No More Tears – Processing Loss


On Sunday, 19 June, Father’s Day, I was going about my life with a friend as we were enjoying a wine and music festival. I received a missed call and eventually listened to the message a bit later. The message (yes, I do have my cell phone message set up and I do listen to messages) was short and blunt that one of my nieces had died. She was a pregnant 23-year-old.

Please note that this blog entry is not about soliciting sympathy but processing loss from my view.

The first emotion was distress due to shock and the first thought was disbelief. I, as the auntie, who took care of her from a few days old to her earlier years expected that she would out-live me. I was expecting that she would have fond memories of me when I died not the other way around. I speak so casually of my death because I have had occasional thoughts about dying and death. It is an inevitable part of life and to ignore it is naïve. In this crazy world, here today and gone tomorrow is such a frequent recurring concept.

My place to be was with my family in order to share and support each other in this unfair and miserable situation. My distress was not comparable to that of my sister who loss her first-born and first grandchild. I felt helpless for her – my grief was pushed aside for her. Sadly, my sister and I had a tiff a few days before but in that moment, it was not about my loss but hers. It was an automatic response. As another sister said, we are family no matter the disagreement we had in the past.

My darling niece had a Facebook account so her younger sister and I used that medium to pass on the news. I made a subtle tribute to her and ever so slowly people started catching on that my family had a loss. My parents and her parents were fielding a stream of phone calls while her younger sister managed the Facebook inquiries. There is not much to explain when a seemingly healthy young woman suddenly dies.

I appreciate people’s condolences. I have always been a solitary person so, I am not comfortable with letting other’s know I had a death in the family. I prefer to grieve in isolation and letting a select few aware of what’s happening. However, what I prefer is in conflict  with what is the socially right thing to do so, in such instances, I defer to the latter.

I find myself being egocentric in this process. For me and my family, the loss and everything following is the most important thing now. For some ridiculous reason, I expect others to see their lives from our point of view. For example, I went on Facebook and was slightly bothered that some of the people who made condolences had already moved on to their regular lives. People were posting happy pictures (this was Father’s day weekend), funny jokes, political stuff etc. My tragedy was but a blip for them. The last time I was on Facebook before this tragedy, I would read and ‘like’ people’s pictures and posts. However, after the tragedy, I find most of those posts frivolous. I was not capable of extending myself to see their point of view about what was important in their Facebook sharing lives.

I am aware that life does not stop even for our family. I became more aware listening to the news about the people who died in freak accidents etc. I wondered what their families were experiencing at this ‘here today gone in a second’ event in their lives. I imagined the shock and disbelief, the notification to family and friends, the condolences phone calls, the explanation of what happened, the dealing with never seeing that person again, and the funeral arrangements. Interestingly, I somehow could not fully grasp what those families are experiencing even though I and my family are going through a similar situation.

The passing made mortality the forefront of my thoughts. Despite my tenuous relationship with God and Christianity, I never once thought of blaming God. I never thought of why us, why God allowed this to happen or any such things. “Shit happens” whether I like it or not and God already knows I don’t like this shit happening to us. People said they would pray for my family. Funny thing is I have not said a prayer in regards to this situation. It’s like an avoidance of this issue with God. Maybe I am expecting the prayer of the faithful to have more weight than mine. I really am not sure why I have not addressed this issue with God.

What does play in my mind are the what ifs. What if the hospital staff had done a better job when she was there a few days earlier. What would have happened if…? Did she pass peacefully? Did she know she was dying? What were her last thoughts in her last moments? Was there anything that could have been done differently? When I see the face  my  darling niece, the disbelieve comes rushing back. My sister wailed “she is never coming back” repeatedly and that was the kicker. The next time the family sees my darling she will be in a coffin-the breath of life gone. A shell of the person she used to be. I remembered that coffin view with my grandmother and it was a very difficult moment. The thought of her lifeless body is exceedingly distressing. I can’t imagine…

I am still in the early stages. My whole family is in the early stages. My sister, her husband, the remaining children, and not to forget my darling’s significant other will have a much more difficult time than I in the days, months, and years to come. I know there are more tears to shed and more disbelief and feelings of emptiness in the future. I will eventually come to an emotional peace that life continues for everyone. However, for myself and family who had a loss, life will go on outwardly as we learn to deal with the absence of one member of our family. The positive from all this is that I hugged tighter and said more “I love you” than I ever uttered in my 40 years and meant every word. Loss can either destroy or bring others together.

 

Misplaced Identity


I do believe that events in our lives have a significant effect on our personalities (a set of traits we display throughout our lives) and subsequently, the choices we make which forms our identity. There are those who spend their lives living for others – pleasers/givers – who never took the time to find out about themselves. There are those who believe the world revolves around them – narcissist/takers – whose sole purpose is about them. There are the rest of us who fall on the spectrum between the both.

For the last few months, I saw a recurring theme in my life and few others. I recognized that no matter how much we think we know ourselves, at times, we misplace our identities when we become desperate and in need of something we want. What I mean by this is I saw a woman who professed to have strong Christian beliefs become disparaging and demeaning of anyone very easily because she is experiencing work  burnout. I heard a conservative single person accept suggestive behaviors from someone who is considered newly married with a young family and professed love for spouse. I see compromise of long held values bent to fit a desire. I see loss of self-respect due to fear of the unknown. I see a willingness to compromise on things that will not be healthy in the long term. I see putting one’s better judgment aside to cater to someone else’s selfishness. I see the wearing down of time which makes people go soft on things that would not have been tolerated.

In life we want the perfect everything. We want a perfect God, perfect families, perfect spouses, perfect children, perfect friends, perfect jobs etc. Please don’t lie to yourself if you say you don’t want perfection. However, we know there is nothing on this earth that is perfect. So, when we are saddled with less than sublime contentment, our views and behaviors deteriorate over time. We go after or accept people and situations that require us to put aside or modify our values and beliefs. This pushes us to make less than ideal choices with a short-sighted view of a moment in the rest of our lives. We misplace our identities.

How many times have we read/watched a news story and someone always says “[he/she] was a good person. [he/she] would never have done….” For Christians, David was a good boy who turned into God’s champion; however, this was the same man who arranged a murder and engaged in infidelity. Judas was one of Jesus’ 12 and he was chosen because he had a consistently good character like the others but allowed himself to be bribed by money. Samson’s strength came from his beliefs which manifested in not cutting his hair; however, he compromised for love and companionship. The Bible and real life are filled with people misplacing their identities in a short-sighted compromising view in order to find a piece/peace that was missing at that moment in time.

We all want to feel whole -emotionally, physically, psychologically and spiritually. We all want to wake up every morning and truly thank God without asking for anything. However, for the majority of this broken world, we wake up and say a prayer of thanks along with a request or two. Some requests have been years in the asking and others are from recent overwhelming stressors. Whatever the situation, a feeling of desperation, urgency or last resort, can reek havoc on the identities we have carefully crafted to give us strength which are grounded by certain values and beliefs.

Do not be fooled. We all know or have that gut discomfort when we stray from ourselves. We know something is wrong but we are not always ready to face it or fix it until we find our confidence in our identities again. Life is not fair buttercups and sometimes it hands us and we accept a bag of sh*t (that may or may not explode). In reaction, we compromise or stray from what we hold dear because we truly believe this is the best way to feel in control. It’s that accumulated moment of weakness, desperation, frustration, longing, tiredness, impatience, out of ideas, dissatisfaction, disappointment, disillusionment etc that can be powerful. So powerful, we forget who we are, what we belief,  and what we are about. We forget our identities; we forget ourselves.

The bottom line is people make mistakes and err in behaviors. Sometimes we identify it quickly and sometimes we make it drag on for years. However, there is something liberating when you find your identity again and put yourself back on track. There is something freeing – our stomachs aren’t in knots, our minds aren’t constantly preoccupied, we aren’t always uneasy – that happens when we make those changes. This is not always easy because it means we have to undo a situation or take responsibility for uncharacteristic behaviors. When we remove the *cognitive dissonance, then our minds, bodies, beliefs and behaviors are in sync again. Life is a series of ups and downs and we all have our weak moments. We all have lost a bit of our identities in the past, currently and will in the future. However, its only tragic when we allow ourselves to be defeated and stay defeated. To err is human and you know what else is human? To change,  to recognize and acknowledge that we make less than great choices in a state of defeat but we can still find and reinstate our misplaced identities.

*cognitive dissonance (partial definition): mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas or values.

 

Is God Silent?


The answer to that question depends on each person’s definition of God’s communication. For some, God is speaking through the occasional ‘miracles’ we experience or read about in the news. For others, God is speaking through the craziness of this world and for another group, things are set in motion and God is on an extended vacation from humanity and no one is minding the crazy house.

My personal answer to that question is yes actually a resounding yes. I do believe that God is silent and everything good, bad or indifferent in our lives is up for interpretation as to whether it’s God’s hands or other. Take for instance, the death of a child can be a blessing or a curse. For the family who loss a child, it’s hardly a blessing but for the family whose child received a vital organ from someone else’s loss, then that’s God’s answers to their prayers. As fallible human beings, we classify certain events as ‘blessings’ to desperately make sense of the chaos-whether these things are blessings or not remain to be seen. If the child rejects the organ and dies sooner than expected, then was that a blessing with a curse or all blessing or all curse? Should each parent be grateful to have had a short period with their child? Was that God’s will  or the devil’s will or both? or should I just leave God out of it all together because shit happens?

Looking at the world’s dysfunctional stage, there is no denying that human beings have progressively loss their compassion and kindness for fellow men. While there is still ‘good,’ it seems our humanity has been allowed to denigrate to something less than animalistic. A systematic repeat of history. Around every corner of world events, the Christians become alarmist to the antichrist or the end of the world. If you believe in your Bible, then accepting that piece of prophecy is inevitable. As a child growing up in one church or another, there have been varying degrees of the signs of the end times and various figures identified as the ushering in of the age of the antichrist. As we denigrate and destroy ourselves through the misinterpretation of what we think God meant by this scripture or that belief, we start to lose the basic teneth of “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” or if we want it broken down clearer, then reread the love chapter 1 Corinthians 13.

As I have said in previous posts, I find this good vs evil dynamics to be a very twisted and sadistic game-a game of pain and destruction in which the believers are instructed that suffering is good and they are expecting some kind of happy perfect paradise ending. The hunger games on steroids. We all want that prize which is specific to our beliefs-heaven, virgins, good karma, higher caste or peace on earth.

There are very few things in this world that I would attribute to divine intervention and they have nothing to do with miracles but human beings making conscious decisions to “do unto others.” While the Bible tells us to not look to man but look up, I disagree wholeheartedly with that simplistic line and concept. We should do both because our lives are not lived in a God in heaven vacuum. If we took the idea of God and heavenly rewards out of the picture, our lives should still look the same which is the desire to do the best we can with what we have – somewhat like this man: CNN Heroes Tribute Narayanan Krishnan. (If you type in his name in YouTube, you will see how his choices makes us put ours into perspective). While one group interpret words on some pages and behead others in the name of their God, someone else sees suffering and renders assistance in the name of choice which gives glory to his God.

God is watchfully silent and we play the game. We interpret his words and make choices based off those beliefs. We have the choice to hold out our hand to someone else or point a gun. We decide to perpetuate hate due to differences (you name a difference and there is prejudice) and at times we delude ourselves into thinking God sanctioned our actions or choices. Life can be both a blessing and a curse; however, for some, more curses than blessings and others more blessings than curses. So which is it God’s intervention or your choices that results in consequences?

Despite my ongoing conflict with the concept and role of God plus the thought of attending church as an unproductive use of my time, I still say a prayer when I wake up and when I go out of the house. I still say grace over my food. Ironically, I still pray for things and ask God for guidance and answers. Maybe it’s a force of habit or I still have a mustard seed worth of faith. I guess I am still not ready to toss the idea of religion and God into the trash.

What is the Purpose of Marriage?


Let me start off by saying Happy New Year to you all and many blessings for 2016. As always, I did not make resolutions but continue to live life as thrown my way and make adjustments accordingly.  I was motivated to attend a church service in the new year and will try to make more attempts to get back into church life – we will see how it goes.

So, I am privy to the workings of strangers’ private lives. As they seek behavioral health services, it is my job to ask various personal questions. While this is not new, in the last few months, I am more aware of how many couples underutilize the main reason for getting into a long term relationship-companionship.

Marriage is now easily disposable. People get married for various reasons but the underlying need is a desire to have a suitable companion. The problem I have been noticing for various couples, who are having minor to major marital difficulties, is they have either forgotten or did not establish solid reasons for getting married in the first place.

Here are some things I understand are the basic purposes for marriage: Companionship-to share your life with someone. Support-having someone there when needed and vice versa. Communication: Verbally sharing various aspects of one’s thoughts and experiences. Pleasure: Sex, intimacy and fun. Monogamy: The only. Cooperation: Working together to make each other’s lives easier and better. Understanding: You may differ on issues but are still able to show empathy. Trust: Closing ones eyes and fall backwards knowing your partner is there to catch you. Responsibility: 100/100. Communication: Learning and knowing how to talk to each other. Adapting and Growing: Learning to navigate the changes in life together. Commitment: It’s you and me baby.

As a lifelong bachelorette who is nearing 40, I am getting hit from all sides from married couples about my single status. However, as I look at their relationship lives, I amass even more reservations on joining their ranks. As a single, I make an effort to enjoy my life and as I look at theirs here are the recurring themes I see: Boring: They rarely make time to do fun things together.  Sex and intimacy have started to dwindle significantly. Lack of cooperation between each other creates frustration, pent up anger and isolation. Inability to communicate their stressors or needs with each other. One spouse takes on more responsibilities than the other which creates stress and resentment. Flirtatious behaviors with someone not their spouse. Inability to listen and understand the other person’s needs. Third Party Interference: Everything is more important than your spouse-kids, the game, the other’s selfishness. Complaining about everything. Physical Neglect: Spouses stop taking the time to look good for each other. Loss of affection because of ongoing separation. Blaming: Its the other person’s fault. Infidelity: The misconception that starting with someone new will solve your problems.

Marriage gives couples a built in purpose to enjoy life and share that with someone who is sleeping right beside you. However, most couples have loss the insight about their purpose of marriage and ignore their ill-behaviors towards each other. I have sat through conversations in which a spouse will use sex as a weapon, one partner spends money recklessly, child care is only expected of one partner while the other occasionally ‘babysits, couples’ idea of spending time together is completing chores around the house every weekend. Date night is something they have on Valentine’s and Birthdays. Feeling sexy and being sexy is only for single people in new relationships. Communication is “I just can’t talk to him/her.”

Most singles are looking for a date to try out a new restaurant but many married couples, who have a built in date partner, have not gone out together unless it’s to Chucky Cheese or stay at home to enjoy take-out. Singles are sexually frustrated from an absence of a partner while married people have someone sleeping beside them every night and most can’t readily think of the last time they had sex much less enjoyable sex (you know…the one that does not feel like an obligation). A romantic night for a single involves fun; a romantic night for a couple involves the television. A single will feel lonely but s/he is a single, however, a spouse can feel isolated and lonely while staring across a table at their partner.

I am not naïve to expect married life to be daily fun and excitement. However, the repeated dullness and the habit of taking each other for granted tend to build over time until the marriage is “like living with a room mate” or “we are only together for the kids.” You would be surprise how many times I have heard similar statements. Relationships die over time from neglect. As I listen to the patients and to some of my friends, I start to see the early warning signs of the reasons why relationships fall apart.

As a single, I have started to ‘keep out of their business’ because I recognize that most couples do not appreciate the observations from those who are not married. What they fail to realize is that being married does not put you in a special behavioral category that only certain married people can understand. Behaviors are behaviors and it does not take a genius to see certain red flags.

I will always be baffled as to why people are so eager to be married but once they are in that situation they easily lose sight of the reason why they wanted to be married. The laziness, complacency, taking their partners for granted and neglect in putting effort into the relationship usually ends in disaster. It’s like having a million dollars in the bank but if you never use that money to buy groceries, then you will always be starving.

If anyone has ever done relationship counseling, then you will know that one question from the therapist will always be “What made you fall in love/want to be with that person?” The reason for such a question is to remind the couple about the purpose of their relationship, then to re-establish those feelings and ideas, and help them to proceed forward with those foundations at the forefront of the marriage.

Is Jesus Enough?


A poster asked the question? Is Jesus enough? If Jesus is enough, then why are Christians so eager to get married? My response is that Jesus is never enough. You may be aware of the saying that all you need is Jesus. However, if we are to be truly honest, then that statement gets thrown out with the bathwater.

So, let me start my ‘blasphemous’ observations. If you are on social media, it can become littered with good intentioned Christians who frequently post ‘all you need is Jesus’ or ‘leave it all up to Jesus’ inspirations. While I enjoy reading them and they serve as a great pick-me-up, they are lacking in the harsh reality of being a Christian. For example, someone posted an inspiration gone wrong stating “Somebody is in the hospital right now begging God for the opportunity you have. Don’t you dare go to bed depressed. Shake it off!” The response was overwhelmingly negative because there were a number of people who are suffering from clinically diagnosed depression who could not just “shake it off” in Jesus’ name. Interestingly, the poster did not clarify or addressed the backlash.

If Jesus or God was enough, then our lives would mirror those of monks, priests and the John the Baptists types. We would be like the ravens that do not worry for food, shelter, companionship or producing off-springs. We would be truly free from all the cares of the world and spending all our time in full and complete devotion to God and spreading his word. However, if you look at our lives we are so far from the “Jesus is enough” concept.

The truth is we like the idea of sprouting that phrase but in true reality we neither desire nor can live to that standard. Christians get married because they want to feel loved and share in companionship. Christians have children because they want to pass on their love, have a human to own and care for, to pass on their legacy and expand their family. Christians maintain close contact with family and friends to build support. Christians touch, hug and make physical contact with others to feel human interactions. Christian couples show intimacy just because it feels good. Christians work for and buy nice things to have a sense of accomplishment and enjoy various comforts from their labour. In other words, we have wants and needs that the love or belief in Jesus is not always able to fill and there is nothing wrong with accepting that fact. There is little that we do in our day to day lives that has anything to do with spreading Christianity and  belief in God.

Believing in God relates to a guideline on how we are to worship the creator and use of the Christian best practice guide in our daily lives. The Bible teachings of God was not meant to be a replacement of living in this world. It is to help us survive emotionally and spiritually in this world. Jesus will never be enough for majority of the people who believe in Christianity. Our human nature requires more than reading daily scriptures, having faith in the unseen, praying to a God we can’t see, feel, hear (his own voice) or touch, or going to church. Besides John the Baptist, none of the Bible characters went through their lives in complete religious isolation. They had families, friends, disciples, lives and a belief in God.

God should be a part of our lives not some improbable idea that he should be exclusive in our lives. If, as a Christian, that exclusivity is your calling, then God bless you. On the other hand, most of those ‘Jesus is all you need’ inspiration quotes are just empty gestures to make you feel good for a moment but not a realistic endeavor. We become so pious that we forget to make Christianity realistic to our every day stressors. Instead of some generic quote, how about a true testimony of one’s struggles and how the belief in God applies. Being a Christian is not a straightforward or smooth journey, some days you feel close to God as if he was there in person and other days you struggle to understand why you believe.

No, for me, Jesus is not enough while living on this earth. In the past, as preachers would emphasize this, I struggled greatly to live to that concept. There was a certain amount of guilt with not being able to fit neatly into this idea. I finally gave it up and accepted the fact that in my reality it does not work. As Christians, we sketch our own journey in life while holding on to a belief that there is a God who cares.

People in Relationships Overly Concerned With Singles


In case you did not know and the blog page did not tip you off, I am single actually terminally single. In my opinion that status is neither good nor bad but just is what it is. I feel a certain amount of comfort with that status and I see the green side of the grass as well as the brown side of the grass that comes with being single. So, why is it that couples/people in relationships, whether new or old, seem to have such a difficulty accepting and being comfortable with other’s single status particularly with single women? What is so threatening or frightening about being single? Let me compile a few things I have heard and noticed about couples’ behaviors towards singles.

People in relationships think it is their God given right to “set you up” and get you coupled

People in relationships think that because you are single, then ANY other single person will make the best match for you

People in relationships think your life will be so much happier with someone/anyone

People in relationships suddenly know what’s best for your life

People in relationships “can’t understand why you are single because you are such a nice person”

People in relationships do not think singles will fit in with their family lifestyle and are excluded from social events

People in relationships assume singles are avid partiers and have wild random sex ie. promiscuous

People in relationships think that singles cannot possibly understand when they are having difficulties in their relationships

People in relationships think singles will feel bad/sad/sorry for themselves if they talk about their relationships in your presence; so they avoid sharing anything about their relationships

A person who is in a new/early relationship suddenly think singles will be jealous so they avoid discussing their relationships

People in relationships believe that their relationships are so unique that every single person wants what they have/admire their relationship

People in relationships believe that every conversation with you should center around solving your singleness

People in relationships assume that singles are not working hard enough to end their singleness

People in relationships assume that you cannot be genuinely happy for them in their relationships

People in relationships assume singles cannot be truly contented and are faking it until they find their own relationships

…and so on

The funny thing is if you are a Christian then you know that Jesus and most of his disciples were single. Actually the God-head is single. The reality is there are a lot of singles who are more comfortable as singles than what society wants everyone to believe. Happiness is not about being single or married because misery lives in both camps. What I find very interesting is these behaviors are not just confined to couples who have been together since puberty but new couples pick up those very nasty judgmental and exclusionary habits too.  In my personal experience, I try not to react negatively. However, what some of these couples do not realize is that while I am happy for them I do not want their relationships. NEWSFLASH Your life is NOT that special above my own. The ludicrous concept that my marital status is the only thing that puts me in a one-down position is more of a personal problem for others.

If I am going to be single until the day I die, then so be it. If I am to get married in the future, then so be it. These are all just one aspect of my life. God blessed me with one life to live and I will do the best that I can whether single or married. So, if you happen to be reading this, in a relationship and recognize that you are guilty of being a couple snob, please quit with your BS.

39-Year-Old Crisis


As I am writing this, it now seems like a funny experience rather than a crisis. Not long ago in the distant past, I somewhat celebrated my 39th birthday. It was low key like all my birthdays and I do what I typically would do… take the day off from work and scheduled a day worth of activities while getting calls, texts and Facebook birthday well-wishes. However, this morning I woke up (thank God) and had a minor 39 year old crisis. OMG I am 39!!!!! I am getting old(er).

So, I got out of bed, looked in the mirror and thought is this what people of a certain age go through? I don’t look 39-I work out and is trying to stave off any excessive weight gain and I don’t have any wrinkles (thanks parents and decent living). While my mind is not taking the senior citizen route, the age numbers are climbing. I literally feel like a 39-year-old in a much younger body (my mirror could be lying or maybe I have early onset cataracts). Should I start dressing differently – more mature? How about my hair? Should I quit wearing my hair in two braids because I am too lazy to find a good hairstyle? LOL…I can’t help laughing at myself as I write this. As a friend of mine would say, this is a first world problem.

What’s my deal about being 39? Well, it’s about life expectations for career then a distant second for relationships. I know…traditionally as a woman my crisis should be all about my terminally single status. Oh well, I guess I am a little different. I woke up this morning thinking that my career life does not match that of my younger self’s dreams or my current age. I really believe that I should be further along in my career pursuit. I asked myself what exactly have I accomplished in my life? The distorted self-defeating mind would say “not much” but the reality is I have done quite a bit with my life. I actually have some tales to tell and wisdom to pass on.

In terms of my marital status – I can explain why that issue takes second place as a crisis (okay a very mild crisis). As a child, my thoughts were never focused on the marital side of life. It has only been since journeying in my 30’s that marriage and family has even been a blip on my radar. So, my current spinster (can’t get a man pathetic single woman) or bachelorette ( hot sexy choose to be single woman) status only made minor contributions to my crisis because it was never a life long dream/desire. I may have to re-evaluate if I start collecting cats as pets.

Could I spruce up my dating life a bit? Sure! I do acknowledge that as I age gracefully I may encounter a slight snag in the long-term relationship department. Apparently, men of my age are looking for women who are a lot little  younger. So, I should expect to get offers (assuming I will ever fully be ready to transition to a MRS degree) from men who range from age 60 and up who are looking for a ‘younger woman.’ Woo hoo!!!!…. I still have a shot at being called a “young woman.”

As a aged woman in crisis, should I start wearing tube tops (hopefully you are old enough to know what that is) and micro mini skirts? Or should I save that for when I am 49? What exactly should the life of a 39 y/o woman look like? Married with kids? Successful career? Traveling the world?  Being a good Christian at church 5 (okay maybe 2 or 3) days out of the week? Am I below the 39 y/o curve? I thought about it and I really don’t have a good answer.

A 39 y/o woman’s life could range from still living with her parents to being a Goodwill UN Ambassador. While society does place ridiculous boundaries on women’s lives, we put the most pressure on ourselves by believing the b.s. So, God blessed me to wake up this morning but I started the day in the first age related panic of my life. While it only lasted for a brief moment, I could not help but think what is my next step? I cannot say that I am totally thrilled with my current career situation and it is certainly not where I envisioned myself at 39. However, I refuse to fall into hysteria (take that Freud!) and make rash decisions but it has motivated me to start pushing a little harder to reach further for my career or at least job satisfaction and breathe new energy into getting out and enjoying the blessings of being alive for 39 years (thanks God).

Abstinence In A Sexualized World


Surfed the internet lately? If yes, then you may have seen a few headlines relating to sex in the Christian community. First, there was the Duggar’s older son inappropriate sexual touching before he was married, Billy Graham’s grandson’s infidelity in a crumbling marriage, and Bristol Palin announcing her 2nd out-of-wedlock pregnancy despite being a public advocate for abstinence. In the old days, all these visible Christians would have been publicly shamed for the rest of their lives.

The reality is we are all sinners, prone to temptation, and each and every one of us have committed sins and will commit sins in our lives. Welcome to the reason why the Bible talks about redemption. Despite knowing that, I do get a sick pleasure when limelight Christians screw up. Why is that? Because it shows that no one is immune and we need to be careful of our actions when we decide to put ourselves in the forefront as perfect Christian leaders.

Let’s chat about abstinence . First, let me say that I do not believe in abstinence only education. Our society is not set up to re-enforce that concept. Second, abstinence does not address some important biological and situational nuances that typically lead to breaking that vow. Third, abstinence is a difficult practice to maintain especially the more sexually charged you are and the length of your intimate relationship.

I believe there are two kinds of abstinence: one is the letter of the law abstinence and the other is the spirit of the law abstinence. When people talk about abstinence they are referring to no sexual penetration using the male and female sex organs. Therefore, if two people in a relationship never have coitus, then they have fulfilled the letter of the abstinence law. This letter of the abstinence law is very important for virgins and those who want to remain “pure” until marriage. However, the spirit of the abstinence law is very different. This is in reference to ALL sexualized behaviors ie. mutual masturbation, over and under the clothes touching of breast and genitals, anal sex, oral sex, foreplay and everything that stops short of penetration. If Christians should be judge by the spirit of the abstinence law, then a great number would be found guilty.

I applaud the concept of no sex before marriage. It’s a great idea for a number of reasons; however, by the time most couples get to their wedding night they have already engaged in various sexualized behaviors “to take the edge off,” and the only thing left is the grand finale. True abstinence is not an easy feat. Christian couples engage in the same dating style such as spending quality and alone time with their partners. Like all relationships, the two people are instinctively and biologically sexually drawn to each other, and each intimate alone time breaks down the abstinence defenses.

When was the last time you went on a date with a chaperone? Do you always kiss your partner on the cheek with a side hug? When the phone conversation turns intimate do you stop and say “God would not approve because we are not married?” or have you instituted a rule that you don’t talk in the bedroom and not past a certain hour? When was the last time that the most intimate thing you did with your partner was holding hands for longer than 5 minutes?

If true abstinence is to be practiced, then the Christian couple has to become puritanical in every sense of the word. If you cannot do that, then it’s time to have the talk (You should have had this talk already if you decided to be in a long-term relationship). The talk should involve what to do if you can’t wait or the it-just-happened moment. It’s time to have the real sex talk and not the ignorant watered down ‘Christian’ version. The version in which birth control and pregnancy are a reality. The version in which when things go too far how do you work through it instead of being riddled with guilt, shame and sometimes blaming.

It’s obvious that Ms Palin, the abstinence advocate, found her own message difficult to uphold – twice. If it was not for the pregnancies, which is how most Christian couples are outed, she would have been able to hide the hypocrisy. I could take cheap shots at her; however, her failures show the holes in the modern-day abstinence message. I do believe that most Christians are very sincere when they take on the abstinence challenge. However, they fail to see and prepare for the inevitable obstacle which is to underestimate how strong one’s normal sexual desires can be in the presence of romantic partner.

For those who intend on practicing the abstinence spirit of the law, I wish you God speed because you will need it. I also wish that you put in place preventive methods instead of reactive measures. Abstinence in a relationship is a good thing; however, ignoring one’s natural sexual urges will make it a feat to truly accomplish in avoiding ALL forms of sexual activities before marriage.

The Power of Communication


I would be the first person in line to advocate and admonish how important it is to keep the lines of communication wide open with the people in your life. Due to my dabble in behavioral health, I would estimate that the destruction of 99.9% (made-up number) of relationships is due  to the lack of communication.

As Christians, we are taught to have an open line with God. It typically crops up in every church sermon and it’s practiced in every religious setting. That open line is prayer. We are taught to bring it all to God (even though He already knows what is going on). However, we are not encouraged to talk to each other as openly as we are to express ourselves to God. God hears all our stressors, dirty secrets, desires, pain, and even joy but we leave out a lot of things with the important people in our lives.

Lack of communication destroys relationships! Lack of communication breeds misconceptions. Lack of communication creates hurt, animosity and sometimes it allows our thoughts to run amuck. Even though most of us know this, it is sometimes the hardest act in which to engage. Why is it so hard to share with the people closest to you? No one wants to take blame or admit wrong. No one wants to offend the other person. No one wants to point out the speck in the other person’s eye or your own. No one wants to experience that awkward moment(s). No one wants to be uncomfortable.

So, in a marriage, when one spouse is hurt or unhappy it’s easier to shut up and ignore. In a friendship, when the bond starts to loosen, it’s easier to think the worse than talk about the problem. In a parent-child relationship, it’s customary to say that each does not understand the other due to the age and culture gap. I can go on about the mountain of excuses we tell ourselves because we are too uncomfortable with being open and honest.

For me, I have made similar mistakes with people in my life. The irony is that my job requires me to ask tough and some times uncomfortable questions in which I won’t even blink an eye. To put the importance of communication in prospective then think about: How many times have we dated and even marry the wrong person because we are uncomfortable to openly communicate about things that bother you? How many marriages have been destroyed because the easier road is to find solace in someone else’s arms or push a person away rather than deal with your problems? How many good friendships have been loss because we choose not to speak up?

While I pride myself on being outspoken (a confidence which has increased with age), I do have my moments when it is easier to let things go even though I knew something was wrong. I need to take blame for being a poor communicator at times. One would think that I should know better because this is what I do and teach for a living.

However, in a recent incident in which I was close to writing off a good friendship, I have learned that I need to do better with my communication with people who are important. I saw my mistakes after they happened and I did not take the responsibility to address them in a timely manner. The funny thing is that once “the elephant was acknowledge” it became so clear how a simple misunderstanding could have been resolved before it became an ongoing issue. It was one of those Whiskey Tango-Foxtrot moments that could have been avoided.

So, the question is how many important relationships have you screwed up/unhappy with because you were too uncomfortable to openly communicate? What are you going to do differently to become a better communicator?

When Life is Different from Expectation


When I get older, then my life will…. When I get married, then my life will…. When I get the right job, then my life will…. We are filled with a variety  of expectations whether they are high expectations or low expectations. For the blessed/fortunate/lucky group, their dreams come true just as how it was expected; however, for everyone else, life can be very different. What do you do when your reality is different from your expectations?

A friend of mine is struggling immensely due to drastic changes that happened in a few short weeks. While her issues require professional intervention, I realize that she is no different from the rest of us who have a hard time reconciling our perfect image of what life should be with what it is. It is very hard to go through our experiences feeling completely helpless and ultimately see ourselves as failures. It is hard to step away from having blinders, tunnel vision, and our individual tales of woe. It is hard to imagine a happy existence as our life do not look quite like how we expect it.

In this day and age, resiliency and thinking outside our ‘perfect’ box seem like a thing of the past. We fall apart so easily; we become incapacitated at the first obstacle; we give up; we blame everyone and everything; we feel excess guilt and shame; we stop searching for a way out and simply accept the mess in which we stand. People stop trying to survive.

As cliché as it may sound, life is what you make of it. If I committed suicide tomorrow, then that’s what I made of my life; if I decided to go out and take a walk in the park instead of sitting inside, then that’s what I made of that moment in my life; if I choose to volunteer or help someone I know, then that’s what I made of that moment in my life. If I choose to be defeated by circumstances that are not going my way; then that is what I made of my life.

This is not to trivialize that most people will have difficulties and tragedies; however, this is a push to recognize when people have crossed the line from normal reactions to hardship or disappointments to ongoing self-defeat. In other words, we stop finding reasons to give thanks and see the other options life has to offer. Many people become so embarrassed or ashamed of their current situations which drives them to isolate or hide and so the spiral of doom begins. The thing is the average person cannot navigate life’s changes all alone. Without a trusted wingman (friends, family, therapist etc.), it is easy to get lost in one’s personal mess. As much as we need the support from others, we also need to learn to get support from ourselves.

Feel free to Google the story of Sgt. Noah Galloway  a double amputee who is one of many people whose life definitely did not go as expected, found himself in a dark hole, and ultimately found the will and strength to climb out of it.