Appreciating Our Freedoms

Independence Day ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance
by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. –
John Adams

july-4-2014Every year after the 4th of July, I’ve made it a tradition to write about the significance of what we call Independence Day and to consider the words written by John Adams, one of the founders of our country.

As Americans the 4th of July should be a day when we remember the Declaration of Independence and our country’s separation from Great Britain in 1776. In reality the 4th of July is a holiday that most of us celebrate with gatherings of family and friends, fireworks, cookouts, even parades and flags waving. But honestly, how many of us really think about the true meaning of this day? And just what do we mean when we say independence and freedom? 

This year I am particularly aware of how many people don’t have freedom and how much pain and suffering are present in our world. I hear the news with horror of children – sometimes unaccompanied without their parents – trying to cross the Texas-Mexico border from their homelands where their parents fear for their children’s lives. I think of thousands and thousands of people in refugee camps who are trying to flee the torture and killings in their countries. And I personally am feeling how un-free and un-independent I have felt over the last year as I stayed in hospitals, rehab centers, and in my own apartment fighting my illness.

Yes, we are all guilty of taking our freedom and independence for granted. Having said that, let’s consider John Adams’ very moving and poignant words that he wrote to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776. I believe his words can help us put the celebration of Independence Day into perspective. (This is the exact text from his letter with original spellings.) “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” (The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-84)

Those words speak volumes to me. Perhaps as John Adams stated, we should always remember Independence Day as a “Day of Deliverance” and celebrate it with solemn acts of devotion to God. We have so much to be grateful for, so many freedoms, so many choices, so many blessings. Life can be truly abundant, if we choose to be open to it. May we celebrate and honor our liberation, our freedom, our blessings through gratitude and prayer.

* How did you celebrate the 4th of July this year? Will it be different in the future?

* What are some of your blessings and freedoms that you are grateful for?

Beloved Creator, we thank you for creating us as your children in this amazing world. Thank you so much for the gifts of freedom, of liberty, of life. May we not take them for granted. May we celebrate our “independence” with solemn acts of devotion to You, our God Almighty. Amen.

Joy Carol
www.joycarol.com

 

Posted in Musings on Life | 3 Comments

The Past

Memory LaneNo matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever.   ― Haruki Murakami

Recently I enjoyed the French film The Past (Le Passé), a 2013 drama film centered on an Iranian man who returns to France after four years away from his wife and her two children to finalize their divorce procedure. The relationships of all the characters in the film are filled with complexity and tension. It made me realize how easily we may become hostages of our own past and lock ourselves into self-made prisons.

The past may have a powerful grip on our lives, giving it free reign to haunt and torture us – especially if we are living with guilt or regret. It can destroy our happiness and transform us into someone we never would have imagined we might be. Until we heal the wounds of our past, we will continue to bleed. Some people try to bandage the bleeding with work, with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with sex, but that sort of bandage only covers the surface of the wound while the infection spreads deeper inside to contaminate their lives. We must have the strength to open old wounds and remove the pain that is holding us in negative past memories. Perhaps then we will find peace.

If our memories of the past are painful, we need to consider the cause, and identify our guilt and pain before we can discover a solution. We can’t alter the past, but there is usually a way to repair the damage or at least acknowledge it and move forward. Perhaps we can focus on what’s happening in the present and try to see it in a positive light. Most importantly, as my dad used to say, “Learn from your mistake so if it happens again you will know how to deal with it.” We may want to talk with a close friend or a counselor who can help us understand things better. That may lift a burden off our shoulders and give us comfort. If possible we can also try to forgive those who have hurt us and surround ourselves with people who love us. Sometimes we may have to move away from people who insist on hurting us. If none of this helps us, we can pray about how we feel. Always we need to remember that we are wonderful, unique children of God.

The past can also be a great source of joy, amusement, and delight. We may have within us an internal scrapbook of memories of days gone by; pages we fondly thumb through full of people, places and experiences of great beauty. Nothing is truly lost that is carried in our heart and mind. Recently I’ve been playing songs from my past that are filled with snapshots of memories that I felt deeply about at some time. They hold for me remembrances of good friends, of pets, of crushes and past loves, of life on the farm, of living in cities, of travels, of births and deaths. Memories from the past are ever present – both good and bad stand side-by-side bringing us comfort and sorrow.

So as we grow up or as we grow older, we don’t completely change and stop loving the things we used to enjoy or fancy. We simply add more items to our memory list. For example, I will always love my dad’s stories, I still love the one-room schoolhouse where I first went to school, I love the music I’ve heard through the years, I love my dear old and new friends, I love all of the gardens I’ve planted in different locations around the country. I’ll never go a day without thinking about the memories of my past. So let’s appreciate our memories from the past and learn from them.

* Do you have painful memories that are in need of being healed?

* Can you make a memory list of things that you love, enjoy and will put a smile in your heart?

Beloved Healer, at times we come to you with heavy hearts that are in need of being healed from painful memories. When we are filled with anger, shame, embarrassment, or grief, we ask for your help in healing us. May we always recall that we are your treasured children, that we can remember our precious memories and give you thanks for them. Amen.    

Joy Carol

www.joycarol.com

 

 

 

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Green Green Grass of Home

They’ll all come to meet me, arms a reaching, smiling sweetly. It’s good to touch the Green Green Grass of Home… Then I awake and look around me at the grey walls that surround me and I realize that I was only dreaming. It’s good to touch the Green Green Grass of Home. —Claude “Curly” Putman, Jr.

green green grass of homeThe last few days my caregiver Marc Dacuycuy has been singing and humming the song Green Green Grass of Home, which was very popular in the ’60s. There’s something very poignant about the words and they made me think about how we yearn for “home” – whatever that word might mean to us.

Often when something new or different occurs, we think: “Wow! I’m so excited about these new insights, new surroundings, new friends.” But not long after, the novelty of the new wears off, and we may find ourselves gazing out the window and thinking of the faces of old friends and family and places. We might even start to feel homesick. “This is okay, but this is not really my home.”

Spring has a way of stimulating us with a sense of newness, a diversion from the timeworn practices of winter. Old habits and customs are replaced with different activities, fresh excitement, new pressures, and, regrettably, the possibility of missing the familiar – a longing ache for the well-known and perhaps even a tad of homesickness.

Homesickness is nothing new. It is mentioned in the book of Exodus in the Bible, and in Homer’s Odyssey. It can happen to just about anyone who is away from their “home.” Only recently have we learned a better sense of what homesickness really is. In the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, homesickness is defined as “distress and functional impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and attachment objects such as parents.” Those who suffer from the condition may feel sadness, nervousness, anxiety, and most often an obsessive preoccupation with thoughts of “home.”

According to Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama, homesickness isn’t necessarily about “home.” Nor is it really an illness. Rather it comes from our natural need for security, love, and protection – feelings usually associated with home. When these qualities aren’t present in a new environment, we begin to long for them. We’re missing what’s normal, what is regular or habitual for us.

If we are longing for the green green grass of home, we can try to surround ourselves with some of our favorite things, so we feel more comfortable. Photos of our family, loved ones, or of places that mean a lot to us can help us feel better. If we want to feel less homesick, we’ll feel restored after hearing some soothing words, even some funny jokes, from the people we love the most. We can also go to a church, a synagogue, a park, or a sacred place to be with the Divine. We might want to establish a routine time for talking with the Divine which will fill our day with hope and give us something to look forward to – especially if we are surrounded by those grey walls. Perhaps then we might discover the green green grass of home.

* What are the grey walls that are surrounding you and making you feel homesick?

* Can you find a way to experience the green green grass of home in your life?

Great Divine One, we thank you for your patient love for us – even when we are like frightened little children who tend to forget how much you love us. Forgive us that we are hungry, homesick, yearning for green grass and home. Help us learn to turn to you as our “home” and that indeed we will find that with you. Amen.

Joy Carol

www.joycarol.com

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Those Tiny Miracles

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.  
– Albert Einstein

miracles-happen-when-you-expect-themI’ve been thinking a lot about miracles lately. We tend to think of miracles as something large and inexplicable and completely outside the realm of possibility. If someone is brought back to life from a near-death experience or dramatically saved from a catastrophic event at the last possible minute – now those qualify to us as “miracles.”

For many of us, our days are filled with unknowns, insecurity, defeats, fear, even pain. And life seems to be speeding at such a high velocity that we don’t recognize that there may actually be opportunities for us to experience God’s little miracles in our lives. If we could just allow a few moments to pause, listen, and reflect, we might become aware of God’s comforting presence – which may just be one of God’s most precious everyday miracles.

Fear, loss, pain, confusion are not new phenomenon. Since the beginning of time and in every corner of the world, people have felt loss and pain and lived in fear of something or someone. The scriptures are filled with laments concerning peoples’ loss, pain and fear. “My God, why have you forsaken me?” “Why are you cast down, O my soul?”

We tend to forget the reassuring words that Jesus stated clearly: “I have come that you might have life abundantly. Be not afraid.” If we pause and ponder God’s abundant mercies to us, there is the possibility that our insecurities, our fears, our injuries, our defeats can be relieved and we can see tiny miracles around us everywhere.

Unfortunately, we are not very patient people and we are so wrapped up in our daily activities that we don’t recognize little “miracles” such as the gift of a new friend or a beautiful sunset or even spontaneous forgiveness. It’s difficult for us to open our eyes to see God’s miraculous works in our world especially in these troubled times. Perhaps whenever we feel anxiety we can recall the words from Romans 8: “Nothing can separate us from the love of God” – not even financial difficulties, job problems, issues in our families, concerns about illness or loneliness – yes, nothing can separate us from the love and miracles of God.

C. S. Lewis wrote that “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” It is possible that in an effort to shield ourselves from the scary and troubling things in our lives, we also block out the positive, and we may just be too shut down to those “small letters.”

I’ve been experiencing some tiny miracles in my life recently. At first they seemed quite small, but now I realize they were written in letters too large for me to see. One is the ongoing miracle of getting connected to Dr. Rebecca Fisher and Dr. Jerome Posner, who not only try everything possible to help me heal but stand up to my insurance company when it refuses to allow me to have an important drug – like rituxin (rituximab). A couple of miracles since I started on the rituxin treatments: no pain when I move my legs in bed, no more huge spasms, being able to button my own shirt, being able to write on a keyboard with my fingers, not falling asleep at the dinner table at 6 pm. Huge miracles for me.

I recently read that Deepak Chopra wrote something about symptoms for the transformation taking place within you toward a higher consciousness. “The first symptom is that you stop worrying. Things don’t bother you anymore. You become light-hearted and full of joy. The second symptom is that you encounter more and more meaningful coincidences in your life, more and more synchronicities. And this accelerates to the point where you actually experience the miraculous.” Yes, Mr. Chopra, I believe you got that right!

So we need to be more realistic. We need to expect miracles.

* Have you had some little miracles in your life that have surprised you at how big they became?

* Are you in need of a “miracle” – big or small – that will help to transform you?

* Can you open your life to the good news of abundant life?

Beloved God, sometimes we are just so scared, so confused, so hurting that we are closed to the possibility of a miracle happening in our lives. We need your help to calm us – to remind us that you have come to give us life more abundantly. We ask that you show us that you are near. We call out to you to help us live in a world filled with fear and pain. May we always remember that though we walk through valleys with shadows of death, we need not fear for you are always with us – and that may be the biggest miracle of all. Amen.

Joy Carol

www.joycarol.com

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Changes in Our Lives

When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back – Paulo Coelho

change-roadsignThey say that there are two things in life that people are afraid of. The first one is of death and dying – well that makes sense, no explanation needed. The second greatest fear is that of “change.”  We may say we embrace change; change is fun, exciting, stimulating, gets our motor running. But if truth be told, we are terrified of it! Things will be different and we don’t know what shape they will take. Perhaps we want to keep things just the way they are and not change them – even when things aren’t necessarily good or healthy, we may feel more comfortable not changing them.  That old adage…better the devil you know…comes to mind.

Life is filled with many surprises, possibilities, and an almost never-ending list of opportunities for growth – if only we can permit ourselves to be open to them. It is possible to pursue a meaningful and productive life all the days of our lives, but we may have to learn how to welcome in, and adjust to life’s changes.

Change isn’t easy, but neither is living, or dying. We struggle against the inevitable, and we suffer because of it. We must strive to find another way to look at the process of being born, growing old, changing, and even dying. It helps if we believe that each one of us carries within, an inherent quality which is unique, unchangeable, beautiful, and constant; a pure essence that aging, illness and major challenges cannot alter.

Along with the feeling of powerlessness that many people experience as they face change in their lives, can also come a loss of meaning. We may think that as our familiar and comfortable roles as workers, parents, consumers, or lovers change, that we cease to matter. Such painful feelings can deprive us of joy and lead us to seeing ourselves as burdensome and obsolete.

All spiritual practices encourage people to identify the things that frighten them and learn to draw their fears close. To face change in a conscious way, fearlessness is an essential ingredient. It involves the willingness to tell the truth to ourselves and others, and to confront what is in our minds. Rather than turning away from our fear, we can regard it with eyes wide open and allow it to rise up and pass in its own time. Perhaps then we can begin to take back our power.

Many of us have been trained to view ourselves as what we do to make a living. Certainly our careers and vocations have helped to structure our days and make us feel needed and valued. Therefore, we may be afraid that we will be useless if and when those roles have reached an end, even if relinquished willingly. Losing a job or retiring can be a great source of fear for us. We will lose our power and our position in the world and fade into oblivion. There are so many ways to remain vital and relevant if we look past the fear and allow ourselves to explore the options. We may discover that those fears were founded on misconceptions and are far worse than reality.

For many of us, our apprehension over what the future holds is synonymous with our fear of change. Change is nearly always viewed as a threat since the ego is only comfortable with what it can control. But being open can help to relieve the anxiety we might feel about change, for the soul is not subject to change in the same way the ego is. Perhaps we can learn to approach change with curiosity rather than dread and to be more comfortable with not knowing.

I know my life has changed a great deal and may change even more. I don’t know the outcome of my illness yet but I still live with hope, and do my best to embrace each new change as it comes.

For now I am out of the hospital and out of rehab centers. I am back in my own lovely apartment and am blessed with wonderful Filipino 24/7 caregivers. I have only two more chemo treatments and have been lucky to go through them quite easily not even losing any of my hair. And one of the world’s greatest doctors regarding this illness, Dr. Posner, has joined our amazing team of healers and is working with my awesome neurologist Dr. Rebecca Fisher.  So I am very optimistic and feeling so hopeful that GOOD CHANGES are about to happen. So yes, change is in the air for me and it feels great.

* What are some of the changes in your own life that cause you fear?

* Can you take a look at these changes and see them as opportunities for you?

Beloved God, you changed the world so many times but especially when you sent your son to this earth to help us see new and different changes – new ways to live and die.  Help us to learn to be open and less afraid of the changes that come in our lives. Help us to rely on you to guide us through those changes. Amen.

Posted in Musings on Life | 17 Comments

Acceptance

“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.” 
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

acceptanceIt’s hard to believe that it’s already the middle of January and time for another blog post.  So many of you wonderful people have been asking how I am doing, how I am coping with so much loss, disappointment and pain.   At times I wonder myself how I’m coping and there are times when I fall apart. But on the whole I believe it has a lot to do with a word I am coming to terms with gradually:  acceptance.  I have had loads of time to think about that word, and I’d like to share what it has come to mean to me.

I have discovered that first of all, acceptance is being open to receiving love, care and respect from people who want to reflect back the love they have received from you when it was needed. To accept means that one doesn’t always have to be The Giver and that it’s really okay and important to be the receiver at times. In fact it’s a gift to offer someone their chance to be the giver and allow yourself to simply receive with grace.

I’ve also learned that acceptance is realizing that not everything were dream or hope for will necessarily come true. Sometimes we will be disappointed. Sometimes we will suffer. Sometimes we will not be able to follow our dreams.  It may be that things we just took for granted we would always be able to do are suddenly unavailable to us.

Acceptance may also require a willingness to understand that some of the people we thought we could really count on just can’t be there for us for whatever reasons. However, as one of life’s great ironies, there are those who we least expected we could count on who become a constant presence and comfort to us.

Perhaps most importantly for me as I continue to explore acceptance, is coming to terms with the fact that what I hoped for, like regaining my full ability to walk, to swim, hike and climb hills might not be possible for me again. I may need to readjust my expectations and maybe the real hope should be that this crazy Paraneoplastic Syndrome just won’t get worse and take over more of my central nervous system’s ability to function. I’m trying to take it in bite size pieces and learn to accept each day one by one. I’m so blessed because there have been great doctors and nurses in the hospital I’ve been in who take such loving care of me and are helping me to work on healing.

I hope that all of you as you read this can learn to accept the things that come into your life – surprises both good and bad, the challenges and joys, the difficulties and the gifts.  They are all part of our life and perhaps we have to learn to accept all as a gift.  That doesn’t mean we become passive.  It doesn’t mean we give up the fight to get better and work hard to have a quality of life that is what we hope and dream for, but it does mean we acknowledge that there are things that come into our lives that we cannot control.  It means we need to embrace the unthinkable and begin to learn acceptance, a day at a time.

* What are some of the issues and problems that you are facing that may require your acceptance?

* Have you learned to accept certain things and then felt a sense of relief and peace once you did?

Beloved God, perhaps one of the most difficult things we face in our lives is to learn to be accepting of those things that we really cannot change. It is very complicated for us.   We ask for your help, your guidance, your love.Help us to learn to trust you completely, that you will love us even when we are facing the toughest of times. Amen.

Posted in Musings on Life | 13 Comments

2014 A New Year

There are two ways of spreading light: To be the candle or the mirror that reflects it  –  Edith Wharton

light of hope2013 was a challenging and difficult year for so many. It points to the indomitable nature of the human spirit that at the close of each year, we allow ourselves a fresh start; a chance to hit the re-set button and try again. We mark this event in whatever way feels appropriate to us, whether with quiet introspection, or joyful noise.

Joy is currently in the rehab center, drawing on her own unshakable spirit to keep moving ahead with her treatments and physical therapy and planning her own fresh start. She wanted me to let you all to know that she feels so blessed to know that you are all out there. Your visits, calls, emails and even your simple good intentions are bolstering her and lifting her up.

Wishing you a 2014 of hopes fulfilled.

From Joy Carol via Katie Sanborn

P.S. One of Joy’s hopes for the New Year is that you will buy and share her book with anyone you know who is need of some inspiration. Your reviews on Amazon will help spread the word.

Peace

Seasons of Joy

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Big News!

Seasons of JoyDear Friends and Family of Joy,

Joy is presently in the hospital getting plasmapheresis treatments, so she asked me to post this exciting announcement, which I am delighted to do. I went to visit her in the hospital the other day and she was her usual gracious self; entertaining visitors, encouraging her room mate, and thanking her nurses. I know you will enjoy the book.

Katie Sanborn, editor

Big News!!!

Dear Family and Friends,  I’m so pleased and excited to tell you that Seasons of Joy: Weekly Meditations on Life and Spirit is now published and available on both the Create Space e-store, and on Amazon.com.  Katie and I have already received quite a few special endorsements for the book – I’m including a couple of them here for you to see:

These graceful reflections on the seasons of God’s world are an invitation to ponder the seasons of our lives.  As such, they call us to new and refreshed awareness, to new boldness in prayer, and to gratitude for all God’s gifts.   – Dr. Margaret Guenther, author, My Soul in Silence Waits

Seasons of Joy is one of those books you will want to carry with you wherever you go.  It lifts us from our daily drudgeries with tiny jewels of perspective and wisdom.  How fitting that this lovely book is written by a healer named “Joy!”  – Rev. Susan Sparks, author, Laugh Your Way to Grace

Joy Carol has been providing comfort and hope to her readers for years. In this book, she reminds us to have hope, even in the darkest times. Through Joy’s own personal journeys, we learn to find inspiration in the simplest of truths: that life is a miraculous gift to be savored, if we’d slow down, get quiet, and hear the opportunities God has in store.
Christopher L. Johnson, author, Unsafe In Human Hands

These beautifully articulated reflections on each season’s changes offer us powerful ways to truly notice both the treasures of the shifting seaons… and the invitations to each of us that also arrive with the passage of time.  There is much here to nourish and comfort anyone on the journey.
Nina H. Frost, co-author, Soul Mapping

I’m hoping the publication of the book is not too late for you to consider giving it as a Christmas present to your friends and family. I think it will make a lovely gift. Unfortunately my health situation got in the way of an earlier publication.

Blessings and peace to each of you at this special Season of the year.

Joy Carol

Author, Speaker, Workshop/Retreat Leader, Spiritual Director
Website: www.joycarol.com
Email: joycarol1@aol.com
Spiritual Blogs: www.joycarol.com/blog/

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Seasons of Joy

To love life, to love it even when you have no stomach for it and everything you’ve held dear crumbles like burnt paper in your hands. . . When grief sits with you, when grief weights you like your own flesh only more of it, you think, “How can a body withstand this?” Then you hold life like a face between your palms, a plain face, no charming smile, no violet eyes, and you say, “Yes, I will take you. I will love you again.”    – Ellen Bass

nov-29-13There have been moments during these last almost five months when the loss and grief I have felt related to my ongoing illness have been overwhelming – when I have felt that my life was crumbling from under me. I confess there were times when I sobbed and screamed at God to tell me what I was going to do with such a diminished life – one where I was giving up my workshops, my retreats, my Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, even my car. Yes, there were even times when I thought I couldn’t continue to have hope in the midst of such pain and sorrow. Fortunately at such times, there was always some person, some event, some phone call, some tiny miracle that brought me back to having a sense of hope and optimism, of courage and resolution to go forward.

One of those “miracles” came from the encouragement I received from a number of my friends – and especially from my amazing colleague Katie Sanborn, who is also my webmaster – to put together a book of weekly inspirational meditations loosely based on some of my blogs. And so in the last months, when my legs weren’t working very well, I found that my mind, my eyes, my arms, and my hands could still do amazing things –more gifts from God.

So I’m thrilled to announce that in the next week or so, a new book, Seasons of Joy: Weekly Meditations on Life and Spirit by Joy Carol with Katie Sanborn will be published. As the title suggests, the book’s structure is inspired by the changing of the seasons, with weekly inspirational meditations for each one.

Please watch for the announcement of the publication of the book on my blog, in an email, or on Facebook. As soon as it is published you will be able to order it on Amazon as a real book. A few weeks later, it will also be available as an e-book.

So there is always something we can look forward to, something we can do when we feel diminished. And we can hold life again in our hands and say, “I do love you.”

  • Have you felt disheartened because your life has been diminished in some way?
  • What can help you to hold onto your soul and to look at life with love again?

Beloved Giver of miracles and of life, we come to you at times with broken hearts, with diminished spirits. We need so much to feel your presence, to realize that nothing can separate us from your love. Thank you for your endless encouragement, your belief in us as your children – even when we are disheartened. You are our beloved God. Amen. 

Joy Carol
www.joycarol.com

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Hope Never Stops

The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.
– Barbara Kingsolver

Joy Carol's helpful neighbors

Neighbors at my beach house who took care of winterizing my house.

The news in the world is not good these days. There is so much pain around our globe. Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms ever to make landfall, has brought terrible destruction to the Philippines to an area already reeling from a 7.2 magnitude earthquake just three weeks ago. Thousands are feared dead. Up to 4 million children may be affected by the typhoon. People desperately need shelter, clean water, medicine, food. More signs of devastating climate change, war, issues over water, are showing up all over the globe. We feel overwhelmed, frightened at our own powerlessness to help.

It’s at times like this that I like to turn to what people who have faced tremendous difficulties have said about life while hanging on to shreds of hope – like Nelson Mandela, who courageously said even in his darkest hours in prison. “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.” Or His Holiness the Dalai Lama: “No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.” Or Howard Zinn who wrote: “To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places – and there are so many – where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.”

Julie, musician, and friend Jane Weissman

Musician Julie and friend Jane Weissman with me in the infusion room

In my own little world of wrestling with my Paraneoplastic Syndrome, cancer, and my inability to walk without a walker for the last four months, I’m finding that hope is something I need to hang onto and to put daily into perspective. I live in a country with awesome hospitals, compassionate doctors who won’t give up on me and who fight for me, with top of the line medicine. I’ve just completed five days of Intravenous Immunoglobulin treatments that are hopefully helping to stop the antibodies from continuing to attack my Central Nervous System. Every day while sitting in the hospital receiving hours of intravenous treatments, I had friends who brought me food and kept me company, musicians like Yoshi and Julie who came to the infusion room and played and sang with me, and Jacquie who used Reiki and therapeutic touch to massage my hands and take away any lingering fears. So I know that hope can spring forth even in sorrow and fear. Here are a few things that have happened to me that give me so much hope:

* My spiritual directees/companions have picked up where we last left off. They sit at my dining room table praying with me, they call me on Skype – from DC to London, one drives almost 7 hours to visit me in the hospital, another shows up just before I head for the Operating Room and prays me into peace. They don’t abandon me, even though I am operating out of a less than perfect body. I feel needed and a part of their spiritual journey. They continue to give me meaning, joy, and hope in life.

* My family in California calls every day and sends love and the best warm pj’s imaginable.

* Neighbors showing up at my beach house to take care of the winterizing of the place.

* Jane Weissman makes awesome homemade food to take to the infusion room and to put in my fridge – then bravely attacks and organizes my fridge after months of neglect.

* My Physical Therapist Manuel teaches me how to get on a bus with my walker and how to get in my car (parked in the garage for the last four months). We get in my car and I tell him we are going for a spin – me driving – in the garage only – and I feel hope, freedom.

* Jane Gropp loans me her UGG boots that are light weight and not too heavy for my legs.

* Niclas Nagler stops by early one morning and cooks me a delicious veggie omelette.

* My neurologist Dr. Fisher answers all of my texts and emails – usually within 15 minutes.

* My soulsister Donna Sillan returns from working in Ethiopia and says she will be on the next plane to NYC, if I need her. Others from around the country offer to come to help.

* Doctor Bob and his partner bring 2 dozen roses and a commanding prescription: get well.

* Girlfriend Chris and I hang out on my bed eating popcorn and pondering life’s surprises.

* Bangladeshi friends, Dr. Amin and his wife, bring me the best chicken tika ever tasted.

* Another spiritual sister Jan Dyer arrives with bells, berries, laughter, prayers, dances in her heart and makes me laugh and dance in my chair.
* And it goes on and on – too much to write about – but so much to fill my heart with hope.

So I agree with folks like Robert Fulghum, who write about hope: “I believe that hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.” Or Emily Dickinson: “Hope is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops at all.”

Did you get that last line about hope: “And never stops at all”?

  • Are there things that make you feel that hope has left your heart and soul?
  • Can you focus on the little and big things that are hopeful for you, that can change your perspective?

Beloved Creator of Hope, sometimes we come to you feeling hopeless, afraid, thinking that we or the world are really in bad shape. But maybe it isn’t as bad as we think. Maybe it will work out. Perhaps we don’t need to worry. If only we put our trust in you, God, and move forward with faith and hope and confidence in the future. Then hope will never stop. Amen.

Joy Carol
www.joycarol.com

Posted in Musings on Life | 8 Comments