Be An Encourager

I’ve a dear friend who tries to see the sunny side of everything, quick to mention and compliment your good points and cheer you up if you’re discouraged. “Yes, it’s tough now, but it will get better; just hang in there.” I wish I could be a lot more like her.

She doesn’t butter you up with insincere flattery, but her simple, uplifting kindness is a balm for any ache. “You have a good idea; it may just take a little more work to bring it out.” She has opinions and expresses them, but in a gentle way, not slamming or ridiculing the one(s) at fault. Bless you, Cathy!

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”

In our day and age, it’s so easy to slip into the seat of the scornful and I often catch myself occupying that spot, but it’s not a useful nor satisfying place.

Our ideas aren’t always brilliant and we all need critical feedback. We all need to grow a spine and take advice. Over the ages of time, though, encouragers like my friend have done an invaluable service to the world.

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The Reckoning

The Ragtag Daily Prompt word for today is RECKONING
And here is my response:

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Robin Higgins – Pixabay

Me And My Big Mouth!

She started out to say, “You know, yesterday I met a cousin of Katie Powers.” She trailed off, evidently gathering her thoughts.

I was so certain that I knew exactly where she was heading that I blasted back with a witty retort. Well…sort of witty. Sort of catty.

Her eyes focused on my face again and my conscience smacked me when I saw the startled look in her eye. I’d hurt her deeply; I was sure of it.

Filled with remorse, I started to babble. “I’m so sorry! I never should have said that! When you said you’d heard…well, I was just sure you were going to bring up what Katie and I had talked about. But of course you don’t know anything about that. And even if you do, you’d be too good a friend to bring it up in public like this where anybody might hear.” I waved my hand toward some other patrons in the crowded coffee shop.

My throat was so tight now I could hardly go on. “You’ve always been a good friend and I shouldn’t jump to such conclusions. And even if you were going to start in about what you heard, I shouldn’t make such a sarcastic comment. Can you ever forgive me?”

I paused. How would she react? Would my harsh response throw a wedge in our friendship?

She looked at me and opened her mouth, then paused to compose her reply. This is it, I thought. The moment of reckoning.

“What did you say, Terri? The two at that table over there started discussing someone I know. My mind was distracted and I didn’t hear you. I’m sorry. What’s this about Katie? Were you talking to her lately?”

Move over, Humpty Dumpty.

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Image: lynnalynn0 at Pixabay

 

Life In A Dark Bubble

Yesterday’s Word of the Day prompt was BUBBLE. I’m coming in rather late here, but this is my response.

paranoia
life in a dark bubble
everybody hates me

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Image by Gerd Altmann

Not long before this prompt came up, I’d an account I wrote some years ago about a woman I met on a trip we took. She likely would have been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic — if she’d ever sought medical help. It sounds like her doctors had suggested mental illness, but why should she listen to doctors when they’ve all been ordered by the government to destroy people like her? Another man friend tried drugs, but hated the side effects.

I’ve visited with several afflicted ones over the years, enough to give me some picture of what their world must be like. I know there’s a wide range of symptoms and reactions to treatment, but here’s my non-medical insight, for what it’s worth.

“When I was in the hospital,” this woman explained to me, her eyes shining, “they did experiments on me. They poison a person with mercury. The mercury slowly comes out of you through your skin, you know; I see little silver drops on my carpet all the time.”

What could I say? You’re imagining this? But she wasn’t. She actually saw these drops. Just as someone else saw an upside-down cross on a hospital curtain one night — a sure omen of evil to come. Who can understand why or how the mind perceives silver drops, or beetles on all the plants, or people pulling their hair in the night? For the sufferer, the only “logical” explanation is that someone is trying to drive them mad. Once mad, they’ll be taken to the psych ward and quietly disposed of.

“There are two kinds of people in this world,” another fearful person told me years ago. “Those who wish I was dead, and those who think I already am.”

“Most of the people in this world don’t even know you exist,” I replied. However, that’s reality, and reality usually doesn’t cut through such fear. I wasted my breath.

Many, many times people trying to help a person through their hallucinations waste their breath trying to explain that, “No, it isn’t what you imagine. You still have all your hair; no one has pulled it out.”

I’ve learned that my rational explanations will never combat paranoia; they just can’t pierce that bubble of fear. The afflicted, be they on welfare, members of ethnic minorities, Christians, or whatever else makes them unique, see themselves as slated for destruction — and no one recognizes the danger they’re in. If you don’t agree, if you won’t see how the government is out to destroy people like them, you are either burying your head in the sand or you’re delusional.

Sadly, some misguided religious people see all mental illness as “demonic” and their answer is some type of exorcism. This is usually a double whammy for the sufferers. Not only are they NOT cured by this ritual, plus now they live with the guilt of being possessed by evil spirits, and/or the thought that God must have given up on them, too.

From what I’ve observed, medication has had limited success in treating this type of mental illness. Some works great — for a time. There is some healing in the aging process. I once read that schizophrenia loses some of its grip on a person’s mind after age fifty. The problem is the dangerous situations they tend to live in, often being homeless and isolating themselves.

Another friend of mine who has suffered from fears very much through the years became a Christian in her twenties and the words that help her the most are the scriptures about God looking after his own. He does see, He does care, and He has looked after her amazingly well in her circumstances. When she calls me, greatly distressed because something suspicious happened, or someone said something threatening, we talk about the day when the trials of this life will be behind us and we’ll live in Heaven, safe from evil, free from care. Focusing on that better place makes the troubles of this world more bearable.

Books: The Perfect Christmas

I picked up this book at Value Village just before Christmas, and only just now got around to reading it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it very much.
This two-tale book is well written, as are all of Debbie Macomber’s books, I’ve found. The first and longer tale, The Perfect Christmas — © 2009 — is one of those non-romantic romances where two people meet and don’t like each other. However, the author does this in a realistic way with no phony melodrama, no spitting nails at each other, such as you often see in modern anti-romances. The characters and dialogue are believable, professional, and respectful. The idea of paying that much money to find a spouse is the only thing I found incredible — but I don’t live in big city USA.
Seeing as the dating scene hasn’t delivered her dream spouse, Cassie Beaumont takes a friend’s advice and hands over $30,000 to a professional matchmaker to find her a well-matched mate. Rude and abrupt Simon Dodson may be, but she has to go along with his programme if she wants results. Determined to find the man she can live with, and have a family with, she can’t afford to have Simon, the psychologist running this business, get upset and refuse to work with her.
He proposes three character tests for her — and these are real jewels in themselves! I really enjoyed the realistic experiences Cassie has and what she learns as she works in these situations Simon has set up for her. Hats off to the writer for an excellent job on this part! She passes the tests and Simon promises to deliver the perfect spouse for her. But a wrench lands in the gears…

Can This Be Christmas? is an older, shorter story (© 1998) the writer has added as a bonus, yet it’s worth buying the book just for this one. Focusing on five characters needing to join family for Christmas, this morphs into a heartwarming human interest account of strangers stranded in a train station by a winter storm. None of them want to be here, but the Christmas spirit softens each one individually and melts them together as friends.

I rarely give a book five stars, but this one deserves them all.

Of Puffer fish & Willpower

after weeks of
cleansing fast  a large pizza
her puffer fish act

Another haiku with a story behind it.

Twenty-some years back I met a lady in her mid-forties; in time she became a dear friend. Was it because of her dysfunctional childhood, or the accident she was in that left her in a coma for twelve days, or maybe some of both? At any rate, you’d have to say she was emotionally unbalanced — and had been attending a church where emotional responses were often stirred and encouraged. She was cheerful, likeable, outgoing — but not very disciplined or stable.

At some point she had accepted the concept cleansing fasts, and even discovered a retreat in the country where she could go and cleanse her body of all the impurities tainting our modern diet. In addiction to the physical benefits, she felt that fasting brought her closer to God and told me that one time she had actually fasted for 40 days, just like Jesus. However, I suspect the dream of getting back to a slimmer figure hovered not far in the background.

My dear friend had a couple of weaknesses that affected her health. Like most of us, she was fond of tasty food — which included baking and other sweets. Plus, she smoked — a habit she didn’t like at all. So she viewed going to this retreat for a month or so, where she neither eat nor smoke, was a blessing four-fold: she could relax in a no-pressure environment, lose weight, crack the nicotine habit, and gain spiritually.

We visited her there a couple of times. It appeared she had nothing much to do at this retreat except relax, read, meditate, and detoxify in the small room she was given. There were a number of other guests, with a nurse present 24/7 to make sure no one suffered serious health problems because of the regime. When my friend’s fast was over she was put on a juice diet for a couple of days to re-adjust her body to food. Then she paid the rather hefty bill — this place was into making money as well as healing bodies — and went home.

This “coming back to the real world” got me involved one day — and my involvement brings me to story behind the senryu I’ve penned.

Early one morning my phone rang; my friend was telling me she needed watermelon and could I help her out? Could I buy one and bring it to her apartment? (She didn’t own a car.) She explained that she’d just got home from spending several weeks at the retreat and her body was reacting negatively to food. She needed watermelon to “flush out the salt” being retained in her tissues.

I didn’t know much about what fruits & veggies have diuretic properties, but she mentioned a few and was glad to help. I picked up these foods and went over to her place, where I heard the facts of her current health issue.

When she got home from her fast she’d been so hungry, she ordered an extra-large pizza and ate the whole thing. Her body was reacting big time to the sudden overload.

Reading history I’ve learned this isn’t an uncommon reaction for people who’ve been starved for a time. Their brain registers FOOD! and common sense is lost among the impulses. Their hands automatically start stuffing and people may even eat themselves to death. For my friend, all that salt in her pizza spread through her system, causing her tissues retain fluid until she was uncomfortably bloated.

Maybe puffer fish is an exaggeration, but the simile came to me and I thought it an interesting comparison.

In time my friend discovered one long-term side-effect of those prolonged fasts: starving drains your bones of much-needed minerals like calcium. One day she tripped going down some stairs and broke her leg. Her doctor, after seeing the x-ray, told her, “Your shattered bone looks just like corn flakes.”

It seems self-discipline and will power are rather like muscles. If we don’t use them, they become limp. Bypassing self-discipline in favor of complete abstinence, she short-circuited her willpower. Later, faced with the same temptations, she caved. Food and cigarettes became chronic problems. I won’t say that fasting is either wrong or harmful, in moderation, but nothing can build up the muscles of self-control, or deliver us from our vices, like the day-by-day exercise of resisting temptation.

Sad to say, my friend didn’t live long enough to reap the benefits of all that system-cleansing, either. Shortly after she turned 65 she was diagnosed with intestinal cancer and died a year or so later.

I think of her often, and miss visiting with her.

The Best of Friends

To An Old Friend

by Edgar A. Guest

When we have lived our little lives
and wandered all their byways through,
when we’ve seen all that we shall see
and finished all that we must do,

when we shall take one backward look
off yonder where our journey ends,
I pray that you shall be as glad as I
shall be that we were friends.

Time was we started out to find
the treasures and the joys of life;
we sought them in the land of gold
through many days of bitter strife.

When we were young we yearned for fame;
in search of joy we went afar,
only to learn how very cold
and distant all the strangers are.

When we have met all we shall meet
and know what destiny has planned,
I shall rejoice in that last hour that I
have known your friendly hand.

I shall go singing down the way
off yonder as my sun descends
as one who’s had a happy life,
made glorious by the best of friends.

From Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co