Posts Tagged With: Life

I Have Value, Too.

I posted a comment on my Facebook page the other day because I was so frustrated and hurt at the actions of my roommate that I wrote, “My time is valuable too. My space is valuable too. My wants and needs are also valuable. Respect should be mutual.”  I am tired of how I pay the consequences of the decisions of other people without respect and consideration for me.  Not only that morning, but this and last weekend were both filled with even more opportunities where that lack of consideration toward me was exampled. I have value, too.

These past moments are not the only times where my time, my space, my wants, my needs, and my plans have been neglected, or effected, by the decisions of other people.  It’s happened most my life. It hurts just as much now as it has all those times before.  It’s the main reason why I choose to be as I am, respectful and thoughtful of others time, space, wants and needs, because I know how much it aches to be neglected. I don’t want to upset anyone else, especially those I love, by doing the same in return. I just don’t understand why it’s so easy to neglect and disrespect me.  I have value, too.

I want to share three examples lately that have really hurt me. I may not post this blog when I’m done because I don’t want to hurt anyone else, but right now I’m hurt and this blog is my outlet.  The reason I have this outlet is to release the things that hurt me so I don’t hold onto them and they in turn eat me up from the inside out.  We’ll see if I post, later.  Right now, I want to get this out.

Last weekend, my youngest daughter, who is a twenty-two year old adult and she’s been living on her own for a while now, had called me and told me she wanted to come see me for Mother’s Day and to live with me.  I had bought her a bus ticket and sent her some money to eat while on the trip, and made arrangements at work to use what little vacation time I had left to make sure I would be there to pick her up at the bus station. Over the past several years I’ve constantly worried about her, prayed for her, and stood in the background as she’s made a lot of dangerous decisions in her quest for independence; she never called or texted unless she needed money. This is what most parents have to face when you’ve done all you can to raise them to be strong, productive, moral, and smart adults. We can’t live their lives for them.  We have to let them make their mistakes so they can learn how to stand on their own.  Yet, we can always stand on the sidelines cheering them on and be there with a helping hand to help when they fall. Everyone falls at times. I never had anyone there for me, so I vowed to always be there for my children – to let them go, to let them make their choices, and to stand back and watch them walk into the storms of their lives.   Friday came, I left work excited to find an empty bus stop, an unused ticket, and silence – no message, no explanation, nothing. I can’t get my money, my vacation time, or my hope back.  This isn’t the first time she’s done something like this, but it doesn’t hurt any less.  She didn’t value and respect me, my time, or consider my needs and wants in the decision she made. She hasn’t in a very long time.  I just don’t understand.  I see terrible mothers neglect their children, yet their children love them and give them respect no matter how badly they treat them – and grant them compassion and respect they’ve never earned.  Yet, my own children – all of them – never call me and have completely excluded me from their lives. Was I such a terrible mother?  Why is so easy to leave and neglect me? I may not question it if it was just one of my children, but all three?  Why am I so hard to love? Don’t they understand how much I love them and how much it hurts they’ve shut me out? I know their lives are filled with the things they value. I have value, too.

The second example, the one that prompted my post last week, was my roommate leaving her shit for me clean for the millionth time, upsetting my schedule, invading and wasting my time.  As roommates, her habits affect me, just as mine affect her.  She’s come a long way, and I do appreciate the effort she’s making, but it doesn’t make the times she disrespects me hurt any less. Bottom line she’s lazy.  When she’s focused on something, it’s great and there’s really nothing she can’t do. She’s amazing with technical things and electronics. That’s why it pisses me off when she doesn’t do what she’s more than capable of doing.  She’s highly intelligent and very skilled.  But when she’s not focused or simply doesn’t “feel” like doing something, she doesn’t –  and my plans, my space, and my time all be damned.  It would be a different story if it was something that occasionally happens. I have an occasional lazy day, and they’re wonderful. Her lazy days happen a LOT.  I don’t do what I do every day because they are MY habits. MANY of the choices I make are out of respect for HER, for our place, for our space, to respect BOTH our time.  I clean up after myself so SHE will have a clean and ready kitchen should she need to use it, a clean place to sit and watch tv and entertain friends and guests, an empty washer and dryer, an empty dishwasher, a clean floor, etc. Our mutual agreement was to keep these “community” spaces clean – kitchen, laundry room, living room, balcony, etc. Our private spaces – keep as clean or messy as we want. When she doesn’t clean up after herself in these community spaces  – MY time isn’t valued because it’s spent cleaning her shit instead of doing what I want or need.  HER decision last week took away the time I had schedule to write, to work on something very important to me.  I had a great story I wanted to write, but it’s gone now. Instead of writing I was cleaning. Before anyone jumps to conclusions and say, “Well, why didn’t you just leave it for her to clean up later and go write?” Yeah, I’ve done that… many, many, many, many, many times.  What happens – the mess is even bigger later and she will just joke about it AS I’m cleaning it. “Dishes? What are these dishes?” As if joking about it makes her actions acceptable.  I clean the dishes because I need to use them and the space they take up.  It would be nice if they were already cleaned and ready to use when I need them, the way I make sure they are for her.  Believe me… I get tired too.  I have the same fucking 24-hours a day that she does.  It’s not some miracle that the same space gets cleaned after I use it compared to when she does.  I’m not Mary Poppins and just snap my fingers and things clean themselves.  But, I do it because I value her, our space, and our time.  I have value, too.

The third example is about the value of my time and making plans. This past weekend I made plans to spend with one of the teenage son of my ex-boyfriend.  I love this kid. I love both boys as if they were my own.  I fell in love with them as much as I fell in love with their father.  While their father didn’t value me as a girlfriend and broke up with me, we still maintain a friendship and he allows me to continue to be a part of his sons’ lives because he knows how much I love them. But this family sometimes drives me crazy.  I love them very much and I value the time I get to spend with them. I just wish they would value my time as well.  Anyway, back to the story.  The oldest son wanted to come spend the weekend with me, so we planned a cooking weekend.  I’ve been teaching him how to cook and we always have a great time cooking together.  Well, I had many offers of adventures for the weekend. I had an opportunity to visit one of the lighthouses on my lighthouse journey, something no one ever has time or wants to go with me.  That’s okay. I have no problem going by myself. I’ve done most things by myself. I had an invitation to go flying with someone in a Cessna, and another invitation to go riding on an airboat through the swamps. A group of friends invited me to a card game night (which I went and had a blast), and another friend invited me to go paddle-boarding at the river.  Well, I’m not going to say I didn’t skip that invitation because I’m just not comfortable with the idea of falling in a river where I can’t see through the water.  Kayaking or snorkeling in the springs, hell yeah!  In the river where I can’t see through the water… uh, no thank you.  I’ve also been trying to learn how to body board on the weekends. These may not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but they’re my plans, my adventures, the things I WANT to do.  Of course, spending time with this kid, cooking with him, or spending time with this family is very important to me too because I love them dearly. So, I turned down all those other offers and cleared my schedule for them. I went shopping on Friday and got all the ingredients to cook the dishes this kid wanted to cook.  I was so happy.  While most of Saturday was the two of us cooking, his cousin – who lived just a couple doors down wanted to come over and hang out with us. That was great, I didn’t mind at all. Except now my teenaged sous chef wanted to play video games with his cousin instead of cooking. Well, I cooked some things on my own, but I wasn’t going to cook it all by myself. I made him get off the video game and come help me in the kitchen.  He did, for the most part, and learned to cook a few new things.   However, after dinner was consumed and I was getting ready to head to my card game with a few of my friends, he decided he’d rather go hang out with his cousin instead of staying home and watching a movie, but promised to be back in the morning.  I knew I wouldn’t see him again for the rest of the weekend, but plans had been made, and I was going to keep my word, though I could see what was coming, and knew my time wouldn’t be valued.  I have value, too.

Plans had been made  to go the next weekend to Bob’s River Place as a celebration to kick off summer, it is a GREAT place to go with lots of water activities, rope swings, water slides, etc.  I was asked if I could change my plans and go this weekend instead next week because it was more convenient for their schedule. I changed the plans I had made for this Sunday. So, as it stood, I had three plans – I had a teenager who promised to come back and finish our cooking, a day at Bob’s River Place, and the one day a week I would have the place to myself because my roommate made me a promise that she would work in building on Sundays to give me that one day of “me” time– regardless of what my plans were, whether I was home or not.  Do you know how I spent my Sunday? My teenaged sous chef never showed up.  He didn’t call or text me to tell me he had changed his mind. He showed up after I had gone to bed to get the things he’d left the night before that he would need for school. He didn’t ask if I had cooked the rabbit, or had a piece of the pie I spent hours making.  It wasn’t important to him.  We didn’t go to Bob’s River Place either, nor did I get a text or a call to say we weren’t going. I just assumed that by 10am with no word from anyone, our plans had changed.  And instead of getting the place to myself as promised, my roommate took the day off from work and she and her dog were here to invade my space, my time, and my privacy.  So, after crying myself to sleep and taking a little nap while nursing a slight hangover, I got up and spent the rest of “my” day cleaning the “our” whole apartment (alone – though my roommate was there and could have helped), and then spent time hanging out at the pool and playing games together. She was bored, needy of attention, and I love her, and we don’t often get a lot of time to hang out together. I wasn’t going to get my alone time. Even though she tried to stay in her room to give me “my” space, that never lasted more than a half hour before she needed something, wanted something,  or had a question to ask, or had to take her dog out – you know, the typical things that needs to be done when you’re at home.  My time was interrupted, unlike the time she’ll get to enjoy for the next two days she’s off and at home alone.  I have value, too.

I’d love to say I’m not making plans anymore, but that’s not who I am.  I wish I could find a way to make it a bit more difficult for the people I love and care about to ignore, take advantage, and neglect me. Is that asking too much? Don’t I matter? It doesn’t feel like it. It feels like – It doesn’t matter what I want, I’m Tonya, I’ll understand.  “I can neglect her, but she’ll still be there. I can leave my shit sitting here, she’ll clean it up. I can break my word, invade her space, or change my plans, she’ll accommodate.  It doesn’t matter what “she’s” planned, “I” don’t feel like it.  I don’t have to call her sometimes or let her know what’s going on in my life; she should know I love her. I shouldn’t have to tell her. I’m an adult now, I don’t need a mother, or she’s not my mother. I want to be alone. I don’t want the hassle of a relationship, but I do enjoy the benefits without the commitment. It’s good she loves me, but I don’t have to love her back. She doesn’t need it, she’s Tonya.” I have value, too.

I had a woman tell me this weekend that she had been terrified of talking to me because I intimidated her and she thought I was too classy and too proper, that she didn’t think I would want to be friends with her. I know she meant that as a compliment, but it hurt my heart. She’s such a beautiful, friendly woman; I would have easily been friends with her. She’s not the first to tell me that. I don’t know what to do with that.  I don’t understand what I’m doing that makes me loved, but not loved enough, or intimidating, or that I deserve better (but not the best from them – from someone else because they can’t give me what I want or what I deserve), because the next person will tell me I deserve better (but not the best from them – from someone else because they can’t give me what I want or what I deserve), and the next person will tell me I deserve better (but not the best from them – from someone else because they can’t give me what I want or what I deserve). Or so I was told by my last three boyfriends when we broke up. I give my best because I love and value those in my life.  Will no one give me theirs?  I have value, too.

I don’t love and value my kids or my friends because they’re perfect. On the contrary, it is often their imperfections I love most.  I love my children, more than I could ever say. I gave them the best I had.  I wasn’t perfect, but I don’t think I deserve to just be forgotten or shut out completely. I was a good mother. They were my life, my loves.  It hurts me so much they don’t involve me in their lives or care what’s going on in mine.  I love my roommate/sister/bestie more than she’ll ever know. I’m closer to her and have a bond with her like I’ve never had with any of my brothers.  As for my brothers, I sacrificed a lot for them, yet they don’t care about me either. I had to separate myself from them because they hurt me, lied to me, stole from me, and endangered my children.  I love my best friend and his sons. They’re family – they own a part of my heart and soul.  Do I not matter to anyone?  My parents never wanted or valued me. My brothers never wanted or valued me.  My ex-husband never wanted or valued me. My kids don’t want or value me.  I have value, too.

Someday the people in my life are going to look up, but I’m not going to be there anymore – just like my parents, my brothers, and my ex-husband discovered, because “I” value me. I have value, too.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Categories: author T.L. Gray, friends, Philosophy, respect, Spiritual, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beautiful Soul… Shallow World

Beautiful Soul Shallow World

I’m not stupid. I know we live in a shallow, vain, subjective world.  We exist in a society that judges us based on our outer appearance, because most often that’s all we can see.  Image is everything.  We are presented an image by everyone we meet, and we present an image to everyone that crosses our path. I have a mask I wear depending on the situation and circumstances.  When I go to apply for a job, I want to present myself as qualified, acceptable, and capable of fulfilling the requirements of that position, so I dress the part and put on the appropriate mask.  When I am running a 5k, I don’t show up in heels and sporting a tiara, although that might be a hilarious run. While I maintain the true essence of my personality at work or play, I choose the image I want to portray.  I post pictures of what is important to me. I don’t post pictures of what I don’t think portrays the right image.  But we are so much more than the masks we wear or the images we choose to display. Yet, how often do we hurt each other because our small minds can’t move beyond the shallow, the vain, the image, or the mask?

Having two handicapped parents taught me at a very early age to see beyond the outward appearance, deeper than the disease, the defects, the imperfections to realize there’s a soul behind the eyes.  My father wasn’t just a blind man.  He was a human being; often times, a terrible, hateful, angry and evil human being, but human nonetheless.  My mother behind her MS was also a human being.  She was someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s wife, someone’s mother, not just a woman whose body didn’t work anymore.  I can remember as a child holding my father’s glass eye in my hand and resenting it, because that seemed to be all the world could see, how they defined him, how they felt sorry for him and placated to his dysfunction, and he preyed on it, used it to cover his sins, to hide the black soul he carried. I hated the world because they couldn’t see him; all they saw was a blind man. I saw a devil. I saw the anger, the hate, the pervert, the conman, the hustler. The world pitied him, made excuses for him, but I saw his soul.  Behind my mother I saw a broken spirit, a dull soul that was gray it allowed her to turn a blind eye, sewed her mouth shut, and too weak to protect her children.  I learned to see souls very early in life.

Now, as a single woman in a vain world, every day I see the masks, wear the masks, and recognize the masks for what they are.  I am inundated with comments on my appearance, and they’re nice to receive. Who doesn’t want to be told they’re pretty, or their eyes are pretty, or their smile is pretty? It’s better than being told you’re hideous or dull.  But, can’t they see ME?  Do they know how strong I am, what I’ve accomplished in my life? How my soul that had been so damaged and abused has survived, thrived, and overcome in spite of the circumstances, the tragedies, and the hate?  Can’t they see the abundance of love, compassion, and hope that radiates from this broken vessel?

I try so hard to see behind people’s masks when I meet them, get to know the human soul inside them, and decide if I want them in my life. There are MANY, many people I meet that I immediately close out and throw up a wall, defending myself, and keeping them out of my life, out of my company, out of my circle because I see glimpse the devil behind their masks. I don’t listen to what people say. I watch what people do, see how they treat others, take a glance at the trail behind them to see if their path is filled with destruction or love, and listen to my gut. The worst ones often have the sweetest words, prettiest faces, most beautiful bodies, and crocodile tears. They are often damsels in distress or victims of circumstances, but in reality they’re a black plague, the ones causing the strife and drama everywhere they go.  I don’t have time for all that.  But, I can also see sometimes an imperfect mask, a dysfunctional life, a broken appearance, but inside…. I have glimpse some souls so beautiful, so radiant, so amazing that I sometimes can’t hold back the emotion that wells inside me.  They’re often broken, a mess, judged by the world around them – but I see them, I see beyond who they even think they are and see them for who they have the potential to become, what they’re capable to achieve – not because of their looks, their education, their money, their status, their means… but because I know what kind of fight a survivor has, what kind of imagination stirs within a dreamer, what kind of drive resides inside an innovator, a strategist, a clever mind.  I know the power of compassion.  I know the strength of love.

Fuck their world and their vanity. Fuck the shallow people who can love someone because of their imperfections.  I LOVE perfect imperfections. I LOVE scars and the stories behind them.  I LOVE watching people pick themselves up from the mistakes they’ve made.  I LOVE seeing souls radiate – they’re beautiful.

I woke up this morning feeling beautiful and sexy.  I may not have my 20-year old body anymore (it’s now full of scars, marks, imperfections, jiggly thighs, and trace evidence of a life lived, mistakes made, and miracles), but the beautiful soul pulsating just beneath my skin is absolutely radiant. If anyone can’t see that when they look at me, they’re a blind idiot and don’t deserve to be in the same universe.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Dreams, Faith, family, Health & Fitness, Hope, Hurt, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, love, relationship, respect, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Whimsical World of T.L. Gray – The Story – My Story – Introduction

Introduction

Since I was born I have died twice, lived three lives, fell in love with four men, and am known by five different names. I’ve danced the halls of a Spanish hacienda, and shivered in the dark corner of a run-down shack, hung every holiday decoration in American suburbia, and been so hungry I couldn’t eat. I’ve protested for peace and marched for war, rescued sex slaves, and fed the poor. I’m famous to some and a nobody to others. I’m greatly loved and easily forgotten. I’ve been praised by thousands, but damned by even more. But who cares about all that? I was born alone in this world, and alone I’ll leave it. I’ve come to realize that I live or die in every moment. Let’s just say I’ve had a few moments. Hell, at times I’ve done both simultaneously, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This particular story, my story, begins on a hot July afternoon in a southern hotbed filled with hippies handing out flowers of free love, or embittered in a battle of protests for everything from women’s liberation, to civil rights, to war and draft-dodging. Indian Reservation by the Raiders played constantly on the radio, and President Richard Nixon was neck-deep in the Vietnam conflict. In the maternity ward of the Dekalb Medical Center in Atlanta, a young couple was heard screaming at each other down the hallway, fighting over what to name the quiet sleeping baby girl being carried in the arms of an elderly white-haired lady to the nurses’ station.

“Damn it, I’ve already told you, woman, her name’s going to be Rebekah Lynn!’ shouted the red-hair, freckled-face blind man at the young woman lying in the hospital bed. In one hand, he held tightly to the reigns of German shepherd service dog, whose silvered tags glinted with the name Fritz, and in the other clung tightly to a little boy with bright copper-red hair.

The young mother, no more than sixteen, started crying. “But, I want to name her Laura Lynn after Laura Ingalls Wilder, my favorite character from that book I read to you.”

The two continued to argue over the name, their voices filling the hall where the little old woman finally made her way to the counter at the nurses’ station. She looked down at the young, black nurse busily scribbling on her clipboard. “You were in there when my granddaughter was born, weren’t you, child?”

The nurse looked up, glanced down the hall toward the yelling couple’s room, and then smiled at the white-haired lady. “Yes, ma’am, I believe I was.”

“What’s your name, honey?” The old woman rocked the baby girl in her arms.

The nurse pinched her brows together, but finally answered after a few seconds, “My name’s Tonya.”

The little old lady quickly slapped the paper on the counter and started scribbling on it with one hand while she held the sleeping baby girl in the other. After a few seconds she waved it to the nurse. “Now you just go right on ahead and submit that information now before those two get finished.”

The young nurse took the paper and looked down at it. It was the little girl’s birth certificate, and hand-written on the first line was the name Tonya Lynnette.

The nurse smiled up at the little old lady and then stamped the certificate with the notary seal, and that was how I got my first name, Tonya.

It’s ironic. My parents were fighting over the names of a Jewish matriarch and an author of a book, and my grandmother named me after a nurse, a care-taker, someone that helps and nurtures others. All three fit. They sort of define me in many ways. Sadly, my family never called me by my given name, and most of my relatives don’t even know my real name, nor did the grandmother who gave it to me. Tonya means “priceless, without praise.” That too is prophetic and quite ironic.

I wish I could tell you that day was a day for celebration and marked the beginning of a wonderful life, that it was a beautiful, loving, bright story, full of inspiration and love, but it only marked the first of many dark days. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting tale; a roller-coast ride filled with many hills and valleys, twists and turns. You might want to grab hold of the safety bar before we get started. There will be moments that will surprise you, cause your stomach to ache, and have you feeling scared, even perhaps terrified; disbelieving the world can be so cruel. But there are other moments that will take you to the top of the world and have your heart soaring as your hair flaps in the various winds of love, hope, and joy. That’s life, real life. It’s not always a happy story, and not everyone gets a happy ending. It’s messy, complicated, and filled with real moments of good and bad. You can’t really appreciate one without the other. So, let’s go. I’m inviting you into my story. You’re not going to like everything, but my greatest hope when you reach the end (that is… if I can make it to the end), is that you find a little bit of understanding, that your perception of the world and the people in it change just a little. There’s evil in the world, real evil. There is also pain, real pain. But, there’s also good out there, and love, real love. So, come on, let’s go.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray ©2017

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Hope, Hurt, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, love, Musing, Philosophy, relationship, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Budgeting… Heart, Mind and Soul

Budgeting

We’ve talked about the importance of budgeting our time, our goals, and our resources.  Now, I need to get to the core of our being, because no matter what we decide to do on the outside, we have to have balance in our core.  I’m talking about budgeting our hearts, minds and souls.

What exactly is a budget?  A budget is as system itemizing something we have, want, or need, and breaking it down into increments of debits and credits, incoming and outgoing, supply and demand, etc.  It’s assessing what we have and developing a system to gain what we need.  If we don’t make an honest assessment, we can make erroneous decisions that will cause us to over-budget or under-budget and fail. To reach success, we have to clearly see the path to that success, and then be faithful and committed to the budget we set to reach that desired success.  We could get lucky, but luck always runs out. We’ve got to take control of our life, our choices, and our successes and failures.

Other resources we often overlook when we make a budget for our lives are those intangible resources, but happen to be the most essential in our success or failures of all other budgets.  Just as important as budgeting our money, we have to budget our heart, our mind and our souls.  We can over-extend ourselves, or under-utilize our potential by ignoring these resources.  These are essentially that define who we are – the core of being a human. These are the elements that directly lead to our successes and failures, our happiness or depression, or our love or indifference.

Heart – We have to budget our hearts.  We have to set a limit on the things, people, and focus we allow to affect our hearts.  We can set our affection on the wrong things or people that will hurt us, destroy us, and even break us.  We can also put too much focus on our heart, letting it lead us blindly, become obsessive over something or someone, and it will unbalance us.  Balance is key.  YES, love!!!! Oh, Mylanta, allow ourselves at times to get lost in our emotions. Enjoy the euphoria or pain of it, but we must keep it in balance.  We can’t get blind and stupid by love to the point we lose sight of everything else, especially what we want and need, and who we are. That’s unhealthy and it becomes detrimental to any dreams we’ve planned or hoped to succeed. We also can’t chase our dreams without love, without using our hearts. If we close our hearts because we’ve been hurt, or we have failed before, or we are too afraid, then we’ve already failed. It means nothing.  We can gain the world, but what good is it if we are indifferent?  Indifference means not caring at all or feeling nothing – which is worse than hate. Hate is at least passionate.  Indifference is void of passion.  Indifference is cowardice.   Without heart, we will give up, because it is our love for ourselves, for the dreams we have, for our family and the people we care about, that pushes us, inspires us, and gives everything we do meaning. Even God says that there are three essential things in this life – Faith, Hope and Love, and of those three, Love is the greatest. We can’t choose to love everyone and everything, nor can we choose to love nothing or no one. Protect our love.  Protect what and who we set our affections toward.

Mind – we have to budget our minds.  If we set our minds to too many things, and not balance it out, we will spend too much of one of our most valuable assets in the wrong area, on the wrong thing, or the wrong person, and not give the attention and focus we need to our goals, dreams, and aspirations.  We have to protect our minds, protect what we focus on, what we allow to distract us.  We can ‘check-out’ sometimes because life is hard.  Many times, instead of focusing on what I needed, I allowed myself to be distracted by the wrong things or person to avoid thinking about the hard things.  I’d “check-out”.  I’ve also allowed myself to focus too much, to the point of obsession, and neglected to focus on other areas of my life. Neither was healthy or productive.  There has to be a balance. We have to budget our minds and limit the things we focus on, allow distracting us, or taking up our time.  Write out a list of what we want and need, and then protect our minds and do what we need to keep and maintain a balance to our focus.

Soul – this one is the part of us that we often neglect most.  It’s that inner-being, and many of us can’t even recognize it. We try to numb it, ignore it, or control it.  We can’t.  This is core of who we are, and I believe this is the being that continues beyond our existence, beyond this physical plane, beyond this life. We have to budget for and with our souls. We have to make time for this part of us. What good is it to gain the world, but lose our souls?  To allow life, people, circumstances, guilt, pain, and all other bullshit to come in destroy our souls?  We can lie to the world. We can lie to ourselves, but our souls know who we are, what we really want, what we really need.  We have to protect our souls – cut the vampires out of our lives, allow love into our lives, let love fill us, and then through our souls, let that love back out into the world around us. There are soulless people in this world. There is darkness and evil. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it.  This world is so full of hateful, mean-spirited, selfish, awful people, but we don’t have to be one of them. It’s so important to protect and nourish our souls.

These are the keys to success – in EVERY area of life. We only get one. We only live ONCE.  We only have a tiny portion of this existence to make a difference, to be counted, to have purpose.  WE control what those are by how we budget our lives by the choices me make. Make good ones. Choose love.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Categories: Blog Post, Dream, Dreams, Faith, family, Philosophy, Relationships, respect, Spiritual | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Budgeting… Our Resources

Budgeting

We should always count the costs before we do anything. Once we’ve made a decision of what we want to do, what we want to accomplish, what goal we want to achieve, we need to count the costs, the true costs – the money, the time, the devotion, the requirements. This requires taking a good, hard, honest look, and then set realistic expectations of what it’s going to take to accomplish what we want to do. Can we afford it? We have to be able to budget our resources or we will find ourselves building a house with no nails, no hammers, and no blueprint. Good intentions never built anything, but have been the root and path to much destruction. Ever heard the phrase the road to hell is paved with good intentions?

In order to create a good budget, we have to take an assessment of what resources are assured, what resources are needed, and then what we are capable of covering. We can’t budget on possibilities. We have to budget on certainties. We can’t buy groceries with hope, promises, or luck. We can only purchase real food with real money.

Let’s get to the foundation. We can’t build the roof of our dreams, hopes, wants or desires, before we’ve set the foundation. This is the hard part. THIS is the part where the budget falls apart for most people. We have to ask ourselves, and then be honest about it, what do we really have to work with? Not what we expect – but the lowest, the base, the minimum of what resources we have. We can’t budget of what we hope we will have. If we work a job that we ‘sometimes’ work overtime, get bonuses, dividends, we CANNOT set our budget on that part of our income. Our budget must be set on our concrete “hard” income based on 40 hours a week NET pay. The MINIMUM of what we bring home every week, two-weeks, month, or year. If we budget on fluid “soft” income, we will find ourselves underwater. Life will make sure of it. If we make $15 and hour, based on 40-hours a week, our gross pay is $600, and our net pay after deductions is about $450.00, our budget isn’t based on $600, but $450.00 – set as the cap, the maximum. NOT the minimum. Live within our means, what we have, not what we expect or hope to have. Don’t spend money we don’t have. Don’t use credit cards. If we can’t pay for it, we don’t need it. Learn to say NO.

So many times I’ve tried to help people write and set budgets, only to see them determined to set a budget on money they expected, but couldn’t guarantee. And, I’ve watched them fail time and time again. I’ve done it. It doesn’t work. SOMETHING or someone will always come in to eat that seed right out of our hands. That’s life, that’s what happens. We have to be smart and cover the basics, and then allow room for flexibility, because life happens. Our car will break down, someone will get sick, lightning will strike the tree that falls on our house, a power surge will fry our computer, our kids decide to play the guitar instead of the triangle, we get a flat, we fall and twist our ankle, our kids come home from school with lice and we have to fumigate the whole house, life happens… shit happens. And we have to have some flexibility in our budget to be able to absorb life. When we don’t, we fall, because life is still going to happen whether we set a proper budget or not. How we budget determines how we face that life. If we live from paycheck to paycheck, we’re not living, we’re surviving and life controls and dictates to us what we can and can’t do because we are being reactive instead of proactive.

I have this saying I tell people sometimes: I plan my spontaneity. I schedule my freedom. What I mean is this. I love to be spontaneous, just have a whim to want to do something and then just go and do it, because I felt like it. However, I can’t LIVE like that. I have to buckle down during the week, make a schedule, make a plan, and stick to that plan – I work, workout, take my lunch every day to work, do my laundry, chores, my grocery shopping, schedule my time to get as much productivity done during the work week. It’s hard, it requires a LOT of discipline, devotion, and dedication, and the ability to say no, because life will send things my way in order to disrupt that schedule. I get tired, want to be lazy, and tempted to get off my schedule from family and friends. BUT, keeping to and being faithful to that budgeted schedule gets the things I need done so that when my weekend comes, I am FREE to do what I want, I have the opportunity to be spontaneous, not filled with a bunch of responsibilities I let go during the week. Because I budgeted my time, my money, and my goals to do what was required during the week, I have the resources to do what I want on my weekends. I planned my spontaneity. I scheduled my freedom. With my base pay I schedule to take care of my base needs, so that any bonus or overtime I get, I freely use to spend on my wants and desires.

Let’s take dieting as an example. Everybody’s body is different and requires a different amount of effort and energy to be successful. Some people have good DNA and don’t have to do much in order to stay in shape and filled with the energy they need to live a lifestyle they desire. The majority of us have to work hard in order to maintain a healthy body to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. That’s not fair. But, suck it up buttercup. Life has NEVER been fair. It doesn’t matter what the requirements are for someone else. Throw that shit of your head. Look at yourself, your life, your requirements, your need, and then make budget for YOU. Or don’t.

Listen. I’m not here to tell you how to live your life to MY standards. I’m trying to help you. This budgeting series is for me, to remind me of the goals, plans and dreams I’ve made for myself. It’s reminding me that nothing comes without a cost, that nothing good comes easy. If you listen to what I’m trying to stay, it can help you. But, WE are ultimately the only one that can help us gain the success we want to achieve. We’ve got to want it. We’ve got to be honest with our self about where we are, what we have, what we need, and what we need to do to get where we want to be. Our biggest obstacle is that person staring back us in the mirror. We’ve got to love ourselves enough to do the hard stuff, to say no, to dig in, to do what is necessary to protect and budget our time, our goals, and resources.
If necessary, we have to tell some of our friends to go away and leave us alone because they’re vampires that suck the lifeblood out of us – they waste our time, detour our goals, and consume our resources. They depress us with all their woes and problems. They take, but never give. Their lives are ALWAYS filled with drama and one disaster after another. Those are not real friends; they’re opportunists with sad stories and trails of chaos. Good friends know the plans and dreams we’ve made for ourselves. They recognize our needs without having to tell them. They become a support, a cheerleader, a coach, and a guard to help us see the truth of our circumstances, assist us in fulfilling our needs, and being an inspiration for us to achieve our dreams. THAT’s a friend. A friend tells us the truth, even if it hurts our pride, and loves us just as we are, but doesn’t put up with our excuses or bullshit. A real friend isn’t afraid of telling us the hard stuff. They don’t eat our groceries when they see our refrigerator is empty. They don’t use our electricity, or take advantage of our hospitality, while sitting by watching us go without a phone or internet.  They don’t invite us to stay out all night on one of their adventures knowing we have to work the next day, yet make no time to join us in our adventures on our time.

And true friendship requires us being able to be and do the same support for them. Do we encourage our friends and family, or make fun of them every time they try to do something? Do we give them hope, or talk down to them and try to talk them out of the dreams they have? Are we a pessimist and point out the negative to everything, only the negative come out of our mouths even in joking? Or are we an optimist and see the potential in ourselves and our friends and family? Do we think the world is just full of bad people, misery, hate, selfishness, judgment, etc.? Or do we see opportunity, potential, even when we recognize the bad, but also see a way to turn it around for good? Cut the negative bullshit excuses and people out of our lives. They’re toxic to us, to our budgets, to our dreams, to our hopes, and to our success. If we don’t cut this bullshit out of our lives, we can only blame ourselves for our failure.

Tomorrow is the last day of my budget series. I didn’t plan this series out, it’s just happens to be where I am in my own journey at this time. I hope I can tie all these different budgets together had have been able to create a clear path, a clear picture, and inspiration that will help any who read it.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Blog Post, Dream, Dreams, Faith, family, friends, Health & Fitness, Hope, Hurt, Independence, Life, love, memes, Muses, Musing, Philosophy, relationship, Relationships, respect, Spiritual, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Budgeting

Budgeting

Unless you make a shit ton of money, have a wealthy uncle or heritage, most of us have to live within a budget.  We have to take note of what is coming in and what is going out or else we’ll find ourselves reactive, chasing one problem after another, instead of being proactive to prevent more problems.  Remember this: Reactive = chaos. Proactive=control.  I think this is one of the issues that plague our country, and even the world, more than anything else – irresponsibility of not realizing what our true means are and living within those means, or making a plan to increase or decrease those means.

I’ve experienced just about every aspect and level of lifestyle. I’ve been so low and have tasted being homeless living in my car and rest stops for a time, to a one room shack with no electricity or running water, onto trailer parks with holes in the floor fighting rats for my space, expanding to several different levels of apartments, moving into suburban America with a 4-bedroom home and two car garage,  rental properties,  enjoying a condo on the beach, and a hacienda complete with guards, servants and two toilets in a single restroom. I’ve experienced true hunger and have also gorged on extravagance; both just as depraved, and neither the key to true, lasting happiness.

As with any other goal in our life, we must take an honest look of where we are, what he contribute, what we owe, where we want to go, and where we need to be in order to make the appropriate plans to get there. Go ahead and keep believing your dreams and fantasies are going to take care of all your needs and solve all your problems. Let me know how that turns out.  However, if you truly want to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and live a good, balanced life, then you need to start being honest with yourself and circumstances, and then set your budget.

All of life is about a budget. We not only need to budget our money, but our time, our affection, and our dreams.  The most detrimental thing that happens to me is when I allow others, bad decisions, and unexpected circumstances to rob me of my peace and balance in life.  All the success I’ve enjoyed throughout my life has resulted from when I made an honest assessment, developed a plan, and then activated that plan – EVERY SINGLE SUCCESS.  If I look back, the majority of my failures have resulted from times when I’ve lied to myself, reacted spontaneously without counting the costs, or allowed others and their needs to come before myself.

So, this week I’m going to talk about budgeting. So stay tuned.  Hopefully something in these blog posts will open your mind, click within your soul, and set you on a path to success. That’s what I’m hoping for myself. This is all part of my latest journey.  If you want to come along, buckle up – it’s going to be an awesome, yet bumpy, ride.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Dreams, Faith, family, friends, Health & Fitness, Hope, Hurt, Independence, Inspirational, Instructional, Musing, Spiritual, Writing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Kiss the Girl!

kiss-the-girl

Wake up! Get up! Move your fucking feet! Kiss the girl!

Look, Life knocks us down. I think the abusive bitch really enjoys it, because she knocks me out quite a lot.  It seems like every time I stand up on my feet, dust myself off, and start picking up my pace to make a little bit of forward motion, she’ll drop a damned 747 out of the sky to fall on my head. But, I’m indestructible, immortal, and a freaking superwoman, because I choose to be. What’s your excuse?

Listen, I have my moments where I want to lay there on the ground and just cry because of how unfair life can be, is, or will always be.  But, I’m not five-years old.  Add forty years to that, and a whole lot of responsibility never really having time to be a brat. I’m jealous of you spoiled mother-fuckers that always had someone else looking after you, cleaning up your messes, wiping your noses, and patting you on the head telling you what a good job you’ve done.  Take your participation trophies and wrap them up in your dirty diapers, and go suck on your binky. I don’t have time for your pity party.  Believe me, I’ve been trying to have one for the last few years, and it isn’t working!

Hey! Knock it off.  Suck it up, Buttercup.  It’s time to get up. It’s time to move, even if you don’t know which way to go, move anyway.  The sad part is not moving, being stuck in the moment, being mired in the muck of self-pity. Learn this lesson: Life is NEVER fair. NEVER! Fair has never existed, and it never will.  This is a stupid concept ingrained into our psyche as children and we carry it with us throughout our lives, beating ourselves up when LIFE throws us a monkey wrench.  We are taught that WE are in control of the bullshit that happens in our lives.  That if we are good, good will happen to us.  That if we are fair, fair will find us.  BULLSHIT!  You tell that to every abused child, cancer patient, soldier’s widow, the betrayed, the rejected, and the good-hearted discarded because keeping up is hard.  Life is not fair.  She never was. She never has been. She never will be.  So, get up!

Want to know what you control? Nothing, except HOW you respond.  That’s it.  That’s all the control you have.  You can’t control the universe, you can’t control the weather, you can’t control the ocean’s tide, you can’t control someone else’s response, you can’t control God, you can’t control the economy, you can’t control anything. You can bribe, manipulate, lie, and scheme, but you can’t control anything in life except how YOU respond to it.  That’s who you are.  Not who you say. Not who you think. Not what some piece of paper says, by degree or birth certificate.  You are how you respond to every little and every big decision you make.

Stop being a pussy. Stop being afraid of making a mistake.  Fucking make a mistake, because you’re at least living, doing, deciding.  Stop hiding. Stop wallowing. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Stop WAITING for the right time, the right person, the right circumstance.  Stop waiting to win the lottery. Stop WAITING and start fucking moving. Start making decisions. Start making choices. STOP making excuses.  I’m so fucking tired of hearing excuses.  I hear it at work, I hear it at home, I hear it in society all around me.  I hear it out of my own mouth.  The mantra is … “I can’t… because. I won’t… because. I don’t… because.  I hear that bullshit a whole lot more than I’d like to admit.  But, that’s the problem. Until we admit to ourselves, until we recognize our reactions, our inaction, and our whiny excuses… we can’t change them. So, as a society, we keep ourselves distracted with bullshit, nonsense, shit that don’t matter, so we don’t have to hear our souls crying out to open our fucking eyes. Because to open our eyes to the truth is to be faced with the choices that define us.  We WANT to be fair.  We want life to be on Easy Street. We want someone to change our diapers for us, to take away all the shit we’ve produced, and give us a clean diaper so we can soil that too.  Feed us, because we don’t want to learn to feed ourselves.  Hold our hands, because we don’t want to face the struggle it takes to walk on our own. Coddle us, because our little feelings are hurt. Rock us, because we’re sleepy.  We bitch about putting on ten pounds, all the while stuffing our feelings.

Move.  Choose.  Kiss the girl – life!  She’s right in front of you.  See her.  Stop thinking about whether you’re making a mistake, or will there a better option tomorrow, or will she love you back because all the girl’s you’ve kissed before had hurt, abused, and used you?  Stop being a fucking coward and kiss the girl. It’s better to have kissed, than to have missed your opportunity, because guess what… life will continue without you.  All you’ve lost is the opportunity to really live. To live in the moment.  To get out of life ALL that you can in that moment… whether it ends up being a mistake.  Even from our mistakes, we live.  I have a life full of mistakes, but not ONE regret.

I lived for nearly twenty years doing the ‘right’ thing, the practical, the responsible, the ‘good’ thing, and I don’t regret any of it, because it was to fulfill the dream of being able to provide a certain life for my kids.  That was my dream.  However, I didn’t do a whole lot of living in that era, nor the era before . I was too busy trying to be good, to be right, to make responsible choices and so afraid of disappointing everyone else around me, of disappointing God, and of making a mistake.  THAT was the true mistake.  Because all that did was steal life from me.

I’ve got some heavy choices before me, and many of those choices paralyze me because I’m so afraid of making the wrong one.  I’ve spent so much time being afraid of the consequences of those choices, because I know life isn’t fair.  I’ve felt the pain and suffering of an unfair life.  Those burn scars still hurt today.  But, this is me this morning, puckering my lips… ‘cause you know what… I want to kiss!  I don’t want to just kiss, but I want to rip my clothes off and make beautiful, passionate love.  If it turns out to be a mistake, at least I had an orgasm, and my toes curled, and my stomach had butterflies.

Kiss! Kiss!

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

 

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Blog Post, blogging, Complicated frustrations, Dream, Faith, family, friends, Health & Fitness, Hope, Hurt, Independence, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, love, memes, Musing, Philosophy, relationship, Relationships, respect, Romantic, Spiritual, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Moving Forward… Day 3

moving-forward-day-3

The new year is around the corner. I’m so ready to get beyond all the holidays and get back to my adventures, get back to my agenda of moving forward.  Moving forward is not standing still, it’s not planning and contemplating, and hoping and wishing… it’s taking the steps, even tiny steps, to moving forward.  That’s where I am today.  I’m not waiting until next week, with the new year, I’m moving now.

I’ve started my workout. I’m getting out my maps and planning my next lighthouse adventure. I’m making a budget to start putting money away to move. I’m dusting my hands off from all the dirt of pulling myself out of the emotional hole I’ve been living in and I’m moving forward. 

Let the sun shine. Let the adventure come. I’m focused. Let’s go.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Blog Post, blogging, Dreams, Health & Fitness, Hope, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, love, Philosophy, Relationships, T.L. Gray, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Frustrated

Frustrated

I’m finding it easy to get frustrated these days.  My temper explodes at the simplest of things, like this morning when my running tracker on my phone updated and didn’t track my run, as it had for the past year.  Why the fuck doesn’t the app continue functioning as it had before it was updated?  Why does it disappear from my home keys, make me have to accept the new terms and conditions, change the way it’s displayed and make me spend a half hour frustrated as hell because it didn’t do what it had previously done, trying to figure out (unsuccessfully) how to add it back? I fucking hate the app now and won’t use that program again.  If I have to go through all that trouble, I’ll just go to the Google app store and download another free program that will track my running.  The app screwed itself in a failed attempt at upgrading.  Hint, hint… if you’re going to upgrade, then make it BETTER, but from a familiar point.  I’m not one to spend a lot of time HUNTING down what should be easily accessible.  I live in the modern age of convenience and I have a very, very short attention span.

Frustration number two.  I uploaded the new Windows 10 on my desktop.  I had done so earlier on my laptop and it went smoothly without a hitch.  I don’t mind the program, it’s a cross between XP and Windows 8, featuring the familiar features I love about XP, mixed with some of the newer features of 8, and splashed with a little bit of even newer options with the 10.  THAT I can handle.  Give me a little bit of familiar territory and ease me into the new stuff.  Smart. Convenient. Doable.  But, low and behold, my desktop obviously doesn’t like the transition.  I have spent the better part of my morning trying to figure out WHY I get to the load screen, type in my password, to have it only return back to the load screen, to type in my password, but NOT load up the program.  FUCK YOU technology.  I honestly don’t have the patience to handle all these little road blocks that are preventing me from being at my most productive.  I’ve got things to do. I’ve got a life I need to get back on track.  I’ve got to get busy, getting busy.  But NO, I have to waste MOST of my morning piddling around with fucking updates and booting problems.  Can you tell I’m frustrated just a bit?  I did actually wake up in a good mood, with a positive attitude, and with a happy outlook for a beautiful day.

Frustration number three. I know I’ve been hiding. I know I’ve been trying hard to acclimate to my new life, my new surroundings, my new …. well, everything.  But, damn… do I have to do it with the new ten pounds I gained?  Really?  Granted I’ve not been exercising.  Granted, my routine got detoured.  Granted I’ve spent a few days vegging out on television shows and video games, snacking all day (it doesn’t help I have a roommate that likes to cook ALL THE TIME), and smelling food cooking all day long, etc.  Granted my allergies are killing me, and I mean literally killing me.  I live with a dog.  He’s a handsome little fellow, and lovable as can be.  He’s adorable.  Problem is, I’m allergic to dog hair, and this little cutie leaves hair everywhere.  How can I keep him out of my room, off my bed when he’s such a soothing medicine to me, cuddling up to me, loving on me?  I’m scared. I’m frustrated. I’m nervous about my future and my life. I miss my kids. I’m in unfamiliar territory.  I need him.  But, I can’t breathe, my ears are constantly stopped up, I have sinus migraines, and my lungs feel like they have a tight band around them.  I’m taking antihistamines that make me drowsy and lethargic, but they help …some.  I have an air purifier, that I think helps, but I can’t make myself UNallergic to dog hair.  I can’t leave. The dog can’t leave.  So what am I to do?  How am I to persevere?  Why the hell can’t my body, which grew up with dogs, get over this allergy shit and just go back to being normal?  Oh, boy.

And sex… well, I haven’t had sex in a while.  I’m not looking for a partner at the moment, and really I feel sick just even thinking about jumping back into the dating pool. You want to talk about frustration… dating in the 21st century is very, very frustrating.  While masturbation helps a bit, I’m sexually frustrated at the moment too.

So, yeah, I’m a little frustrated.  Well, okay… I’m a LOT of frustrated.  But even so, I’m also very hopeful, very optimistic about what lies ahead of me.  I have returned to my workout (even if the damned app didn’t record it), I will find that dependable job, then I will be able to move into my own apartment (dog free), and my sinuses will get a reprieve (if they don’t kill me first), I will lose these ten pounds and more, I will see my kids again somehow, I will fall in love and be loved in return, I will figure out what my new dreams are… and I will make them come true.  How do I know this?  I know me.  I’ve been here before.  I may be frustrated.  I may be at another difficult cross road.  I may have been knocked down a little bit. But, I’m a fighter.  I never stay down too long.  And if you know me at all, no matter how down I feel, how tough life gets, or how hopeless everything seems… I NEVER give up.

I’ve rested long enough.  I’m dusting my (fat) ass off, standing back up, and lacing up my gloves.  Let’s get this show on the road, bitch.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

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If… If… If… People Lie

If If If People Lie

If.  I was once told that “if” was the biggest little word to ever exist.  That isn’t a lie.

Everyone posts these meme’s all the time with messages that sound good, but has anyone ever stopped and really read them, tried to understand what they’re really saying, or did they get caught up in the moment because they said something itching ears wanted to hear?  Everyone has the answer… to every problem. Yet all those answers come with a hitch, a ransom, a sacrifice, an obligation, or/and a price.  If… If… If… You know what I’ve learned?  It’s all bullshit. I lived my life believing IF… If I obeyed, then life would be okay. Well, I tested that theory many, many, many, many times. People lie.  Let me tell you a story.

I can remember being about seven years old and sneaking off one morning to catch a church bus.  I wanted to be like my next door neighbor, I can still remember her last name – Janosek. I wanted to be a regular girl, wear frilly pretty dresses, have girl toys, have two normal parents that weren’t handicapped or abusive, parents who had real jobs and not drug dealers, who went to church and PTA meetings.  I wanted to be free to laugh and be silly, be anything but who and what I was.  It didn’t seem like such an impossible dream, but to me at seven it seemed alien and a world away; impossible.  But impossible didn’t stop me, it never did.  So, I dressed as much like a girl (I was an extreme tomboy with five brothers) as I could and stood at the road, determined to wave that church bus down.  I caught that bouncy bus not knowing where it’d take me, what would happen to me, or when or if it’d ever bring me home.  People lie.

I ended up being delivered to a little country church where I was shuffled off to a gymnasium with several other children and told a story about a man sacrificing his son for his faith. I thought it barbaric that God would tempt a man to kill his own son in order to test his faith.  Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around, parents sacrifice themselves to save their children?  That, of course, wasn’t the life lessons I’d learned by that age.  A parent killing their kid for their own interest… that was easy, that was normal.  What a manipulation.  People lie.

I was pulled to the side and asked if I wanted to go to heaven, yet I had no concept of heaven.  All I’d heard of heaven was a place in the fluffy white clouds, wings, and golden harps.  That sounded boring to me, so I told the lady that I didn’t want heaven, I just wanted an earth where people didn’t hurt each other, that I didn’t think this place was so bad, except for the people in it. I thought the earth was beautiful, even magical, if the people in it would stop hurting it and each other.  She quickly informed me that in heaven there was only peace and that nobody ever cried.  I didn’t believe that, because I cried all the time.  I didn’t cry to just cry, and I sure as hell didn’t cry where other people could see me.  My dad beat me so bad one time I passed out, because he wanted to see me cry. I refused.  In private  I cried because I hurt, because I was scared, because I hoped and constantly had those hopes dashed with violence.  Crying made me realize I was real, it reminded me that I could feel pain, but also joy.  Why did I want to go somewhere and not feel anything?  They were not selling me on this whole heaven thing.  I guess she could see that, so she changed her tactics and started telling me of the OTHER consequences of not being saved – the idea of eternal damnation, a life filled with violence and pain.  I wondered in that moment what I had possibly done at seven years old to have been damned while I was still alive.  I was a little smartass and told the woman, “It’s not so bad.  You get used to it.” Obviously that wasn’t the right answer. So, I soon learned of the lake of fire, torture, demons, the devil and brimstone.   I still wasn’t scared.  I was raised with a pack pit bulls, after all. People lie.

So, this determined lady was hell bent on saving my soul, she changed her tactics once again and asked me if I loved anyone enough to die for them and started telling me about the story of Jesus, how he was an innocent man yet tortured, beaten, and then killed to save us all.  It was the only story that really peaked my interest, but I couldn’t understand why this one man’s sacrifice was any different than what I had done regularly to protect my brothers, or to protect my mother.  I’d taken beatings for them, I’d given them my food at times, I’d kept my mouth shut and endured the worst of humiliation and abuse at the threat of losing them, being taken from them, or separated.  I know, had given the choice, I would have died for them, taken a bullet in their place. I dreamed of doing that very thing quite often. That was an easy decision.  So what made this man’s decision any better than mine, or any other human being that would do the same for someone they loved? I’d learned enough history by this time to know people died for other people all the time, yet we didn’t worship them. Why him? Telling me that I was supposed to love somebody because they first loved me and died for me,  was a hard concept for me to understand.  I wanted to scream, “Prove it!” People lie.

It took me nearly 20 years to reconsider that answer, because the next thing this lady did was scare the hell out of me by making statements like I needed to be washed in this man’s blood in order to be redeemed, dunked in some water to be cleaned, and then I needed to obey him and keep all his commands so that I will be worthy enough to enter heaven.  I knew I’d already flunked this test, because I sure as hell wasn’t about to let somebody pour their blood over me, nobody was going to push me under the water, and I was too stubborn to blindly obey a bunch of rules I didn’t understand.  I just smiled, shook my head to tell her what she wanted to hear, watched her shed a few fake tears for me, schedule a baptism for the next Sunday, gave me a Bible, gave me some candy, and then put me back on the bus that brought me home.  I never went back to that church. But, I never forgot that day. People lie.

I kept hearing that woman’s voice in my head saying, “If you believe in Jesus, he will save you.” I needed saving in the worst way. I once wished in the middle of a hurricane for Superman to save me, but he never came.  He ended up being a lie, a figment of someone else’s imagination. Don’t even get me started on Santa.  Biggest disappointment of all. People lie.

My next memory had me lying in the grass, staring into the sky, wondering what was beyond the clouds, beyond the blue, beyond the stars.  I watched the treetops sway in the wind, the ants crawl between the blades of glass, the beauty of the sunlight in a drop of water falling from the spigot into a tin bucket.  It’s the most peaceful and profound moment I’d ever felt in my life.  I was just a child, a human, and for the first time in my miserable life, I wondered why I existed at all, why I lived the life I lived, who I was, what was my purpose, and that if a real god existed, did he see me, know what I endured, know how I hurt?  That was the first time I ever prayed.  I whispered into the wind, “If you’re real then I want to know the real you. Let me see the truth. People lie. Save me, please.”

There was a wooden plaque that I’d sometimes stare at for hours.  It read, “If Christianity were a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” I can’t even begin to tell  you the amount of hypocrisy it represented, especially for this waif of an abused Jewish girl, but I’ll never forget it.  I sometimes wonder whatever happened to that plaque. It shaped my mind more than I ever realized. Needless to say, Jesus never showed up at my doorstep to save me.  Until the time I was 23, I lived in hell, in survival mode, hating the world, determined not to let it beat me.  I honestly don’t know how I survived those years, but it was at this time I traded one hell for another, a different kind of hell, a hell that transferred the outside pain to the inside. I was no longer fighting for my life every day, instead I was fighting for my soul. When I lost my first hope at real love, a part of me died.  I finally became a Janosek, I hid among middle-class idealism, I became it’s poster child, only it wasn’t what I thought it would be. People lie.

For the next twenty years I obeyed, I lived a life of obedience, to my family, to my husband, to my church, to my god, to my community, to everything.  My dream was that my children would not have the life I had, no matter what it cost me.  I gave it my everything – I gave it my faith, my trust, my loyalty, my gifts, my skills, my heart… I gave it my all.  I studied, I learned, I volunteered, I tithed (everything – money, time, gifts, abilities), I prayed EVERY DAY with sincerity.  If ANYONE in this world could pray more sincere that I did with my nose in the carpet for 20 years, then NO ONE has hope. I believed with every ounce of my being… that IF… ‘my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, seek my face, turn from their sins, then will I open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing they’d not have room enough to contain.  If… I believed I would receive.  If… I was obedient and faithful… my husband would love me, my kids would love me, my family would love me, my church would love me. People lie.

I didn’t just pray once and expected the world to just fall into place in an instant.  I prayed faithfully for nearly 20 years.  I have journals and journals and journals of my prayers.  I’d crawl into bed next to a husband every night who didn’t want me, most nights crying myself to sleep, wondering why I wasn’t enough. I watched one of my kids run away from home, leave me worried for years if they were even alive or suffering, blaming myself for being too hard.  I watched a family that promised to love me forever disappear along with the divorce papers, along with other family members that stole from me, lied to me,  and used me.  I watched a church full of people who told me they loved me nearly every day just vanish behind their church doors.  I suppose as long as I looked like them, talked like them, and walked into their doors I was worthy.  Hmmmm?  I wonder where the lost sheep really gather? People lie.

So, here I am, bombarded everyday with the meme’s of life, seeking my own truth, trying to save my own soul, not for a heaven or to avoid a hell, and not to find love. People lie, especially to themselves. That includes me.  I don’t have any answers, but I know they’re not found in “if”.  That’s all bullshit.  I found love only when I chose to love myself.  Salvation?  Everyone has their own faith, even if they think they have something else.  Quoting scripture to me is fruitless.  Quoting meme’s, philosophies, logic, ideals… those are all fruitless too.  Quit trying to save me or change me, just love me.  If  you can’t do that, just go away.  I don’t want you. I sure as hell don’t need you. I’m still lying in the grass, staring up into the heavens, wondering, whispering into the wind, “People lie. Are you real, because I sure as hell know I am.”

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Image by: sympathyforlove.blogspot.com  – Lying in the Grass by Hermann Hesse

Categories: Musing, T.L. Gray | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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