Goal met

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Over the years, I have been successful in attaining my professional goals.  I have been thoughtful about finding opportunities that match my skill set, my vision, and my goals. Then I pursue those opportunities. I have continued to succeed.

I began this piece nearly a month ago when I received a phone call following a series of job interviews. During my reflection, I spoke to the power of believing in myself. I used to doubt everything I did, said, and thought. I felt like a victim. Then I had enough.  I made sure my life would be different. It took many tears, moments of anger,  lots of soul-searching but I made it happen and will continue to do so.  I am committed to becoming the best version of myself each and every day. I owe that to my God, my family, and myself. I won’t ever go back to the way things were.

I know I will struggle. I will continue to experience doubt, anxiety, and fear. I’m not weak and I will not lose any fight. I will succeed.  So I am proud to say I got the job.  Now I can truly say I’m a leader.

Royal anniversary

 

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I made an exception to my morning soundtrack this Friday. I listened to a different sort of gospel music. I listened to the testimony of a man named Prince Rogers Nelson.  A year ago, we lost a beautiful man , a revolutionary voice, a musical genius.  A year later, many of us are still in shock and experiencing grief. We continue to celebrate life and joy in his honor.

I first saw Prince in his “Controversy” video on MTV.  Who was this handsome man playing that song with the funky beat? From 8th grade on,  I was best friends with a Prince freak. Though I don’t consider myself a super fan like some of my friends, I loved his music, style, and political boldness.

The day Prince died, I was in a state of shock. My brother had sent me a text. I said it was a hoax or a joke. I was aware Prince had been hospitalized due to exhaustion. It never occurred to me that there might be any other reason for an emergency. I did not cry that day. I reached out immediately to my best friend and one of my dance sisters who is a devoted Prince fan. I wanted to be sure they were all right and I sent them virtual love and hugs.

The following day, radio stations devoted time to playing Prince’s hits. I was driving on a rainy morning to work when “Purple Rain” was played. I broke down and wept. That morning, I decided I wasn’t going to dwell on the reasons for Prince’s death.  He lived fully.  Prince was committed to veganism, animal rights, his faith in God, his craft; he pursued his passions to the fullest.  I would remember his life and legacy.

Many of my friends fell into deep depression when Prince died. Still, the loss brought us closer together.  His death reminded us not only to continue loving his music but to love one another. I was blessed to take part in a Prince Tribute dance with Bay Area Flash Mob. I committed to weeknight classes during the busy beginning of the school year because I wanted to show my love, respect, and admiration for Prince through dance.  We were lucky to be able to reprise that dance for my friends who are Prince super fans. It was an honor to share that experience with them and the warm and loving Prince fan community.

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Prince blessed us with so many gifts. We still feel the loss and will likely always feel it. I take comfort in knowing Prince is with God. #wemissyouPrince #Princeforever

Holiday

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Alleluia! It is Easter Sunday 2017. I am very happy to have experienced the Triduum and Lent. I had a wonderful journey, full of challenges that ultimately helped me grow as an individual and better understand my mission in being a servant to others. Today’s Gospel from John describes the different reactions of the disciples to Jesus being gone from the tomb.  Jesus’s rising teaches us how to live our lives. His rising helps us understand that hope prevails through the losses and challenges. God does not abandon us.  He will strengthen us.

My secretary and my mother in law both wanted to know if M had an Easter basket. I got some strange looks when I admitted I didn’t make her an Easter basket.(I haven’t done so since she was in diapers.)  In bringing up M, I want her to understand how important my faith is in my life.  We are the only Catholics in our small household so we share our faith. We are in Mass weekly.  We take part in Reconciliation.  We took part in the Triduum. We’re not holiday-only Catholics who only go to church on Easter, Christmas, Ash Wednesday, and Mother’s Day. We are there every week; I like to attend daily Mass when time permits. I take part in rosaries, the Liturgy of the Hours, Adoration when I can. Church is important to me and therefore the focus of Easter.  I asked M about the meaning of Easter. She said it celebrates Jesus’s rising. She doesn’t ask to color eggs or request candy but it’s not a priority.  I liken Easter to New Year’s.  At midnight, as we came home from the Carnaval royalty competition, M announced Alleluia. I want her to know Easter is the big holiday in the church.

I don’t mind being questioned about my faith. Why do I believe?   Do I live what I believe? Am I truly upholding those principles and values? What do I gain from the readings and from church experiences? My faith has helped me in my mental health journey.  My faith helps me be disciplined. I am a flawed person.  My being in church consistently doesn’t make me better than others; I am open about my struggles with pettiness, resentment, and self-righteousness.  My faith has helped me move forward. Following Christ is not easy but I will continue to do so because He has given me so many gifts. He loves me. He is risen!  Alleluia!

A very Good Friday

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I had the privilege of serving as a Eucharistic minister at Holy Thursday Mass. Ministry has been a gift. I have difficulty forgiving myself for the sinful choices I make and I wonder if I will collapse on the altar someday. It is a blessing to be able to offer Eucharist to my fellow parishioners. Those intimate moments when we look at one another and sometimes share smiles are beautiful. I feel small and humble. I am reminded of my call to service.

All the Eucharistic ministers were asked to take part in a procession during the transfer of the Eucharist. It was a simple procession around the church. We walked in lines of two. I was so proud to show reverence. As we approached the Blessed Sacrament, I sensed my loved ones who have died: Brett, Don, Charlene, David, both of my grandfathers. They were there as all the candles were gathered around the Blessed Sacrament. As we knelt, I felt the love of everyone around me including those who have crossed over. It was a perfect way to end Lent.

I am truly grateful for these last 40 days. Despite my struggles, I gained so much. I recognize the blessing of being M’s mother and to model love the way God loves me. Listening to music that promotes spiritual reflection and speaking and speaking daily about my faith and experiences has been transformative. Writing for 40 days has changed me. I will soon be announcing a major change in my life. That would not have been possible if I hadn’t been in the middle of my Lenten journey. I’m more aware of who I am and of who God intends me to be. I am grateful to God.  This is a very Good Friday.

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Servant to all

I don’t forgive betrayal. There I said it. My struggles with resentment and self-righteousness are rooted in betrayals by those I have loved and trusted. I pray for an open heart. A few years ago, I served as friend and mentor to someone by sharing my experiences and advice.  I was betrayed when this individual compromise my safety and that of my child. (Betrayal blues) I still have not forgiven this person.  I pray for the open heart to do so.  I stay praying.

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On Holy Thursday, the Gospel and Mass call us to reflect on Jesus and the washing of feet.  Jesus’s act of humility  is met with resistance. Peter tells Jesus, “You will never wash my feet.” Peter has respect for his teacher. He doesn’t understand why he’s on the ground washing others’ dirty feet. Jesus tells them he is modeling how they will live.   Peter may be a potential leader but he has not learned that true leaders are servants. Jesus even washes Judas’ feet. Jesus knows Judas is his betrayer.  Washing his feet won’t change that.  Yet Jesus serves him in the same way he does for all the disciples.

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Caravaggio’s Betrayal of Jesus 

People will turn on me and disappoint me. I have to serve them. I struggle with being a servant for everyone. I will be civil and polite but I will bear a grudge. I pray that I can be a humble servant to all. I pray that I love those who are not equipped to love others or even themselves. May my love help inspire others to serve the world.

First step

 

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This week, I was blessed to take part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation as part of the Lenten journey. I always come away humbled and motivated by the sacrament. My confessor was a priest I’m familiar with from one of the other parishes I frequent; he’s a great speaker so therefore he had great wisdom to share with me. I appreciated his kindness. Not all priests are warm when they give their advice or take on what you share.

No one is perfect. We all have sins and struggles. It’s important to not be complacent and to express and exercise a willingness to change. That helps in making positive changes in life. I know that I have areas in which I am lacking. I have reflected often this season. I want to see changes. It’s a day by day, moment by moment journey.

One example from real life and in real time is my problem with running late. While this isn’t directly one of the four challenges I took on this Lent or not necessarily something I discussed in confession, time management is related to my struggle with patient parenting. I want to do things differently. As an adult set in my ways, it’s difficult to be proactive. I have a desire for my days to begin differently. I desire to change my attitude. I am willing to change and that is a great first step.

With any negative action or attitude, we have the capacity to change.  We can choose to desire and do so.

 

10 in 10 seconds

Both Father Ron Rolheiser and Matthew Kelly have reflected on the practice of gratitude in their work. On the Monday of Holy Week, Matthew Kelly discussed gratefulness as a spiritual exercise, mindfulness practice and way of life. We were asked to list ten people, things, or situations for which we are grateful. If I were to spend the recommended five minutes writing, I would have generated a list of 100 instead of 10. I wrote my list in about 10 seconds: My life, my health, my daughter, shelter, food, knowledge, faith, work, my parents, and my friends.

I practice gratitude on a daily basis. As someone who has taken part in various therapeutic approaches to mental health, gratitude is a key practice to overcoming anxiety and depression. Being grateful builds your strength, health, and faith. I’m grateful for life. I’m grateful for my good health; que bonito no tener ninguna operacion this year. I am grateful to move my life forward and to care for my health.  I took  my health for granted for many  years; without life and health, I could not enjoy the many blessings like my daughter, my family, my friends, new  professional opportunities, basic necessities like food, shelter, running water, clean air, human rights including freedom.

On the same day as the gratitude reflection, my staff at work took part in staff development training on burnout and self-care. It’s a theme we explore consistently. As folks in a helping profession like education, we preach self-care but do not always follow through. Our trainer went over major areas that indicate burnout. One is cynicism. That may be more damaging than the physical or emotional symptoms of burnout.  Cynicism taints your worldview and your daily attitude and behavior. I’ve reflected in the past on my failure to understand those who seem to be negative in every moment I encounter them, (My choice). Pero no es que no entiendo; it’s that I have rejected that way of being. I spent many years operating from a pessimistic view of the world. I lost many opportunities. Those losses taught me to enjoy my blessings. I will not ever live my life that way again.

It’s difficult to curb my self-righteousness. I empathize but I judge those who have chosen to live with negativity. As someone who has learned to manage anxiety, I fall prey to judging those who cannot or choose not to heal. It’s a vicious cycle. If you engage in negative self-talk and you are not working towards healing through professional help or spiritual direction or family, you continue to create situations that make you feel depressed or anxious. I know because I lived it. By shunning those who suffer from these issues, I protect myself.

I’m grateful that I overcame depression. I’m grateful I can manage my anxiety. I’m grateful to be able to change my mornings.  M and I are collaborating on a daily behavior chart which will assess how I’m doing with my tone of voice.  I’m grateful for faith, discipline, and for the lessons I’ve learned to help me become the best version of myself.

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