How To Love People Without Losing Your Soul

Companion Blog Post

October: A Month of Gentleness

Concept Week 2

Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016)

 

Character Concept: Gentleness loves people just as they are.

One of the most powerful yet underrated character traits is the ability to validate. Tolerance is a tossed-about word, used as a flag to position one’s self as having arrived at a higher level of being. It looks good on our soul resume, but do we engage and love gently the people we live with, the people who are different than us, or the people who annoy us? Do we withhold saying “Namaste’” to people we don’t agree with politically, socially, or religiously?

The dancer at a strip club; are we gentle enough to love them as a human being without shaming and judging them for their chosen paycheck? The homeless person on the street; can we love them through their chaos without shaking our head and assuming they want to be there? The business man or woman who is arrogant; can we love them by looking over their insecurities? The family member who is ill; can we love them without complaining of the extra load we must carry? The person who grumpily walks into the kitchen, their black-cloud in-tow; can we be gentle in return?

Gentleness requires that we love people before they clean up their life, before they believe like us or look like us or behave like us. Before, anything.

What kind of character asks a person to change to shiny, clean, and acceptable before it can gently extend love? A hurting one that is carrying around baggage of its own.

What we don’t understand is that the soul operates like a magnet; the polar ends repel each other. Opposite systems cannot inhabit the same space at the same time. Fear and trust are opposites. Judgement and compassion are opposites. Bitterness and peace are opposites.  Arrogance and humility are opposites. Selfishness and generosity are opposites. Our souls attract one and repel the other; we treat people out of what we attract.

The soul is deep and we alone hold the key. Emotions and belief systems don’t arrive uninvited; we fill it with what we choose daily.

Love is a choice and a pre-requisite for gentleness. It requires that we put ourselves aside. Love is not about us. It requires that we stay above the situation and not crumble when we encounter different or difficult. We are all equal. No-one is any better than anyone else, regardless of finances, social position, occupation, or ethnicity. We are all equal.

The way to love without losing your own soul is to clean up your own soul. Get rid of un-forgiveness. Get rid of insecurities. Grieve the pain and the losses in life. Get rid of the need to impress or measure up. A pure heart loves purely; it doesn’t take effort, it happens organically.

Every human being is just passing through earth on his or her way to eternity. Gentleness is a character trait because it requires us to get over ourselves and validate a human soul that is wrapped in a different story than our own. It requires us to put aside the quick assessments we make when meeting each other. Gentleness is a hand-shake, an offer of help, a quiet tongue, an erased agenda, a change in the schedule with a peaceful heart. Love is a choice.

 “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right.” –Acts 10:34-35

–Tara Schiro is the author of the newly released, Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016, Xulon Press), and No Arms, No Legs, No Problem, the memoir of bronze-medal Paralympian (Quad Rugby), Bob Lujano. Both books are available on Amazon.com, Ingram, and Barnes & Noble. TaraSchiro.com

Advertisements

Should You Remain Friends With Your Ex? The Deeper Issue of Marital Boundaries

Photo cred: copyrighted by Joel Rogers at www.Coastergallery.com
Photo cred: copyrighted by Joel Rogers at http://www.Coastergallery.com

“My ex called last night.”
“Which one?”
Holding the pot of coffee in her right hand and her favorite King’s Island mug in her left, Keenan instinctively turned to size-up her co-worker. She watched as Julia methodically dropped sugar into her cup. The red head was always fashion forward; today in baggy, faded jeans, rolled up at the bottom, booties, sweater, t-shirt, long necklace. Keenan blinked at the odor of stale coffee burnt to the bottom of the pot mixed with the aroma of freshly ground and brewed Italian beans wavering in the steam between them.
“The one from college,” said Keenan as she poured the coffee into her mug and replaced the pot.
“Oh?” said Julia, with a raised eyebrow and a taut smile.
She had this way about her, like a professor or a therapist. Her eyes penetrate much deeper into the soul than is comfortable. Keenan had spoken to her a few times around the office but most of the time she listened to Julia speak to the other women on staff. She was wise, reserved, and confident. But she made Keenan nervous. An ex-boyfriend wasn’t the topic she would have chosen to address with Julia, she would have preferred the lady that sits next to her, but the entire staff was at a board meeting. Keenan and Julia were left in the insurance office to answer the phones.
“He looked me up online,” said Keenan, stirring in the cream and sugar.
“Why did he call?”
“He wanted to make sure I was ok, after all these years.”
“To make sure you were ok?” Julia’s eyebrows had drawn in but her smile remained taut as she turned and picked up her coffee. Her body was now squarely facing and focusing on Keenan. There was no turning back. The conflict inside Keenan regretted opening her big mouth and yet she was curious to hear what sage wisdom Julia would have for her.
“Yes, well, it didn’t end well. We were in college, as I said, and we dated for five years, and I broke his heart. His whole family was crushed when I left town. He just wanted to reconnect.” Keenan faced Julia, clutching the hot amusement park mug, waiting for a response.
“So, does he want to get back together?”
“No! No, nothing like that.”
“So what does he want?”
The pendulum swung to the regret side in Keenan’s heart. She didn’t know Julia intimately enough to have this conversation. Keenan flicked her dirty blonde hair off her shoulder and turned to look at the tables and couches in the kitchen.
“He just wanted to reconnect. He’s a sweetheart. He helped me through a difficult time in my life and I’m so grateful for that. I broke-up with him because we were not right for each other long term. It would have ended in divorce. I have no animosity towards him. In fact, I could see us being great friends. Like Jerry and Elaine. It was comforting to talk to him, healing. For all these years I surmised he and the family must hate me for leaving but he said it was just the opposite. He said his mom thinks about me often, wondering and hoping I’m doing well. I’m so grateful that he called. I don’t feel like a jerk anymore. I’ve had so many bad dreams over the years; the same scenerio over and over, trying to make it right. His call relieved all that guilt. Besides the fact that he’s just a sweet guy. A gentleman. No hard feelings. No ill will. Just checking to make sure I was ok and hoping to be friends.”
“How long have you been married to your husband?” asked Julia.
“Twenty years.”
“And is your ex married?”
“Going through a divorce.”
The taut smile turned to concern as Julia took a drink of coffee.
“Let’s sit down,” she said.
Keenan was happy to give her feet a break from her new heels but not sure she wanted to participate in this conversation any longer.
“So you were with this guy five years in your twenties. You got along well with his family, they liked you, you’re excited to be relieved of your guilt, and you want to be friends with him. He’s getting a divorce and you have been married twenty years. Accurate so far?”
“That’s kind of abrupt, but yes.”
“Don’t entertain this. Leave it alone.”
Keenan was annoyed. “Because?”
“Did you tell your husband this guy called?”
“Yes.”
“And what was his response?” asked Julia.
“Taken aback at first wondering what his motive was, then jealous, then just listened and was glad I got some healing.”
Julia leaned in across the table, her red curls falling in front of her. “Let me tell you a story. My husband and I have also been married for twenty years. For the first several of those years, he was friends with a woman he used to date. Same type of story; they dated five years, weren’t the right type of people to be married so they broke-up. They remained friends, though. There was never a break in the relationship. Kind of like Jerry and Elaine. So when he and I started dating, I often felt like the third wheel. Not that it was the three of us that went out; she got married to someone else. But they had this friendship that whenever she was around, I felt like the third wheel. Like, they were privy to things I was not. They would talk on the phone, they were connected on social media, sometimes they had lunch together. Neither of them had any ill-will towards their own marriages or spouses. Neither wanted to get back together. We had fun as couples together. Both me and her husband were included in the friendship. But I still felt like the odd man out. Like there was a part of him that wasn’t mine, as his wife. Like he was talking to her about things he should have been talking to me about. Or to another guy instead of her. After many years I finally told him I wasn’t comfortable having her around. He said she was a very good friend. I told him he shouldn’t have very good female friends outside of our marriage. As a married couple, I should be his best friend and confidant as his wife and he should be my best friend and confidant as my husband. And, or, he should have guy friends only to talk about stuff that he can’t talk to me about.”
“So what happened?”
“Out of respect for me and our marriage, he ended the friendship. He put me first. Broke off all social media ties and erased her contact information.”
“So you think I shouldn’t talk to him?”
“That’s a decision you and your husband should make together. But think about this: everytime you text, talk to, email, or communicate in any way with other people, that’s time and emotional energy being invested in someone besides your spouse. It’s a slippery slope. A marriage needs strong, intentional boundaries to survive. Nothing ever ‘just happens.’ It’s all about choices, choosing the right thing.”
Both women jumped at the sound of the telephone.
“I’ll get it,” said Julia standing up. She walked across the kitchen and then paused in the doorway. “Just remember that Jerry and Elaine were single. They used other people for sex, but their heart and souls remained with each other. Ultimately, no-one came between them. If either of them would have gotten married, the friendship, by necessity, would have ended.”
Keenan stared at the capital letters on her mug, THE BEAST, and as she slowly rotated the mug, she focused her eyes on the wooden roller-coaster as it went up and down and around in an endless cycle.
–Tara Schiro is the author of “No Arms, No Legs, No Problem,” the inspirational story of bronze-medal Paralympian Bob Lujano. It is NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon, Ingram Spark, and Barnes & Noble. http://www.TaraSchiro.com

Why History Continues to Repeat Itself

“Will this generation be able to turn things around and learn a valuable lesson from all of this? I hope so, but I have my doubts. The damage has been done. And as a lifelong student of history, it’s quite evident that human beings don’t learn from the mistakes of past generations.”
Aaron B. Powell, Voluntary

  

          Miss Kolmar’s arm jerked quickly across the board as she listed the dates of the key battles in the war. She heard pencils tapping as the students copied onto their papers what she wrote on the board, but there was also a groan. She paused and turned to look at the class.

          “Problem?” she asked.  

          “Why do we need to know this? Who cares what happened hundreds of years ago. This is so boring.”

His hair more mussed than usual and his shoes untied, he looked at his teacher urgently. No sarcasm in his voice this time. The rest of the class stopped their note-taking at his question and waited eagerly for Miss Kolmar’s answer, for some kind of meaning to the names and dates. They, too, were bored but Jason was the only brave one. They secretly appreciated his rebellion.

“If we do not learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat its mistakes.” Eyebrow raised, she paused and waited for his usual comeback. Nothing was easy with this kid. But when he stared at her in a sulky silence, she turned to the board to finish the list. Dates are important, she thought. How will we know who we are, why we’re here, if we don’t study our ancestors? Right?

At the sound of the lunch bell the students quickly fled the class. Defeated, Miss Kolmar sat at her desk and stared out the window.

“Can I join you for lunch?” Ms. Olive waited in the doorway for an answer.

“Sure. Come on in.”

Smiling, she crossed the room and sat in a student chair in the front row. Ms. Olive was close to retirement and held the record for the most Teacher of The Year awards. Miss Kolmar had only known her the two years since she came to the school but quickly learned that Ms. Olive was full of sage advice. “You have that look on your face. You’re pondering the earth’s great mysteries again. Didn’t you learn your lesson the last time?”

“Very funny,” said Miss Kolmar, managing a slight return smile. “Jason asked me the relevance of learning history. I gave him the same answer I give every kid who asks. But this time…”  An explanation eluded her. Shaking her head, her eyes darted around the room. “This time it wasn’t a good enough answer. There must be something I can give these kids to make them understand.”

Ms. Olive laughed. “Good luck with that!”

“I’m serious. What do you tell your students? What did your teacher tell you when you were a girl?”

“Can I tell you a secret?” Her wise eyes poured into Miss Kolmar’s like a river of life. “Every generation has asked why we need to study the past. Early in my career I was also frustrated for a lack of an adequate answer. Slowly I realized that the question itself is a repetition of history and since it gets answered each and every time the same way, “learn from past mistakes so you don’t repeat them,” and yet we keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again, well, I found that on one hand, “why do we need to learn from the past,” is the wrong question to ask and on the other hand, “to not repeat the same mistakes,” is an answer that sets all of us up for failure.”

“Huh?” Miss Kolmar dearly loved Ms. Olive but more often than not she talked above her head. She pulled an apple slice out of her lunch bag and began to eat as she listened.

“Look at it this way,” she said, shifting in her seat. “Every time a baby is born, we have to start from scratch to teach them that this is blue and this is a square and this is a wheel and if you drop an object it falls to the floor and so on. The child learns how to count, what numbers mean, and is brought to a current understanding of the math of their time. The child learns the alphabet, how to put letters and sentences together and eventually tells stories in an attempt to give meaning to his existence. The technology to teach progresses but we always start with 1+1=2. School is simply one long exercise in “catching up” on what you missed before you were born. It’s a way of bringing everyone up to speed.”

“Okay…Is that what I’m supposed to say to Jason?” Miss Kolmar was confused.

“No. We’ll get to that. Want a cookie?” she handed Miss Kolmar a peanut butter bar with chocolate chips and coconut.

“The material part of history keeps moving forward. None of us tries to “reinvent the wheel” which is why we have a cliché’. We improve automation, we improved the wooden wheel with metal and a rubber tire, and we improve sanitation and building codes. Once something is invented, it’s invented. All that’s left is to embrace it and make it better.

“The moral code is the part of history that keeps repeating. We know that if we put a knife into someone’s heart, physically or emotionally, they will die. And yet we keep doing it. We know that if we cheat or steal, there are always consequences whether it’s sleepless nights or a broken relationship or jail time. And yet we keep doing it. We know that if we spend more than we make, we could go bankrupt or lose our house. And yet we do it anyway. We know that if a dictator decides to commit genocide against a people group, there will be retribution. And yet it keeps happening.”

Miss Kolmar looked out the window to the playground as she took a bite of her sandwich. Miss Olive paused to take a bite of soup as she pondered her words. She was in her zone now. Ask her a question and she’ll give you a sermon. This is what Miss Kolmar loved about her.

“Each of us comes to a time in our life when we must decide what to do with the moral code. It’s an individual pursuit. We call a girl naïve’ because she thinks she can subvert the moral code but she can’t; none of us can. Each of us must decide how to respond to fear, insecurity, selfishness, God, greed, anger, failure, success, abuse, loneliness, wealth, poverty, abandonment, rejection, loss, or grief. History will continue to repeat itself because we’re still dealing with these same issues since the beginning of time. We may have better farm equipment but we’re still murdering our brothers in the field out of rage and jealousy.”

“I’m not sure Jason will understand all of that,” said Miss Kolmar as she took a bite of cookie.

“No. But you can give him the flip side. You can show him a sense of adventure, of what it looks like to fight for what’s right. Instead of teaching names and dates, tell stories. Give him a hero to believe in, someone who got the moral code right and saved the day. Teach him that when we have moral apathy, kingdoms fall, wars ensue, families are torn apart, and individual happiness is non-existent.

“Do we ever learn from our mistakes?” The kids’ voices floated through the window.

“Individually, yes. Well, that’s the goal. I guess some people never learn. But corporately, no. History will continue to repeat because babies keep coming and they start learning from scratch, not from where the adults before him left off. It may have taken you and I 40 years to learn patience but then a baby is born and the learning cycle starts again with the same moral dilemmas. But even though we will never “learn” from our corporate history of moral mistakes, it is absolutely crucial that we have the freedom to make the same mistakes.  

“Can you imagine what life would be like if we arrived on the scene as a newborn only to realize a few years later that the moral code had been mastered? And that the only purpose to being born was to continue to improve the material world? There would be no romance, no sense of adventure, no sense of good-overcoming-evil, no sense of accomplishment and there definitely would be no heroes. Use your history lesson to teach Jason that his ancestors are showing him the keys to the moral code; he is a hero in training.”

–Tara Schiro is the author of “No Arms, No Legs, No Problem: When life happens, you can wish to die or choose to live” NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon and Barnes and Noble http://www.NoArmsNoLegsNoProblem.com

“The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.”
William Faulkner

Creating Christmas

*The following is a fictional exploration, an attempt at a universal truth through short story, of “the dance” we do in long term relationships and the pretense that can come at the holidays.

 

          If the calendar said June, his behavior might have been irrational and misconstrued. As it was his movements fell perfectly in place with the falling snow. He noticed the silence of his boots in the fresh powder as he carried the wrapped boxes past the chocolate store to his car. He smiled. He noticed the white lights in the trees that cozied the dark street, the vibrant reds and greens and sparkly ribbons in the store windows coaxing him to buy more than he could afford, and the smell of freshly baked pastries and peppermint cocoa wafting out the door of the bakery seemed to wash away the difficulty of the previous months in a glittering parade of promise. Time to give gifts and attend parties and send cards of hope to the people he both liked and disliked. Time to be charitable to the homeless and gracious to his neighbor. Time for Christmas.

         The gravel crunched under the tires as he pulled into the driveway. He sat for a minute in the warmth of the heater, admiring his handiwork. Santa and his reindeer smiled, frozen mid-flight on the roof. Frosty sat beside a lit sign wishing passers-by Merry Christmas. Strings of white and multi-colored lights lined the eaves and a fresh green wreath with a red bow hung on the front door. Satisfied, he turned off the motor and got out. His breath swirled in the air under the bright moon as he carried the boxes up to the house, slowly. She was home.

          As he stomped his snowy boots on the mat the door opened.

        “Here, let me take those so you can take your boots off.” She didn’t like it when he traipsed through the house with wet boots.

She stood in the doorway, her arms quickly wrapping around her to shield the cold. Tall and slender with sandy brown hair, she was dressed for dinner in a blue dress; his favorite. She took the boxes and was walking away before he could look her in the eye. That was okay. His wife’s face was a reflection he didn’t want to see; all his failures were recorded there. Her hips swayed in perfect rhythm to the Christmas music coming from the television and the curls falling down her back gave a slight bounce with each step. He turned his back to the long horizontal mirror down the wall of the entryway—determined not to look at himself— and removed his boots and heavy coat, equally determined to bring Christmas to their hearts.

“Smells delicious,” he said padding across the wood floor in his socks to the kitchen. “Can I try one before you box them up?”

She gave a slight smile. “You’ll spoil your dinner.”

“I’ll take my chances,” he said reaching for a cookie on the tray.

She watched with her arms crossed as the cookie fell apart and the chocolate stretched and made a gooey mess on his fingers.

“You should wait til they cool,” she said with a slight purse of the lips.

“They’re better this way.”

She rolled her eyes and poured him a small glass of milk as he licked his fingers and made grunts of delight. He ate another cookie and took in the tranquil scene from his barstool: the garland on the brick fireplace, the light of the fire flickering on the walls, the Christmas cards hanging from a string like laundry on a clothesline. And his wife. Still beautiful as the day he stood behind her in line at the coffee shop twelve years ago. Now, in the kitchen, the sink wasn’t the only island between them.

“We have to be at the Carmichael’s in one hour,” she said as she put another tray of cookies into the oven. “Wear the brown dinner jacket with the blue shirt.”

He looked again at her blue dress and brown boots; they would be matching. He reached for another cookie but she moved the tray before he could grab one.

“If you eat them all we won’t have any to take with us. Did you buy the set of coasters for Mary?”

He pointed to the stack of boxes beside the Christmas tree. “The small one.”

Bing Crosby started his rendition of White Christmas. He wanted to take his wife in his arms, tell her he loved her, tell her he was sorry for the life they had, the hurt that wouldn’t go away. But her heart was in a box; what if she responded in anger rather than reciprocating his emotion of Christmas… the smells, the lights, the music. It was all so intoxicating.  He didn’t want to chance ruining the most wonderful time of the year.

“Did you send the year-end checks to the charities?”

“Yes. Did you buy gift cards for the volunteers?”

“Yes. Can I have another cookie?”

She turned to look at him, spatula high in the air in her right hand and left hand on her hip.

“It’s Christmas. Hand it over,” he said with a smile and finally brave enough to look her in the eyes. For the first time in several weeks he saw vulnerability staring back at him instead of contempt. This caught him and he hesitated for a slight second, his eyes pouring deep into hers, passed the cold gray of hurt and into the warm deep blue of her soul. The reflection of her longing made him dizzy. He blinked. She turned away. After a moment she lifted a cookie with the spatula and handed it to him.

“Only because it’s Christmas.”

He stared at her but she wasn’t lifting her eyes to his. “Do we have to go to the Carmichael’s? Why don’t we stay here, just the two of us, by the fire?” he said.

She plopped the cookie down on the napkin in front of him and turned away. “You know we can’t do that. The Jamison’s will be there to say their good byes before leaving town and you promised Walt you would give him a hand with the table he broke and they’re all counting on these cookies.” She paused and her shoulders slumped. Her head bent toward the counter and she leaned on her hands to steady herself.

He got up from his barstool and went around the counter to stand behind her.

“Elizabeth?” She didn’t answer. He picked up the back of her hair and breathed in the fresh scent. She still didn’t move. He put his arms around her and she softened into him. It had been months since they touched. They stood there like that for several minutes before she picked up a warm cookie from the tray and turned to face him to put it in his mouth. The chocolate smeared on his lips.

“Elizabeth, I’m sorry,” was all he could manage as he reflected on the harsh words spoken between them, the pain of decisions past. It all seemed ridiculous; the argument at the lake, the friend that came between them, the loss of…so much. He looked into her eyes and his chest fluttered. Bing Crosby switched to Silent Night. He wanted her. He needed her.

She kissed the chocolate off of his lips, lingering, as if trying to decide to stay. The oven timer beeped.

“You should go get ready,” she said, pulling away. “We can’t be late for Christmas.”

–Tara Schiro is the author of “No Arms, No Legs, No Problem: When life happens, you can wish to die or choose to live” NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon and Barnes and Noble http://www.NoArmsNoLegsNoProblem.com

The True Story of Humpty Dumpty

This is a story written by my 9 year old son, Vince.  Everything is exactly as he typed it at school.

The true story of Humpty Dumpty

Here is the real story of Humpty Dumpty.  One day Humpty Dumpty was playing with his friend Bill.  “Lets go do back flips on that wall over there.”  Said humpty.  Bill said “ok”.

Then Humpty and Bill got on the wall and saw egg man.  Egg man has the power to shoot hard boiled eggs out of his hands.  So all three of them started to do back flips.  Egg man wanted to play a trick on humpty.

So when Humpty Dumpty was doing a back flip Egg man started to do rapid fire eggs at Humpty .  Then Humpty fell off the wall!  So Bill called the king on his cell phone and said, “Humpty fell off the wall again” so the king said, “Again, that’s the tenth time!”  So all the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men came down to see.  Then they looked at him and said, “We ran out of bandages from the last fall.  So I guess we should bring him to the King and see what he says to do.”

So all the kings’ horses and all the Kings men brought humpty Dumpty to the king.

“O my gosh!” Said the King.  “He is in a million pieces…literally.  “So what should we do?” asked the kings men.  “I guess we will have scrambled eggs for breakfast” said the king very sadly.      -Vincent Schiro