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ALS – From Wasted Water to Watershed

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I was scrolling through Facebook seeing all these videos of people pouring water on each other and naming people to “the challenge”, except I noticed the “challengers” never explained the challenge.  As Texas endures another serious drought, this seemed like a huge waste of water just to “call someone out”.  I mean… what’s worth increasing drought conditions?  As the challenges went on… it seemed like people used more and more water, not even caring to dump it on grass or gardens. 

I was curious. I kept watching, and even agreed with a post I thought was lamenting the wasted water.  I didn’t know what ALS was and freely admitted my ignorance.  The reply was a clearly irritated, “how hard is it to look up ALS”?   Uhm… not hard at all, but why be cross?  We ARE in a drought, and pouring water out without explaining the challenge seemed extravagant.  I can hear mothers everywhere screaming “turn off the water”!  The more videos I saw, the more of a gimmick it became.

Eventually, the challenge made the local news where I finally learned it was supposed to be to educate people about a disease called ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and raise money for it.  You either donate OR pour ice on your head to raise awareness.  I’d seen dozens of these videos and no one mentioned ALS, so I had to wonder is this really educating people about ALS?  Are these people affected by ALS?  Donating to ALS?  Remind me again, what is ALS? Even the news focused on ALS donations which hit an unprecedented $50 million as of today. I still didn’t know what it was.

OK, I looked it up.  It means Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and it’s a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. 

And then I saw “Uncensored and Sexy” Anthony Carbajal

It starts off rather cheesy.  I almost turned it off.  Then, this handsome, funny man trying to raise awareness for ALS starts talking and through his grief, fear and frustration he tells you about his inheritance.  And ALS became human.  My mind went back to the definition of ALS…  “affects” is not even remotely close to a definition….. “affects”!!!??? 

I seized on my former childhood neighbor’s angry retort.  We clearly missed an opportunity – of him to educate me about ALS – of me to offer kindness.  This definition was hardly a tangible explanation of the human cost of ALS on those afflicted and those supporting them.  I accepted with great sadness my inability to do more than offer words to my former neighbor and I felt his anguish.  My childhood neighbor’s relative had ALS along with 30,000 people in America.  Through Anthony Carbajal I understood the response to my ignorance. My friends’ brother is slowly losing the ability to have his body function properly, there is no cure…. and enduring this devastation, your mind as sharp as ever knows what the body no longer undertakes.  ALS diagnosis forces you to …..  HEY!  Did you watch the video?  All of it? 

It’s beyond definition. From wasted water to a watershed moment I waded through the wasted water becoming grateful for all the goofy videos and hopeful for Mr. Carbajal, James Rudy and my childhood neighbor. 

So please, if you’re taking the challenge, NAME it. Consider a donation so we save the water … and a life.  To those dealing with ALS, please let our ignorance of this disease be an opportunity to share the human story of ALS.  Anthony Carbajal, you are a walking miracle of love; James Rudy…. you’re a brave and witty man; and to my childhood neighbor…thank you for helping me understand the human definition of ALS.   

Classy Ice Bucket Challenge / ALS Donations raise $50 million / James Rudy ALS Survivor

 

Struggling To Be Loved?

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Colbie Caillat’s TRY is a powerful metaphor for anyone struggling to be loved. I found myself doing just that, and through meditation have finally realized I don’t need to struggle to be loved. In fact, struggling is the very opposite of being loved. Love comes naturally and easily. You don’t have to earn it, it’s just there. So if you’re struggling to be loved like I was, STOP. We are fine just the way we are, just pull back…. love yourself….. and let God or Karma or Life take care of the rest. You will still see the dysfunction, but in recognizing it, you can choose differently this time.

In the past, I would analyze the situation that had blown up trying to determine what could have, should have been different …reviewing all angles trying to make peace with everyone else’s choices. Until now, I never bothered to ask “what about me?” When I did ask, I realized different…and sometimes drastic…. action was required. You may have to cut a dying limb off a family tree. Easy to know what to do when it’s not your tree, difficult to act when it is.

Through meditation, I made a decision to focus on the blessings in life. At first, I didn’t see many blessings. However, the more I looked for them… the more I recognized positive things as positive, and negative things, people, places, feelings… as negative. It’s a process that helps you see something for what it is, without explaining or excusing it, so you can decide how to respond. Sometimes it takes a really candid friend to call a spade a spade… so you can STOP and recognize what is. You don’t have to DO anything but see and accept.

I saw a destructive force infecting my family and recognized that merely saying I’m committed to focusing on the positive was not enough. As old negative habits creeped in like the tide covering everything in its path, I saw some of my family seemingly relish the destruction of love, of family, and me.

It felt as harsh as it sounds because it was. I recognized negativity in way I never did before, it had grown through some of my family like a weed. I felt the need to control it, but as with all weeds… you have to kill it to stop the growth. Weeds feed on anything and destroy everything in their path. I had to decide on a healthy course of action for myself. My every action to help us all get and stay positive failed. I had asked them to get involved in meditation with some success. At first, everyone noticed how nice the change was, but when the tide started creeping in, I found myself feeling anxious and unsure and grasping for my positive vibes. It felt like someone was discussing me in a negative, mean-spirited way trying to crush my spirit like a weed kills a flower.

As it turns out, my feeling was so accurate it was downright prophetic. With meditation, I had finally learned to recognize “feelings” as God’s way of telling me to act, to choose differently. I listened to understand myself…. and choose. Once I disconnected the channel, I got all the proof you could want in a court of law and confirmed a few family members were discussing me, violating my privacy and dissecting me like a bug. Failing to recognize they are not responsible for me, I saw the Negative Board, or perhaps Negative Bored convene and name a “condition” for me to which only they had the solution … all behaving as if nothing occurred. After all, if I don’t know you’re talking about me… then are you? I had to ask if and how I was contributing in order to see what IS.

When it comes to negative behavior in a family, it’s difficult to keep healthy boundaries while a few determined souls maintain negativity. When someone is mired in negative behavior, it’s best to recognize it’s not your job to illuminate anyone other than yourself. When has calling someone a name ever resulted in them saying “gee thanks, I never realized that, what do you recommend”?

All that judgment is soul crushing negativity and you may find yourself having a bad reaction to it. As I watched the behavior unfold, the increasingly nasty language, the heaping disrespect, the weird vengeance as if minions were ordered to dump feces on an old burning marsh…. Yeah, it smelled bad. Did they even realize what they were doing?

Those I relied on for love were being divisive. Where was the mature voice saying “everyone handle your own business yourself or shut up”? The promotion of negative discussion, violation of trust and everyone naming, blaming and shaming….. whose voice mattered? Can anyone be “right” in a cesspool of dysfunction? Should you convince everyone you’re not wrong while wafting in the stench of family stew? Right on schedule, they each stood stirring the pot…. leaving those unwilling to stir to be destroyed. Ok… no wonder I can’t find a husband; who would want to marry into that kind of chaos!?

I decided to love myself and throw the rotten stew out. If I don’t respect my own boundaries… who will? In discussing this with my therapist, I realized the lifelong habits we had all learned and the impact on my goals for honest, supportive, reliable, and trustworthy relationships. How could I attract them when I’m tolerating dishonest, unsupportive, unreliable and untrustworthy people? As my phone was pinging away with more nasty messages and false kindness, I remembered a quote: “people speak as THEY are”.

I realized this IS how they are, and whether I participate is a choice. I admit my first reaction was not great. It took every ounce of energy to force my thoughts toward the positive. I realized that what I knew at 11 years old is what I recognized today: I don’t feel loved. As a child, our parents teach us to love ourselves, and how. Sometimes I think I missed that lesson, but I realized I need to love myself and stop counting on them. They don’t love me. Trust me, it’s much harder to acknowledge in private than print, but you can’t speak love AND be negative towards a person. When you’re busy judging a person, you are not loving them. When I’m busy judging me, I’m not loving me. So I decided to love me.

By responding at all to the nastiness, I was participating and maybe even encouraging it. Despite my initial reaction, I refused to return to dark abscess of judging others and myself. I only need to love myself and be a joyous person, and that example is how we can best help others (by being your best self and sharing your life lessons when asked).

My peace of mind returned as soon as I turned off the negative channel. I realized that if I can’t trust you with my emotions, to keep private matters private, to not share negative (or made up or exaggerated) comments, then I can’t trust you with me. Love is tangible; if you can’t feel, see and hear it… you don’t need to figure out where or why it went wrong …you just need to love yourself. You can’t fix others, you can only fix yourself.

As my words take root… planted in my heart, they are growing goodness that is multiplying profoundly even as I write. I welcome those who unconditionally accept me as I am and respect me enough to address any issue with me directly. I’m thankful for people like the Smug Mug who IS fortitude and gratitude, for the GI who IS kindness and honesty, for the Rescuer who IS genuine respect…and for me who IS compassion. Anything else is a bad line to erase and rewrite. So, here’s to my love story and finishing another item on my bucket list!

Love is waiting for me and I’m available to more good than I’ve ever experienced, realized or imagined before in my life! I welcome all the love in the world. #iampeace

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Hidden miracles of the natural world |TED.com

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via Louie Schwartzberg: Hidden miracles of the natural world | Talk Video | TED.com.