Praying Attention

I don’t sit down to pray specific prayers very often, but I do find myself noticing people every day. My heart goes out to the elderly woman standing on the street corner selling newspapers for two dollars. She smiles but I see that she is lonely. I often wonder about the childhood of the drunk man stumbling down the street with nowhere to live. What horrible things happened to him that no one knows? I also notice elderly shoppers checking their coupons in the grocery store. I am interested in these people. Sometimes I speak to them. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I give the woman selling newspapers some money. Other times I don’t. But I always notice them.

I love a post I saw on Twitter from Glennon Doyle Melton@Momastery recently.

“Noticing and feeling the joy and pain of the world is a prayer. I call it praying attention. I understand now that I’m not a mess but a deeply feeling person in a messy world. When someone asks me why I cry so often, I say, ‘For the same reason I laugh so often – because I’m paying attention.'”

Melton calls it “praying attention,” and I have adopted the phrase, too. Don’t be so quick to try to fix people and fix their “problems.” Sit with them emotionally in their stuff. Go ahead and feel sad for them. The reason it hurts is because you are praying attention. As Melton also said, “Stay woke, loves.”

You Are Worth It

People who are depressed cannot simply “pull themselves together” and be cured. Without proper treatment, including antidepressants and/or psychotherapy, untreated clinical depression can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people with depression. (WebMD) – If your doctor shames you for feeling depressed, find another doctor. Some pediatricians and internists simply don’t understand depression and they may not take you seriously. Find another doctor! Find a psychiatrist who listens and validates you and your feelings. You are worth it.

WebMD Depression Guide

 

Be Careful with Your Children

Children are not meant to be tiny clones of us. I’ll say it again, because it’s critical that you get this. Your children are NOT meant to be tiny clones of you! Ouch. That realization can be a painful one at times. You, as parents, want to show your beloved children how to live in this world. You want to influence their decisions. You want to give them good advice. You want them to like the music you like. You want to influence them politically, spiritually, and socially. After all, you have been charged with their care and well-being. Shouldn’t they be formed in your image? These little people belong to us and it’s our job to make sure they turn out right. Not exactly. Your children don’t actually belong  to you. Possessions belong to us. Money belongs to us. Car keys belong to us. But not children.

In order to be a truly great parent, you must realize that your children have their own purpose in this world. Their individual life is sacred and must be supported and validated by you. So many parents get this wrong. They believe that, somehow, these little humans belong to them and that it is the their job to mold the child into what the parent wants the child to be. This could not be further from the truth. Discard this lie. It is, in fact, a lie. This is where so many of us, as parents, go wrong. When we view these small humans as “ours” and as little people who need to grow up to be just like us, we rob our children of the life they were intended to live. Think of your child’s life as a wild flower. You don’t really know what it’s going to look like or be like once it is grown, but you still water it and give it sunlight and love. You don’t try to make the wildflower be a rose or a tulip or a sunflower. You just let it be what it was meant to be. One of my favorite quotes is by poet Kahlil Gibran. Wiser words were never spoken:

“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They came through you but not from you and thought they are with you, yet they belong not to you.”

It is a sacred job to be a parent. Be careful with your children. Think of each person’s life as a sacred spiritual journey. Only the Universe knows what your child’s purpose is for this human experience. Your child’s life is a sacred instrument in the world. Your jobs are to keep them safe, allow them to experience the consequences of life, and to validate their feelings. One example of validation is when a young child comes to you and says, “Adam is being mean.”

Your initial response might be to say, “No, he isn’t. He’s just trying to let you know…” Be very, very careful when your children come to you and express their feelings. You are the person who can most validate their feelings. If you do not validate their feelings, they will grow up lacking strong self-esteem and a solid identity. When you say, “No, he isn’t…” what your child “learns” is that her perceptions and feelings are incorrect and that she cannot trust herself. She then begins to doubt her gut instincts.

A better course of action would be to respond with something like, “I’m sorry, sweetheart. What happened?” This allows your child to feel heard and to learn that you are a safe place to come when the world is hard. Letting her know that you care about her feelings will cause her to open up to you and share more of the painful experience. It’s really what adults do when they pay a therapist to listen and validate their feelings during a mid-life crisis, for example. By validating your child’s feelings, you are allowing your child to express the hurt. Most of the time, children (and adults) don’t need answers. We just need a friendly listener.

Once your child has expressed her emotions and has had the opportunity to explain the details of the painful situation, you may then try to steer them in a good direction or help them see the truth of the situation if the truth is different than what they experienced. In any event, it is crucial that you first are actively listening and validating them. You will not regret it.

 

Not Like a Girl Loves a Boy

Dreams were wonderful that way — transcending gravity and physics — all confines of the physical world. Kurt’s two-day facial scruff added grit to his demeanor. Stage lights shined hot on his gold locks as he rocked back and forth. A cigarette burn hole was front and center on the ragged too-large sweater hanging on his small frame. Nikki felt the bass in her chest. She could see occasional darts of saliva shoot from his beautiful mouth as the sandpaper angst made its way into the world. She loved him. But not like a girl loves a boy. The love was something spiritual. She could rely on him. He was always the same. He was not afraid to be himself totally. He was not afraid to let the ugly show. He was not afraid to let the anger show. He felt deeply. He lived deeply.

Excerpt from “Paper Girl.” Click BUY NOW link to purchase the paperback or the e-book.

Do you include others?

Regardless of your religion (or the choice to have no religion), it is important to be inclusive in your daily life. You can increase the light and goodness in the world by widening the various “safe” circles in your day. I always try to include others any chance I get. Have you ever been on the other end of this scenario? Have you ever been the new student at school? Have you ever walked past a group of students who are laughing and joining together in a non-inclusive manner? It feels lonely.

Are you a student? When you walk the halls of your middle school or you eat lunch in your high school cafeteria, there are many opportunities to spread goodness. Be brave! Speak to someone who looks lonely or who looks like they might be struggling. Did a student drop their books? Be brave! Help them pick up the books. Share your smile with them. Is a new student looking lost in the cafeteria? Is someone sitting alone at the lunch table? Be brave! Say, “Hi, I’m ______! What’s your name?”

Find a way to connect with people who might not be part of the popular group. If you start practicing this inclusion each and every day, you will become more comfortable doing so. There are so many hurting and lonely people in the world. All kinds of clubs and groups are established for the purpose of grouping us together with people who are the same as us: country clubs, sororities, political groups, unofficial groups of cliches who don’t welcome others. The list goes on and on. Personally, I am uncomfortable associating in these types of groups. I always want to include others who might not have the money to join the country club or purchase the “right” clothing.

As human beings, we must support one another in brave ways. I live in a part of the United States we call The Bible Belt. I don’t typically see Christians behaving in ways of inclusiveness. This hurts me deeply. It’s as if we, as Christians, want to build walls to “keep out the bad people,” or “protect our clean selves from those who are dirty.” You might not be a Christian, but you may know something about Christ. Christ hung out with “unclean” people. The message of the gospel is “the good news.” The good news is that God loves us and accepts us and wants us to treat each other with respect and kindness. When Christ walked this earth, he welcomed people of all class status. That’s the whole point! Are you Buddhist? Muslim? Jewish? Agnostic? It makes no difference what belief system you hold — be brave! Include others you encounter throughout your day. Be on the lookout for opportunities to give away your smile or your assistance and kindness.

Thank you, Ellis.


Thank you, Ellis Writing Club!  It was an honor to speak to your group this week. I appreciated seeing so many lovely faces at the meeting. Remember: waiters wait — writers write. Don’t wait! Always have your pen and paper handy to jot down ideas that land in your thoughts. Don’t rely on your memory – write it down. And don’t TALK about your poem or your short story — WRITE IT!

Do whatever you can to stay true to yourself. Surround yourself with those who “get” you. Find your tribe! Have you honored your inner artist today?