots from things exploding and the bottom of the oven is full of burnt offerings to the gods.  The ‘fridge may be full but everything is sticky from a frozen can of orange juice that leaked all over the shelves and no one ever bothered to wipe up. Also, something has gone horribly wrong in the bottom ‘fridge drawer, aka, the cool box,  and you’ve resigned yourself to waiting for the government to come and clean up the toxic waste.  Until then, nobody in the house is going to touch it for lack of proper gloves and radiation suits.

Real Life means that there is dog hair everywhere and if you are lucky(?) enough to have a large, prone-to-drool dog like we do, there is dog drool everywhere as well.  Dog drool on the walls from when he shakes his head, dog drool on your shoes because he likes to carry them around and dog drool on just about any soft, fluffy thing he can carry around the house with him… and he’s a big dog, there’s not much he can’t wrap his mouth around and cart all over, ugh!

Real Life means that the kitchen table is not used for eating at but for the storage of things like magazines, the mail, a citrus juicer, body lotion, reading books, your daughter’s latest sewing project, a motorcycle helmet, TV remote controls, an old rotary-dial telephone that’s missing its handset, electrical power cords, scissors, a wireless mouse and a set of super-old Tupperware popsicle makers.

Real Life means that there is a huge dog crate in the middle of my kitchen area for a week because we dog-sat for a friend who went on vacation.

Real Life means that we are renting our guest room to a nice, single young woman from church who has her own dog and we find out that neither her dog nor our own recently acquired, super-large dog are entirely house trained.  <rolling my eyes as I wipe up dog pee with one hand and hold my nose with the other>

Real Life means that my home normally operates in Disaster Mode but that it’s always open to others, just as it is.  Those courageous few that dare venture into our home usually leave saying they felt relaxed and at ease with us and they look forward to coming back.

Real Life means that we live with the disaster, the dog hair, the junk food and the cluttered table but we LIVE.  We laugh and play games, watch movies and just enjoy each other company.  We make terrible messes in the kitchen trying out various recipes, most of them completely delicious and therefore bad for us, and when we finally feel like it, we clean the mess up – unless we have company coming over and then we do the famous “Company Clean” dance all around the house, it’s both good exercise and good for our housekeeping!

Real Life means that we’re not perfect and our home will never grace the pages of a magazine but it’s our home and we don’t encourage any OCD behavior by making (housekeeping) perfection a low, low priority.  Our goals are to live and be a happy family together.  There are some people who can do that AND have amazing housekeeping skills but we are not those people.  We are ourselves.  You be yourself too.  Be Real!

It’s official, I am now seeing a Psychiatrist.    They’re very kind and call their facility a “Mental Wellness Center” but still… I’ve entered into the Needs-Seriously-Professional-Help Level of Mental Illness now and I’ll be seeing a Counselor once a week and a Psychiatrist once a month.  Apparently the Psychiatrist will make sure my medications are appropriate for my situation and the Counselor can help me deal with my stress.  I’m telling my boss that my appointments are with a “Stress Management Specialist” and a “Medication Specialist”, ha, ha…

I had an hour and a half appointment with my counselor, a much more thorough session than I’ve had with any of my other counselors and even though it was an evaluation she seemed to pick up on what was important to me and what topics would be good to pursue in future appointments.  The week after that I had an hour appointment with my psychiastrist and she asked me many of the same questions – without looking at the counselor’s notes – so they could see if they both got the same or similar diagnosis after the evaluation.  They did.  While I didn’t recive any “official” diagnosis at the end of my appointment with the psychiastrist she did say that she agreed with the counselor on my being depressed and having General Anxiety Disorder.  The counselor said I am Hyper-Sensitive to Criticism (true) and the psychiatrist thinks I am borderline Bi-Polar II.

I have to say I’m somewhat relieved.  Half the battle is knowing the name of your enemy.

The psychiatrist also said there is no pill to fix my stress (I knew that…) but that the counselor would be teaching me coping techniques to deal with it more effectively.  And speaking of pills my “Medication Specialist” drastically changed my meds.  She upped my anti-depressant, ix-nayed the Xanax completely, and cut my other anti-anxiety in half with an eye towards quitting it completely.  and the psychiatrist is leaving my sleep med the same, which is a real bummer because my regular doctor had cut my sleeping med down from 10 mgs to 5 so I haven’t been sleeping well for most of a month… I was really hoping for a change in sleep meds.

After giving my boss an update from my Specialist visits he has extended my Performance Improvement Plan until the end of August because “of the efforts I am making to ascertain whether or not a reasonable accommodation is necessary” (to do my job because of my health/stress issues) so now I don’t have to worry about whether or not I’ll be fired any second now – at least for another three or four weeks.  Whoo hoo?

Today I’m feeling exhausted but OK, which has been the norm for the last three-ish weeks.  I am doing my job as best I can and I feel like I’m making less mistakes and improving my speed.  We’ll see how August goes and what they say on my evaluation.  My birthday is at the end of August, hopefully I don’t get fired as a birthday present…

The psychiatrist also said “Maybe this isn’t the job for you”.  (I didn’t tell my boss about that part.)  Maybe she’s right but at the moment all I want to do is go home and sleep – not get another job – and sleeping won’t pay the bills.    At any rate, I’ll keep my eyes open.  This job has excellent benefits and great pay but if I’m sacrificing my health then I’d be better off being a greeter at Walmart eh?

  I go back to the counselor tomorrow and once a week for the rest of August and I’ll see the psychiatrist at the beginning of September.  I have to say that after a week of the new med dosing I am feeling better emotionally, although still tired physically, and overall my mental state is much more positive, yay!  Now let’s see if I can stay on top of my work and not make any mistakes until my review at the end of August…