God I Missed You

I had a revelation last night.

I’m reading a book about happiness. I read lots of books about happiness, it makes me happy. I am, generally, a very positive and mostly happy person. True, like anyone, I have my moments, but, for the most part, I attribute my relative success in life, through good times and bad, to my general, overall happiness. But I still read every book I can find on the topic. I’ve decided happiness is my passion. And my mission. I want to know as much about happiness as possible, and my hope is to be able to help others find their happiness. I have faith that I can.

The book I’m working on presently is “Happy This Year – The Secret to Getting Happy Once and For All” by Will Bowen. It is a great read, one I recommend. I stayed up until nearly 1:00 AM this morning and am nearly half way through the book, on my first venture beyond the title page.

Having read much on the topic of happiness, and having practiced my own happiness for quite some time, now, I’ll admit, I don’t know everything. I do know quite a bit, and, as I read this book I nodded in agreement, “I do that, I do this, I agree with that, I love this, I practice that,” and so on. Then I reached the chapter on spirituality.

Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California
Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California

Spirituality has been sort of a tough one for me the past several years. I do still consider myself “Christian”, but my views have evolved into a far more broad, progressive definition. I still find churches and the practice of going to church centering, though I no longer attend churches other than for weddings and funerals. I appreciate the teachings, though, in my more progressive view, I think all religions exist for the same purpose and tell, basically, the same story, hoping to instill, basically, the same values and virtues. I think “church” itself, is just a community you choose to belong to in order to hear the stories in a frame of reference perhaps more convenient, comfortable, familiar or palatable than another. My “problem” with religion, modern, organized religion, is not so much the message or story, the virtues, the values, but, perhaps, the method of delivery, and, for certain, the constituents.

My ventures into bastions of organized religion over the past decade or so have been disappointing, after moving away from the very comfortable, forgiving, tolerant church where I converted to Catholicism nearly twenty years ago. And with that particular priest being reassigned, even that bastion of organized religion has evolved into something somewhat less. When I attend a church, now, I am appalled at the behavior of many of the members as they try flaunt their piety like a Rolex watch. Cliquey and judgmental. Constantly comparing themselves to their brethren, judging their relative level of salvation. Thou art more righteous than I, yes, because thou knoweth the words to the songs, as evidenced by the loud singing and over-annunciation of the words. I am humbled. Not. There seems to be a clamoring for salvation, like tickets to the Super Bowl, just not enough room in heaven for all of us, and he, or she, who can outwardly demonstrate their over the top righteousness, piety and faith wins.  And this amongst “the saved”. I thought “witnessing” was for the benefit of those who were not yet “converted”, “born again”, or “saved”. Whatever that all means. Live a good life, get into the game. As I see it. Righteousness is in how you live your life, not in how you flaunt your relative level of devotion with other Christians, like some sort of baton-twirling competition.

To me, religion, the practice of faith, of worship, of spirituality is a personal journey and not something to be flaunted, measured or compared. Maybe that’s just me.

Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California
Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California

So, I’m reading this book and I get to the chapter about spirituality. The author, Will, has some great and very refreshing interpretations of passages from the Bible I quite agree with. I’m nodding my affirmation as I read on. The book suggests we should be spiritual to foster happiness. Okay. I like to think I’m spiritual even if I don’t attend church and sing all the right words to all the songs, loudly, even if I don’t serve on twelve congregation committees, even if the ushers don’t know me by name and make small talk with me as I enter the chapel. I meditate. I am reverent. I live a good life. I have good values. I consider myself fairly virtuous.

The plot thickens. The author suggests we should pray. Well, I sort of do. I state my affirmations and I list out all the things I am grateful for, daily, is that not praying? No. Apparently not. The author suggests our prayer be to the attention of someone, like God, or, insert your deity here. To whom it may concern. After our proper salutation, rather than rattling of a laundry list of “I wants”, we should state our affirmations, positively, in present tense, and with power. Then, in conclusion, we should say “thanks” and sign off. I’m fidgeting now. I haven’t prayed, in that manner, for some time and I’m not sure I’m ready to.

My issues with prayer; I used to pray, well, religiously. For most of my life. I’ve always believed in the power of prayer. I still do. In fact, I have to say, it works, perhaps a little too well. I prayed for so many things in my life, and, usually got just what I asked for, and always ended up with a whole lot more than I bargained for. I’ve envisioned God up there, chuckling, listening to my daily prayer, saying, “well, okay,” and shaking his head. Or maybe Bruce Almighty was in charge and just granted me everything I prayed for by pressing the “Yes to All” button. Perhaps I was trying to micro-manage God through prayer and He got tired of it and just gave me everything I asked for to see how I’d handle it. I got it, I got it all, and everything that came along with it. And when the house of cards all fell down, I looked heavenward and thought, “I know you’re there, though I’m not sure of your form. I know you love me, though you have a funny way of showing it, and I don’t think I know how to pray. Obviously.”  So, I stopped. And since then, my thoughts on religion have evolved, as have I, into something far more open-minded, tolerant and accepting than modern Christianity seems willing to bear. And my “prayers” have evolved into just the affirmations and the gratitude. I’ve omitted the salutation. I just throw it out into the universe and am comfortable with that. It’s all an “energy” thing, right? The positive energy of affirmations will certainly be returned in the same, positive form, and my affirmations will manifest. I am oh, so careful how I word things, lest they be taken, by the “universe” too literally, or misinterpreted. I’m mincing words.

Well, up until the prayer part of the spirituality chapter of this book, I’ve been in complete agreement with every word. Maybe there is something to the prayer part I should consider. Or reconsider. I decided to give it a try.

Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California
Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California

My first dilemma was to whom I should address my prayer. The book left me some wiggle room here, it could be God, Father, Lord, Creator, or Universe, or whatever deity or power you wished. Just insert the name of some responsible party here. Long gone are the days of envisioning God as some floating form in white robes and a long white beard, shrouded in sunlight. Nor do I see any other holy figure others may pray to. It’s a mystery. To all of us. No one can know, no one will know, until we are in the great beyond, and so, beyond the ability to share the truth with those of us still here in life. I believe in creation, creatively, as sort of a morph between science and the whole seven days and Garden of Eden thing. I believe both are true, and that the stories we have collected into the Bible and other accounts are just that, stories to explain the creation that obviously occurred. And, the creation, however it was sparked, ignited or made to happen, was the result of a great amount of energy. From somewhere. So, that was my choice. I decided to pray to Mr. E, which, if you know me well, you’ll see, is a play on words; Mr. E for Mr. Energy (though I think the Mr. is open to interpretation) and, if you say it fast enough it sounds like “mystery”. Ah, you see how my mind works?

So, I started, “Dear Mr. E”. Long pause. Rather than go through ALL of my positive and powerful affirmations, they fill a whole page written out, stated in the present tense, per direction, I decided to just go with a couple of the biggies, at the top of the list. I selected a couple and as I said them, even in the safe, secure silence of my head, I was suddenly overcome with great emotion. My eyes welled up, threatening to spill over and wash away that new, million-dollar eye cream I’d just applied. I was completely awash in a feeling of immense relief and an overwhelming spiritual connection. All from adding the simple, silly, cheeky, salutation to my “prayer”. It was an epiphany, a revelation. It was humbling and faith affirming. And I felt happy. And I thought, “God, I missed you.”

Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California
Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California

My beliefs have not changed. I’m not going to go door-to-door handing out religious reading materials. I’m not going to shave my head, don robes, and chant and grasp hands with strangers at the park. I’m not going to give Jesus the wheel. I’m not going to join twelve congregational committees and sing loudly at church every Sunday. I am, however, going to pray again, in my own, unique way. I am going to try to grow more spiritually. I am seeking that blissful, mysterious, spiritual connection I felt last night. God, I missed you.

Scarlett’s Letter November 14, 2013

If there’s an emotion I didn’t experience this week, it’s only because it hasn’t been defined yet.

My God.

A bit short on sleep, it is possible I’m really just suffering from good, old-fashioned exhaustion. Go ahead, ask me if I got up at 4:30 AM and worked out. Considering I turned off the light around midnight and flopped around on a ten-acre bed, trying to find sleep until, oh, probably 4:15 AM, your guess, “no”, would be correct. Guilt. The first emotion of the day.

Through a chain of gruesome events leading to the discovery of some unsavory news from the dark ages of my youth, a long-standing friendship with Stanly, a man I knew, and loved for a time, as a young woman, ended. Sorrow. The emotion that accompanied me in my futile attempts to sleep.

In response to the intense sense of indignation from the events noted above, a retaliatory literary grenade was lobbed into cyberspace, and, well, ended up in the enemy camp. Stanly read the article, the demonic one that has since been removed, revised with a more human flair, and reposted.

Stanly, the young man I knew, and loved for a time, as a young woman, fell from a pedestal I’d placed him on, a pedestal he has occupied for thirty some years. The crash from that pedestal was both violent and abrupt, leaving behind a wake of shock and pain. Two more emotions I find myself awash in.

The man Stanly has become, even after reading the scathing, hateful and hurtful account of my discovery of his historic betrayal, apologized. A genuine and heartfelt apology. I think what I’ve experienced from that moment on is the emotion that hasn’t been defined yet. There is relief and remorse, shame and surprise.

The net result, though, is that a lost friendship I grieved over yesterday, breathes new life today. Neither of us, I’m sure, will ever forget what transpired, and that, I think is a good thing. There were a few long overdue life lessons to be learned by both of us. Gratitude.

Stanly, the boy who betrayed me many, many years ago, crashed from the pedestal a couple of days ago. Destroyed. The man Stanly has become ascends from the rubble and reclaims his place. Respect.

At work today, I teach a group of young auditors that I have taught for the past two years. I first met them as brand new hires for an accounting firm on Long Island three years ago, fresh, eager faces, new to their firm and to auditing. I taught them the basics of auditing and some software skills they’d need to embark on their first year of their career. Last year I returned to teach them more advanced skills to carry them on their way.  I return, again, to teach them the last I have to teach them, all it is I know, making them equals, but for a few more years of experience. Pride.

I received an email from a friend I’ve known since elementary school, a friend who has been battling cancer for years, a friend who was told a year ago she’d be dead by now. She, obviously, is alive. She was told that the tumor they found behind her heart, after the initial cancer was treated and cured, was inoperable and likely would not respond to chemotherapy. It did. She was told that the tumor behind her heart would always be there, that she’d have to receive chemotherapy for the rest of her uncertain life. It is gone. The chemotherapy is over. And now they tell her she has a long life to look forward to. Tough, today, she was told that there is virtually no doubt that, some day, her cancer will return, she knows, in her heart, in her mind, in her soul, as do we, her friends, that they may be wrong. And, if it does return, we all know, without a doubt, she will beat it. It is because there is no doubt. Faith. Hope. Joy.

Do not ever underestimate the power of positive thought, yourself, or for those in your circle. Wisdom.

I dined alone for dinner tonight, which I do more often than not. Alone in a different restaurant every night. Sure, I enjoy the quest, finding the great local restaurants everywhere I go, choosing the perfect glass of wine or local craft or interesting imported beer, the most divine salad or appetizer, the perfect entrée, delicious, artful and healthy. I pretend not to see people look at me, at a table alone, I imagine they aren’t wondering why a woman dines alone. In days gone by, in restaurants with my family or friends, upon seeing a “single diner”, I’d often wonder, I’d often imagine, just what circumstances brought them to such a fate. I surmised, probably not incorrectly, as in my case, that they were business travelers, far from home. I somehow understood that dining alone in a restaurant had to be better than a microwave meal in the solitude of a dank hotel room. Or room service fare, both overpriced and low quality, while trying to catch up on emails and preparations for the next day’s meetings. I felt empathy towards those people I saw, as I sat, surrounded by friends or family members, sharing the day’s news.  And I know, as I meet eyes with diners around me, they have similar thoughts, that, perhaps, they feel somewhat sorry for me. Which I can barely stand. Often, the wait staff don’t quite know how to effectively “deal” with a single diner. I am either rushed through my meal and quickly dismissed, or I am forgotten for more populated tables and booths. Rare is the waiter or waitress that knows exactly how to make a single diner feel welcomed, that knows how to engage them in a genuine conversation. I did not have one of those waitresses tonight. I still tipped twenty percent. The really good ones get twenty-five. Loneliness.

I returned to my room, later, and set to writing. A tiny text message and a sweet phone call with my man. Love. But the wind and the snow are blowing there and the phone line went dead in the storm, mid-conversation. Frustration. Another text with those three little words. Happiness.

In my ridiculously large Victoria’s Secret sweatpants and my Sweetie’s “Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling” shirt, I finish this last little bit and ready for a restful night’s sleep. Comfort.

Fantastic mushroom flatbread at lunch with my client. Seasons 52, Garden City, New York.
Fantastic mushroom flatbread at lunch with my client. Seasons 52, Garden City, New York.
Trout. Lunch at Seasons 52, where everything on the menu is less than 475 calories, but you'd never know it, it all tastes so good!
Trout. Lunch at Seasons 52, where everything on the menu is less than 475 calories, but you’d never know it, it all tastes so good!
Dining alone at West End Cafe, Carle Place, New York. Great atmosphere and quite popular, even early in the evening. Great bar, too, but quiet enough for conversation.
Dining alone at West End Cafe, Carle Place, New York. Great atmosphere and quite popular, even early in the evening. Great bar, too, but quiet enough for conversation.
Chandon Brut. Perfect.
Chandon Brut. Perfect.
The small almond and gorgonzola salad at West End Cafe. Excellent.
The small almond and gorgonzola salad at West End Cafe. Excellent.
The striped bass on spaghetti squash with carrots and mushrooms at West End Cafe. Fantastic.
The striped bass on spaghetti squash with carrots and mushrooms at West End Cafe. Fantastic.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

To echo the lyrics of Bobby McFerrin’s song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. How true this is.

Let me ask you this very logical question; what benefit does worry have? Worry has never, ever in the history of the world, in the history of mankind, changed anything. The act of worrying has never secured a positive outcome. Even if we worried about something, and things turned out to be alright, it was not the act of worrying that caused things to be okay. Worry solves nothing and serves no constructive purpose. Let’s look at worry in more depth.

Worry is a very strong emotion, an emotion with a great deal of negativity surrounding it. Worry, if you think about it, is your belief that something dreadful is going to happen. Am I right? You have a fair degree of certainty that something dreadful has happened, or is going to happen. Worry is stress of one of the worst degrees. Worry can cause intense anxiety, it can cause you to feel symptoms of physical ailments that don’t exist, it can cause you to lose sleep, lose focus and concentration on tasks at hand and to feel impatient and irritable. Worry is awful! I know, I’m a natural worrier. But, I make a concerted effort to overcome worry in a number of ways. I will share.

Let’s examine a couple more aspects of the negativity of worry and it’s impact on you and on others close to you. If you subscribe to the “law of attraction”, which I do, at least to some degree, then the act of worrying could actually attract the very thing you are worried about. That’s where those “I knew it” moments come from! You worry about something, it happens, and you exclaim, “I knew it!” Ever had an “I knew it” moment?

The law of attraction is based on a belief that we attract what we think through energy. Our thoughts are energetic and become manifestations when energy responds to like energy; positive to positive and negative to negative. With knowledge, practice and application, we do have some degree of control over our thoughts and their results. The law of attraction has been believed and employed by many, many wildly successful and influential people for centuries. Rhonda Byrne’s book “The Secret” is a guided reference to a vast collection of works of many authors and experts about the law of attraction. It is a fascinating read, and whether you buy into the philosophy, wholly or partially, I think there is definitely something to it and I apply a lot of the principles and concepts to my own life. I have had some pretty drastic results, not what I expected, initially, but what I really wanted, ultimately.

So, as worry goes, with the law of attraction; when we worry, we are focusing a great deal of very negative energy on a set of circumstances we don’t want to happen. According to the law of attraction, that in itself could cause that which we are worried about to manifest. I told you so!

Let’s examine another negative aspect of worry, aside from making you feel shitty and then making bad shit happen, worry is in the future. We are concentrating on something that hasn’t yet happened. To be truly happy in life, we need to live in the present; life and happiness are right now. When we focus on the future, we miss the moment, the only moment we truly have control over. Now. Living in the future causes people to suffer from anxiety. Living in the past or focusing on events or your past life, can cause depression. Living in the now, the present, the only moment in which you really ARE living is the one true, key to happiness. Eckhart Tolle illustrates this clearly and completely in his excellent book, “The Power of Now”. Another practical application of living in the present is the book “You Can Be Happy No Matter What” by Richard Carlson and Wayne Dyer.

Being humans, we have a tendency to worry. It is not as easy as it sounds to just flick a switch and stop worrying. Some of us worry far more than others. I’ve tended towards that end of the scale. After years of letting worry control my health, my attitude, and my lifestyle, I decided to find a way to end it. Because of worry, the related anxiety and stress, I have been a terrible insomniac for most of my life. Because of worry, and probably some dietary factors as well, I have suffered from heartburn and headaches and all sorts of annoyances. After reading several self-improvement books by authors like Brian Tracy and Anthony Robbins, after reading “The Secret” and “The Power of Now”, I have reshaped the way I think and the way I react to situations that would normally cause me to worry. It has completely changed my life. Every single aspect of my life. I no longer suffer from insomnia. I used to have to rely on medications to even fall asleep. I took more Tylenol PM than I care to admit, I swallowed the maximum does of Benadryl before bedtime in hopes of getting any sleep at all. I also relied heavily on Melatonin for relief from insomnia. Let’s forget for a moment the long-term health implications with a steady diet of Tylenol and Benadryl, how about the short term affects. Do you have any idea what its like to hold a full time job, raise two very socially active kids and a completely full volunteer life on a many, many years with only few hours of sleep each night and the groggy after affects of Tylenol PM, Benadryl and melatonin? Not easy. I once had a very wise healthy practitioner strongly advise me, after I told him of my need for sleep aids, that my long term health depended on me getting to the root of the problem, the cause of the insomnia, rather than trying to just treat the symptom with pollutants to my body (Tylenol PM, Benadryl and melatonin). I finally found the key, mostly locked in Jillian Michaels’ book “Master Your Metabolism: The 3 Diet Secrets to Naturally Balancing Your Hormones for a Hot and Healthy Body!” If you could only read one book, that would be the one I’d recommend, believe it or not. Since reshaping my thought processes, deliberately listening to my “self-speak”, and banning worry from my mind, I sleep, unaided, without any kind of medication or supplement. I haven’t had heartburn in years and the headaches I used to have at least weekly, I have, maybe, once a year. I am far more energetic, active and far healthier than I have ever been in my life.

I am an honest soul. I do still worry, from time to time, and needlessly. It has accomplished nothing positive. The other day, I was worried about the love of my life. We live very far apart and survive between visits by texting and talking on the phone. Regularly. I’ve been clear, for my benefit and his, that I have no “expectation” that we text or talk throughout the day, at night, or even every day. We usually do, though, so that is the pattern. Over the weekend, we both had a busy day and we were both in geographical areas where texting was not real successful. That evening, I was home, waiting for some type of communication, because, again, that’s our pattern. Not an expectation, just a comfortable pattern. I went to bed, finally, without a hearing from him. I sent my usual, “good night, Love” text. At six the next morning, there was no reply. I seem to be especially susceptible to worry in the wee hours of the morning and so that evil emotion crept in. My thoughts centered around the fact that he lives alone, in a remote area, and does things like build garages, single handedly. Of course the story he’d recently shared with me of a friend finding three grizzly bears in his garage probably didn’t help matters much. Later that day, when we talked, and he was, obviously alright, I realized how pointless my worry was. Even if he had fallen off the roof while sweeping snow off of it, what good was my worrying from 3,000 miles away going to do? You see what I say? Worry solves nothing.

In fact, it kind of pisses me off when people worry needlessly about me. First, it is like a vote of no confidence. If you’re worried about me, then you must not think I’m capable of (fill in whatever I am doing that worries you). Second, from a law of attraction standpoint, please, please, please, do not attract any negative energy towards me with your senseless worry. I’m busy channeling all the positive energy I can and you and your crazy worry is deflecting part of it! Stop!

What is the progression of worry? Worry is a simple, negative emotion. You are fretting, for no fruitful purpose, over the possibility that something you don’t want to happen will happen. Worry is the seedling of fear. Worry, like a weed, will grow into fear, an even stronger negative emotion, drawing even more negative energy towards it. Fear, left unchecked, becomes paralysis, a paralyzing fear almost guarantees that something negative will indeed manifest, if not what your were initially worried about, probably something far worse.

I was married to a man who worried about many things, in fact, I would classify him as paranoid and his worry was for things way beyond his control. He was a man of many worries and no action. His worry completely controlled him. Every spare moment was spent on the Internet reading every bit of news about that which he worried, confirming, in his mind, that his worries were well founded. Yet his activity did nothing to actually negate this threat, he just fretted and made a lot of pointless noise about his fears. Through this preoccupation, he became extremely detached from his family and from his ability to earn a meaningful living. And addicted to the Internet. Soon, he became worried whether he’d be able to continue to pay the mortgages because he wasn’t earning the money he once did. His own business had languished and died, his relationship with me and his children had languished and died, and his attempt at his “dream” career in real estate finance died before it even had time to languish. His worries became fears, his fears became paralyzing. As a result, all the real estate was lost, his family was lost, his career was lost, as he looked on in complete and total paralysis, unable to tear his attention away from the screen of foreboding and doom.

If worry is a natural emotion for us, then, what are we to do? We need to listen to ourselves think, we need to identify our own worried thoughts and replace them with thoughts and words that are more positive. It takes a concerted effort, a diligent, concerted effort, to become well practiced at this. Obviously. I’ve been making a diligent, concerted effort and I still, occasionally succumb to worry. And I feel the fool for so doing.

What do we replace worry with? Hope comes to mind. Hope is a good word, a positive emotion. I often think of friends who have fought breast cancer when I think of hope, the pink ribbon, and “fighting for the cause”. Mother Teresa understood the law of attraction and has been quoted as saying, “I will never attend an anti-war rally. If you have a peace rally, invite me.” Fighting requires a great deal of negative energy, so fighting against war, Mother Teresa surmised, would actually attract more war. A pro-peace rally, though, would be applying positive energy to that which is desired, peace. It is as simple as rephrasing our intention. So, with Mother Teresa in mind, if you want to overcome the devastation and pain and loss of breast cancer, attend a pro-cure rally and don’t participate in any “cancer fighting” activities!

To me hope still contains some worry. Think of how the word “hope” is used in sentences. “I sure hope so”, “I hope for the best”, “my hopes and prayers are with you”. While these are positive, to me, they still suggest some doubt, some worry. Don’t lose hope, no, never, but consider an upgrade in emotion. Perhaps “faith”.

Faith is a stronger version of hope. I have faith that the good thing I want to happen will, and the bad thing I don’t want to happen, won’t. Faith is a positive emotion and entire religions have been built upon it, it is strong, I think sturdier than hope. But even faith has sort of a “we’ll wait and see” connotation to it. For as many that have faith in religion, there are those who don’t, and they don’t seem the least bit worried about their stance. I have met people with the strongest faith imaginable, and I have caught them in a moment of wondering. Faith is good, but faith waits to be seen.

If hope isn’t strong enough, and faith isn’t strong enough, what do we replace worry with? Certainty. Absolute, complete and total certainty. There is nothing more certain than certainty. When a worry creeps into your mind, bash it! Rephrase your worry, replace it by saying out loud, as many times as necessary, “I am certain that (state the desired result here). By banishing your worry and replacing it with certainty, you are sending such a positive bolt of energy out into the universe that good could only manifest from it. At the very least, you have waylaid your worry, you have stemmed the flow of negativity and your strength can only do good, for you and for those you care for. You are demonstrating confidence in those you care for by declaring your certainty in their endeavors, whatever they may be. By declaring what you wish for with certainty, you are increasing your own confidence, your own strength and whatever manifests, as a result, is surely something you desire. Perhaps not what you specifically intended, but I promise, something you desire.

I invite you to practice exchanging your worries for happiness; promote that which is positive, deny that which is negative, live only in the present, take good care of yourself and I guarantee, you’ll have no worries and you will have an abundance of happiness! I am certain!

Don’t worry, be happy!