A Letter to My Ex

I don’t know what happened that caused you to go from “I want to spend the rest of my life with you” to blocking me on social media and changing your phone number. Although I’m never going to beg you or anyone to be in my life, I am still filled with unanswerable questions. Part of me wants to say that I don’t care but that’s not entirely true. I’m hurt and confused and I’d give almost anything to know what went wrong. Just for my own closure and peace of mind.

Were you just playing me from the beginning? Did you ever mean those things you said?  Or did you find someone willing to put out and decide you were no longer willing to wait for me? Were you angered by something I said or did? Did you just get tired of the long-distance relationship thing? Did your overbearing mother come between us?

Whatever you reason or reasons for ending us may have been, the way you did it is so wrong. You should have been man enough to tell me the truth straight up instead of just ghosting me. I deserve better than that – I was nothing but good to you. At the end of the day though, I guess that tells me more about your character than all the time we spent together. Walking away from all of this, there are three things that I know for sure. 1. I will be fine. It won’t be hard for me to get over someone who turned out to not be worth my time. 2. You’re the one losing out. I am amazing and worth pursuing and we could have been something really special. 3. Karma’s a bitch. Don’t come crying to me when you get what you deserve.

I could have loved you. We could have been an epic romance. Have a nice life.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. One of the greatest books ever written and one of my personal favorites. Certainly my favorite romance novel. Exceptionally well-written in an easy conversational tone, Brontë’s choice to use a first-person narrative style was spot-on. She, speaking as Jane, makes the reader feel as if she were an old friend who dropped in for a pot of tea and a nice long talk.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the poignancy of Charlotte Brontë’s writing in Jane Eyre is the semi-autobiographical nature of the story. As a child, she attended a harsh boarding school which she would later base Lowood upon. Both of her older sisters died there of tuberculosis, just as Jane’s young friend Helen Burns died at Lowood. Charlotte blamed the harsh and unhealthy conditions of the school for her sisters’ deaths. Charlotte and her younger sister Emily were removed from boarding school after Maria and Elizabeth died. They returned home to their clergyman father, younger sister Anne, and brother Branwell. Charlotte later attended a much better boarding school, where she eventually became a teacher. Again, this correlates with Jane Eyre’s history. So too, does the fact that Charlotte worked as a governess when her days as a teacher were over.

Published under the nom de plume of Currer Bell (both for anonymity’s sake and to hide her gender), Jane Eyre was initially a huge success. Critics adored it and it was immediately a commercial smash hit. Once the critics suspected that Jane Eyre had been penned by a woman, the reviews were less than favorable. Sales remained strong, however, whether in spite of or because of the criticism no one can say. I maintain that Jane Eyre’s success is due to its first-rate writing, gripping plot, and innovative first person style.

Our story begins with young orphan Jane, her hateful Aunt Reed, and 3 horrid cousins. Cast off by Mrs. Reed and sent to Lowood, a charity school, Jane Eyre survives hardship and privation and the wretched Mr. Brocklehurst for 10 years (8 as a student and 2 as a teacher). When she advertises her services as a governess, she is hired by Mrs. Fairfax to teach Adele Varens, ward of Edward Rochester. Thornfield, the Rochester estate, is a grim and gloomy place; and Adele, but lately arrived from France, speaks little English and has even less discipline. But Mrs. Fairfax is kind and Adele is sweet and Jane is determined to make the best of it. At the end of 3 months, Adele is much improved and Thornfield has begun to feel like home. Just as a comfortable routine is formed, the absent master returns and tumbles Jane’s world topsy-turvy.

Intelligent, well-educated, and widely travelled, Edward Rochester is life and nourishment to Jane’s hungry soul. She, in turn, is a breath of sweetness and innocence to world-weary and heart-sick Rochester. They two form an unlikely friendship and, as time passes, settle into a new routine. The first upheaval comes in the form of Miss Blanche Ingram and her party of friends and family, who come for a several-week stay at Thornfield. Mr. Rochester seems much taken with Miss Ingram, and rumor has it that the engagement will be announced any day. The second twist is Mrs. Reed’s deathbed request to see Jane. Before she dies, she confesses to Jane that she has a wealthy uncle who, through Mrs. Reed’s deception, believes Jane to be dead.

When Jane returns to Thornfield, the Ingram party has left, but there is no talk of an impending marriage. This puzzles her for some time, until Edward Rochester declares his love for her and asks her to be his wife. One month of nearly-perfect bliss follows. Until, on her wedding day, a secret is revealed that tears Jane irrevocably from her beloved’s side. Dark days follow for our plucky heroine, but she ultimately finds peace and, eventually, happiness, although not in the way one might expect. Jane Eyre is truly a masterpiece of narrative fiction.

Anger – A Plea to Be Loved

Do you know someone who seems to be overly sensitive? Someone who gets angry at things that wouldn’t bother most people? Chances are they weren’t always like that. Nine times out of ten, a “prickly” person has been made that way. Did you know that anger is a defense mechanism? We don’t feel pain when we are angry. Those who lash out at the drop of a hat, as the saying goes – it’s not the “hat” that made them angry. Something touched an old wound and the anger is a reaction to the reawakened pain. And of course that only makes it worse each time. They are often perceived as unpredictable. You never can tell what will set off their anger until it’s too late. But you can bet your last dollar that there is an old, deep hurt there that never really healed. And you better believe that underneath that prickly exterior is the softest, gentlest, most loving soul you will ever meet.

So what do you do? How do you act around someone like that? They say that time heals all wounds. I disagree. There is only one thing that can break through their defenses – love. Unconditional love will reach past the anger and touch the pure but damaged heart inside. Only love has the power to heal the hurts of the past. Only love can mend the broken and make them whole again. Pure, true, steadfast, unshakeable love. So, whoever you know who is like that – whether it be a son or daughter or sibling or parent or spouse or friend – whoever it is, just love them. Love them when they are unlovely. Love them when they are angry. I’m not saying you should be a pushover; sometimes tough love is needed. But, please, do not ever let them doubt that you do love them. People like that have to be convinced that they are worthy of being loved.

And those of you who are the prickly ones, don’t let your scars define you. Don’t wait for someone to save you. Having been hurt in the past is no excuse to mistreat the ones around you. Are you a victim or a victor? A victim crawls away to nurse their wounds; a victor keeps on fighting anyway. A victim blames the world for their faults; a victor overcomes the things that should destroy them. We are each responsible for our own actions. So if you are carrying around old scars, do something about it. Don’t lash out at those around you when they aren’t trying to hurt you. And when they do, just forgive and let it go. Forgive for the past too. Forgive the one who hurt you; forgive yourself. Love yourself. Let others love you. Accept love when it is offered. Let go of the burden you are carrying. Let go of the anger. Build yourself into the kind of person you want to be. Most importantly, accept the love of Christ. He will heal every broken piece of your heart.anger defenses

Happiness Is Success

happiness-whistle-while-you-workI’ve said it for years; it’s as true now as it was then, as it has been since the Creation. Humans were made to work. We were designed to sweat and labor and do. There is an indescribable satisfaction in hard work. I believe that nothing else can make us feel as truly alive as getting outside and putting our backs into it. Whatever it is. Yard work, building a shed, painting the fence, building a house, digging a ditch, cutting down a tree, whatever. Far too many people treat work as a dirty word, but it’s not. It’s a beautiful thing to do what we were made for. It brings a happiness that few things can match.

Last week, I worked the hardest I have ever worked in my life. We had a huge dying tree in front of our house that needed to come down. About 200 years old, 70+ feet tall, 5 feet in diameter. Three days of running a chainsaw and hauling branches and logs. I was sore and tired and sunburned, but I was happy. I had almost forgotten that level of happiness existed. I just feel so alive, it’s unreal. It has satisfied the primal need to work that we all possess.

I work a blue-collar job, so hard work is the norm for me. I love it; I couldn’t work an office job if you offered me all the money in the world. It would drive me insane. Literally. For years, we have been sold the lie that, to succeed, you have to get a college degree and pursue a white-collar career. And yes, for some people, that is true. But the sheer number of people who hate their jobs and are dissatisfied with their lives would indicate that maybe it’s not true for everyone. Success is not measured in diplomas or income or material possessions – or at least it shouldn’t be. Success is living a life you love. Whether you are a mechanic making $40,000 a year or a surgeon bringing in $500,000, what difference does it make? Success is not money, success is happiness.

As a kid, I was incredibly blessed to have parents who understood that. My Daddy worked in construction and Mama was a full-time mother. Six kids to feed and clothe, and construction doesn’t pay the big bucks. But you know what? I cannot remember ever being worried about where our next meal was coming from or where we were gonna live. I never thought of us as poor, even though, looking back, I can see that we were. We had a beautiful childhood, one that any kid could envy. We never bought brand-new clothes, we never had the coolest toys, but one thing we did have. Love. We were happy. Mama and Daddy loved us, we loved each other; we are still an incredibly close family. No, we’re not perfect, but it is a beautiful feeling to know that there are people you can always count on to have your back. Success is not working long hours to make more money, success is building a strong happy family and living a life that you love.

Audrey Hepburn, Radiant Beauty

Audrey_Hepburn_and_Gregory_Peck_on_Vespa_in_Roman_Holiday_trailerConsidered by many to be one of the most beautiful women who ever lived, Audrey Hepburn was beautiful inside and out. She was never afraid to be herself. While other iconic beauties of the day were of the more voluptuous goddess type, her charming elfin-like beauty and inner glow has made her more enduringly beautiful than many of her contemporaries. Part of her radiance stems from the purity and beauty of her soul.

Born in Belgium in 1929 to a British father and Dutch mother, young Audrey divided her growing-up years between these 3 countries. She studied ballet from the age of 5; dreaming of one day being a prima ballerina. The hardships and hunger of WWII in the Netherlands forever destroyed that dream. The horrors of war would remain with her forever, making her a passionate advocate for starving children, and working with UNICEF in particular. This is the beauty of Audrey Hepburn’s soul: to have survived what she did, yet still retain a serene joy inside that nothing could take away. The things she saw and experienced made her sensitive and caring, but not bitter or cynical. She saw to the full the ugliness mankind is capable of, but still chose to see the good in humanity too.

Ranked by the American Film Institute as the 3rd greatest female screen legend in the history of American film in 1999, Audrey Hepburn left a legacy equaled by few. Although certainly not the most prolific actor in Hollywood, she is one of the most universally well-received. Even in films panned by critics and audiences alike, her performance was almost invariably praised. Her first starring role in Roman Holiday (with already-a-star Gregory Peck) won her an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA Award. This made her the first actress ever to receive all 3 awards for a single performance. She went on to appear in a number of movies with a number of famous actors and actresses. One thing remained constant: Audrey’s fashion style. Even today, Audrey Hepburn is considered a fashion icon – perhaps because she never followed the latest trends. Instead she opted for a style that suited her perfectly, a trend that’s always in style.

As the years went by, she appeared in fewer films, devoting more and more time to humanitarian work with UNICEF until her death in 1993. It is this which, I believe, she would most like to be remembered for. Audrey Hepburn chose a legacy, not of fame or stardom, but of loving and caring for the “least of these.” Those are footsteps we should all try to walk in.

Overcoming Fear

Fear is a funny thing. It seldom makes sense. It certainly isn’t the strongest emotion we feel. I like to think of it as our most persuasive emotion. While others are stronger, fear sure is the best at convincing us that we are completely in his power. Sometimes the things we are afraid of are real and actual threats; sometimes there is no reason to be afraid. Yet fear so often holds our soul captive and we feel powerless to act. Overcoming fear, especially irrational fear, is one of the biggest challenges we face in life. And yet, if we want to live our lives to the full, it is something we must do.

Most people perceive me as one of the bravest and toughest people they know. What they don’t see is the inner struggle. I have wrestled with deep, almost paralyzing fear since I was – well I don’t know since when. As long as I can remember I guess. Unfounded, irrational fear. Overcoming fear is a familiar feeling for me. And yet, perhaps that is true courage. To look fear in the eyes and to still keep on doing what needs to be done. Not the absence of fear, but the defeat of fear. Or maybe that’s just the coward in me talking, trying to make me feel better. I don’t know.

There are 3 things that are stronger than fear. Three ways of overcoming fear. The first is anger. This is the easiest way, but it is also temporary. Unless it is possible to always be angry, but I don’t think it is – nor is it advisable. I have plenty of experience with using anger to beat fear. It is good in extreme situations, but will never be a permanent solution. Another way of combating fear is through willpower. For strong-willed people like me, this is a good option. Or at least, it has served me well for years. I also have a contrary streak, which probably doesn’t hurt. It’s like daring myself to do the things I’m afraid of. Every day, I push the limits of my fear, making my comfort zone ever bigger. But the best and strongest adversary in the war against fear is oh so simple: love. When we love deep and pure, fear dissipates like smoke in the wind. And suddenly, overcoming fear is an anthill instead of Mt. Everest. It is a beautiful, amazing, incredible experience.overcoming fear with love

Knitting – Why I Love It

knitting

Knitting, after reading, is my all-time favorite hobby. I love the click of the needles and the feel of the yarn in my hands. There is something inherently calming in the simple activity of knitting. And there is something immensely gratifying in taking a ball of yarn and 2 sticks and making something beautiful and useful. Knitting soothes my soul in a way few other things do.

Not to say I’m an expert knitter – far from it. Though no longer a beginner, I don’t even look at knitting patterns that are past intermediate skill level. I recently started my first full-size afghan. It is also my first project that includes cable knitting. My prior experience has been limited to small projects such as headbands and baby blankets. My biggest challenge is finding time to knit. As much as I love it, it seems there is always something else to do. Then, too, it’s more of a cold-weather activity. Knitting is the last thing on my mind when I’ve been out working in the heat all day. Although I do not like the cold, it does put one in the mood to knit – and I do love that. Add a little music and maybe a cup of hot tea, and I’m practically in heaven.

One of the reasons I love knitting so much is that my grandma taught me how. I was maybe 8 or so when she put my first pair of needles in my hands. She even created a simple knitting pattern fograndma-knittingr me – which, of course, was super-special. I was knitting something that no one else had ever made. Pretty cool. I did not recognize at the time that there was something else super-special about this experience: she’s not really my grandmother. She’s my step-grandmother. She married my grandpa when I was about 3. Growing up, I had no idea she wasn’t my “real” grandma. I called her grandma, she loved me, and I loved her. What more did we need? Turns out, nothing. She is a remarkably open, generous, loving, beautiful person and she took us and loved us as if we had been her own flesh and blood. And she has, by her example, helped teach me what it means to love – to love knitting, to love life, to love people. And I will always love her for that.