My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.


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Reflections for the Living


Respite

Our garden of peaceful reflection

June 29, 2016

“I know you are anxious to get on with the business of living, but she’s just not ready yet.  I’ve taken care of her, led her and loved her for over 57 years.  Yet, I never had the heart to prepare her for something like this.”

Dear Readers,

This is the dialogue I imagine I am having with Mr. Uruguay; or rather, the conversation he is having with me.  I have taken up my post on a plastic couch directly across from my dying friend. Should he open his eyes, I would be directly in his line of sight. However, that is not likely to happen.

Mrs. Uruguay is generally seated to her husband’s right, in a recliner of the hospital’s finest plastic.  Now however, she is bustling about on the other side of the room as the nurses are fussing about their patient, “Trying to keep him comfortable.”

The Uruguay’s son is pacing anxiously at the foot of his father’s bed. He was in the middle of shaving Mr. Uruguay’s three-day stubble, as per his mother, when the Nurse Angels flew into the room. By his nervous gait, it is obvious that Mrs. Uruguay’s son is not used to not following his mother’s directions, thus the nervous stutter-steps.

Mr. Uruguay’s daughter-in-law is curled up, crossed legged on the other available recliner, pecking away on her iPad, sending and receiving messages to and from parts unknown. Daughter-in-law is a registered nurse.  So, this appears to be old hat for her.

The Nurse Angels flit out of the room as quickly as they flitted in, and the process of death falls like a hush over the room’s occupants.  And here is where I imagine mine and Mr. Uruguay’s conversation picks back up.

“She needs a little more time to get used to me dying.  I mean, it’s only been three days since we made the decision to stop my nutrition and hydration.  And although she knows I’m dying – thank her for the priest and my last rites, by the way – my lovely bride needs just a little longer to accept that she is going to be alone.  I owe her at least that much.”

And so it goes.  Slipping towards death, just as he was in life, .Mr. Uruguay is still in control.  Mrs. Uruguay is a quick study, however.  And although there is a vast emptiness in her soul, she is beginning to take control of her life and her husband’s death.  It is hauntingly beautiful to watch. And so it goes, and so it goes.

Peace, ~v.

 


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29 and Holding


June 28, 2016

Dear Readers,

My daughter Jessica died 29 years ago, June 26; she was three years old. Actually, she was 2 years, 8 months, and 10 days old, but I round up; so she was 3. It just so happens that I almost missed the ‘milestone’ day altogether. 

Six years after Jessica’s death, my youngest daughter was born. Actually, Mimi was born June 25, 1993, the day before Jessica’s sixth anniversary. For the next 19 years I attempted to let the joyful remembrance of one daughter’s birth, overshadow the sorrowful remembrance of another daughter’s death. I don’t think I succeeded. 

For the past 3 years, I found the elusive acceptance stage. Still, all my focus was on, well, me. And I didn’t want to wait another 28 years for the peace to finally seep into my soul.  

“Please Lord, let me have peace!” I would beg.  “Denial, I did it. Anger, I was it. Bargaining, depression, I’d done my penance. And now, acceptance, I get it, I accept! Now, peace, please?” I would end weakly. 

Perhaps the toughest lesson I’ve had to learn over the past five decades is that I will receive that which I crave the most, when I crave it the least. 

I woke up on Sunday, June 26 sadly empathetic. A friend, Mr. Uruguay, suffered a massive stroke and it was on this day that his wife of 57 years, Mrs. Uruguay, began trying to process the immensity of it all: life, death, change. 

I sat with Mrs. Uruguay as she watched her husband. I cannot stop her pain. However, I can empathize with her pain. And for the past two days, that is what I have done: sit and empathy. My  hope is that Mrs. Uruguay find peace. 

“Please Lord, let her find peace! Please, let her have peace.” 

Two days, sit and empathy. And prayers for peace. And I am peaceful, oddly peacefu. But my peace is secondary to what Mrs. Uruguay is going through. 

I’m on my way back to sit with my friend. It’s sure to get tougher, soon. And I’ll be here, not feeling sorry for myself, not feeling alone, and not feeling anything but the peace I so desperately searched for, for 29 years. 

“It’s in giving that we receive.”

Peace, ~v.


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My Joy


sunsetJoy:  the emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune; a source or cause of delight.

October 4, 2015

Dear Readers,

As joy settles in and around my soul, I am taken aback at my good fortune.  I have touched the lives of many young people, and this has been a source of great happiness for me.  However, countless young people have moved my soul, and this has been a great source of joy for me.

Why must I constantly search for more? 

Well, dear Readers, that is what is at the heart of the matter.  It’s not that I think I have done quite enough in my teaching of young people and I can rest on my laurels, it’s that I fear I could be doing more.  I have been dedicated to teaching to the point of absorption.  I have painstakingly and methodically set out to be a fine educator.  I’ve taken the time to hone my craft and I’m almost always tinkering at my workbench.  I am in restless pursuit of a greater understanding as to how to better do what I do.  If the key to success is based on extraordinary effort, well then, I am successful.  However, I nearly always fabricate an opposing force to my joy.

Why must I constantly feel out of balance?

I either have or I have not.  I either take or I give.  There seems to be no middle ground with me.  It’s time I look deeper into my life and question where it is leading, who is really in charge, and what’s really going on.  I need to get ahold of the big picture.

What is my sole (soul?) purpose?

I’ve always taken the road less traveled.  I’ve lived my life speaking my mind and seizing the day.  I’ve gambled that being bold would bring me personal power over my life.  Ahh, but somewhere along the way I forgot that true power always comes from God.  It’s through this relationship that I am blessed with fulfillment.  When I begin to believe that I am the source of my accomplishments, problems develop.  When I forget that I am not the source of my power, my good sense is overwhelmed and I become blind to my true intentions.

What are my true intentions?

Although I’ve faltered, I do have the courage of my convictions.  I believe that man is basically good.  I believe that one person can make a difference.  I believe that I can inspire a generation to act upon the goodness in their hearts.  And, I believe I am blessed.

Why am I worried about my future?

I’ve thought long and hard about these questions, dear Readers.  As near as I can tell, it’s time to take a walk with God.  Communing with nature is one way in which I connect to God.  When the words on the page clutter my brain, my wisdom dulls.  When this happens, it’s time for me to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation, Mother Earth.  Watching the sun rise over the mountains, being still and watching the nighttime twinkles in the sky.  Getting up close to a flowering plant so that the bud and I are aware of each other, breathing with each other and for each other.  Man and earth are dependent upon one another.

Why do I lose that connection?

When I can appreciate my connection to God through nature, I can reconnect to the nurturer in me.  I can once again appreciate and care for others.  After all, that’s part of the big picture, to serve others.  To be of service to others is one of my greatest gifts.  I must pray I don’t fall victim to, well, playing the victim.  I oftentimes have developed a “Why me, God?” attitude and plunged into years of selfishness.  I’ve clung to my cloud of oppression and bitterness.  I’ve substituted that for the big picture and it never works.  Selfishness is nowhere in the big picture.

What’s the point?

We were never meant to walk in self-pity.  We were made to rise to the challenges that God has foretold.  Disagreements, hassles, quarreling, arguing, and bickering.  Being at odds with one another does not manifest joy in one’s life.  Being bothered by the differences keeps us from looking for the similarities.  Quibbling over details only derails the peace in which we were all meant to live.

What are my options?

I’m finally beginning to see the balance I’ve been searching for all these years.  I now recognize that I can be an effective educator without dying for the cause.  I can embrace the challenge of teaching without losing myself and my sense of humor.  I can go with the flow without being afraid to go under somewhere downstream.  I can keep everything in balance.

What’s the catch?

Here’s the rub, I must learn to feel my emotions.  That’s what this all comes down to, feeling my emotions instead of constantly masking them.  Truly, this is my answer.  I’ve closed the door to my heart so often that I’ve found it nearly impossible to open it again.  However, through my constant prayers and my faith in God, little by slowly (thanks Skip), I’ve managed to let down my guard and let in my students.

kidsWhat’s changed?

The students are the same, I’ve changed.  I’ve begun to see my students not as empty vessels that need to be filled up.  But rather, as bodies with souls that need to be loved and nurtured.  And it’s been through this love that I have found joy, pure, unadulterated joy!  I’ve found my balance.  I’ve found my inner peace.

I used to think that I wanted to change the world.  But no, I want to teach the children who want to change the world.  There could be no greater joy.  Peace, ~v.


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Pictures of Peace


July 15, 2014

Dear Readers,

In honor of peace, I would like to share with you some of the most beautiful and peaceful photographs I have captured.  I took the following pictures in April of 2013 on the island of Guam.  In the near future, I will begin to post more pictures with write-ups on what and where they are.  Enjoy dear Readers.  Peace, ~v.

Hate no one, no matter how much they have wronged you.  Live humbly, no matter how wealthy you become.  Think positively, no matter how hard life is.  Give much, even if you have been given little.  Keep in touch with the ones who have forgotten you, and forgive those who have wronged you.


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Pieces of Peace


Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

July 14, 2014

Dear Readers,

Today is the perfect day for me to write my list, as I go back to school in two days, and the students return in seven.    It is the time of year when I most need to be at peace with myself.  Having either been a student and/or a teacher most of my life, the end of summer has almost always had a calming effect on me.  I am more grounded, more centered, more positive.  And until recently, my inner peace would creep inside my soul without so much as a clue as to how and when it arrived.  Now however, I am beginning to recognize and understand the characteristics of my inner peace so that I may practice letting it spill over into my everyday self.

In the past two years, I have been able to identify five essential elements of inner peace.  These pieces of  the puzzle have often been within my personality, two or three at a time.  I recognize however, that I must be able to manifest all five of the traits in order to fulfill my inner peace.  Nothing can bring me peace but myself,thus, I am responsible for making sure that all of the pieces fall into place.

Five Essential Elements of Inner Peace

1.  Live in the Present.  This is the most difficult of all the elements to accomplish, for myself and I suspect for most people.  We look back fondly, we wax nostalgic, and we hold tight to our memories.  We also regret.  Looking back and remembering is fine, as long as we do not live in the past.  Living in the past only serves to magnify our errors, our missteps.  Then, we begin to regret and our lives in the present become a series of, “How can I make-up to (blank) for my mistakes?”  You can fill in the blank with my spouse, my children, my family, myself.  Regret robs us of our present.  More importantly, it robs us of our inner peace.

Similarly, putting too much focus on the future robs us as well.  Planning for your future is a good thing.  However, if you find yourself constantly putting off until tomorrow what you can do today, your focus is not in the present.  When you lead your life according to what-if’s, “What if I get in an accident?”, “What if my husband leaves me?”, “What if I don’t get that job?”, you become paralyzed, afraid to let life happen.  Live in the present, that is the only place you will find inner peace.

2.  Embrace Change.  Change is inevitable.  In fact, the only thing we can count on is change and we cannot control that.  Having no control over changes in life is frustrating for many of us.  Change after change after change, with no control, is likely to have our lives spinning out of control.  When we resist change, we become stuck in the past and inner peace remains elusive.  Do not resist change, embrace it.  Growth is never possible without change.  Besides, if you are not happy with today’s change, just wait, it is likely to change tomorrow.

3.  Be Still.  In today’s hustle and bustle, we oftentimes forget to stop and smell the roses, we forget to be still.  Being constantly on the move affords us no time, no space to re-connect with our higher being.  God, the Creator, Allah, the Supreme Being, whatever your choice, if you believe in something or someone greater than yourself, you must make time to honor that connection.  To pray, to meditate, to be silent, to be still.  If we keep a constant dialogue going on in our head, we are not doing enough listening.  We have our epiphanies, our moments of clarity when we are still.  It is also where we begin to find our inner peace.

4.  Simplify your life.  The more simple your life, the happier you are likely to be and the more likely you are to find your inner peace.  I will use mathematical equations for my analogy.  There are two types of mathematical equations, simple and complex.  A simple equation, for example 1+1=2, requires little to no energy to solve.  We do not have to put forth much effort or use up much of our time to get our answer.  However, a complex equation, for example    , requires a lot more of our thought, our energy, and our time.  Simple equation, simple solution.  Complex equation, complex solution.  The same is true in life.  When our lives become too complex, it requires more of our thought, more of our energy, and more of our time.  We become drained and are less likely to put much effort into seeking inner peace because we are too busy looking for a little peace and quiet.

5.  Forgive.  Not an easy thing to do for some of us.  As with everything else in our quest for inner peace, what we have in our heart, will show in our lives.  If you harbor resentment, hold a grudge, refuse to forgive, it will manifest a negative energy within you.  Think about it, we hold our resentments and our grudges in the same place we hold our souls, within ourselves.  Living so close together, our resentment is bound to seep into our soul.  Our soul becomes that which surrounds it.   Surround your soul with forgiveness and your soul will be filled with mercy.  And when your soul is filled with mercy, you are more likely to find the inner peace you are seeking.

These five elements are just the beginning.  Our lives are like a jigsaw puzzle.  We each have all of the pieces that we need in order to complete the beautiful picture that is on the front of the box.  Once we fit all of the pieces together, we can begin to live the life we were meant to live.  We will begin to live a peaceful existence once the pieces of peace are in place.  Peace, ~v.


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“Shame on humanity.”


July 12, 2014

Dear Readers,

I saw the following post on a social media site today:

” I wish I can capture how kids feel […] to help show the world the truth.. ~ A lot of kids are missing their rights around the world. Pray for them. ~ kids in wars deserve to live a normal life just like other kids around the world. ~ Not fearing to get killed, lose their parents, or have their homes bombed over their heads. ~ Shame on humanity.”

The young lady who wrote these words is one of my former students.  AAJ is a freshman at a university, studying dental surgery.  She graduated from high school last year at the top of her class; she probably had the highest grade point average in her whole graduating class.  She is articulate, well-read, and enjoys photography as a hobby.  In addition, she is bilingual.  Having studied two languages for a few year now, AAJ is very proficient in both her mother tongue and her second language.

During the time I had AAJ as a student, she oftentimes would challenge me and my instructions.  She was definitely the class leader, and then some.  In fact, the students took their cues from her, not me.  For example, if the students were busy chatting and not working, I could say, “Please stop fooling around and do your assignments,” over and over and over again.  However, it wasn’t until AAJ would tell the class the exact same thing that they would stop misbehaving and do their assignments.

For the most, I appreciate this type of student.  Students enjoy giving new teachers a hard time and if I can just get one student willing to help me lead the class to concentrate on their studies, it makes for less heartache for me.  Although AAJ never slacked off in any way as far as her studies.  However, there were some days when she just didn’t feel like admonishing her peers to get in line.  Can’t say I blame her.  After all, her classmates were also her friends and who wants to scold friends?

AAJ is a typical 19 year-old young lady finishing up her freshman year at a university.  She works hard at her studies and she has mentioned that it is sometimes difficult.  However, she is determined to finish her schooling because she has high standards for herself.  She is goal-orientated, she knows her values and is not willing to compromise them.  She would make a great leader of her generation, don’t you think so, dear Readers?

I believe AAJ has great leadership qualities.  The two things that stand out for me are first, her focus on the children of war and the harm that they suffer, and secondly, her diplomacy.  In all of her posts, AAJ does not point fingers, does not attack people individually or as a group, and she strongly advocates for children.  I could not be more proud of her if she were my own daughter.

I bet most of you, dear Readers, can think of someone that reminds you of AAJ; I can think of several.  I am writing about her today, because today’s media seems to only want to report on what young people do wrong.  Most moral, upstanding young citizens do not get the credit they are due, and hardly anyone will listen to them.  Well, I hope people will listen to AAJ, she has so much good in her heart and will ultimately go on to do great things in her future.  She, in fact, is destined to change the world.

Oh yes, I almost forgot.  In the above quote, I intentionally left out the part of her quote that mentions the place in which she is referring.  Additionally, I never stated what two languages she spoke.

AAJ is a “Muslim Jordanian girl who was born & raised in the UAE.”  She is fluent in both Arabic and English.  She tells me, “I do have friends in Gaza, they tell me what they feel and experience, this is one of the reasons why I’m so touched by the issue, thank you. And may Allah help all people in need💕..”

She is a Muslim living in the Middle East.  Does that fact add or detract from your opinion of AAJ?  I hope it does not detract from it, because she is destined for greatness and she will be leading the next generation.  Peace, I really mean it, PEACE, ~v.

جزاكم الله مساعدة كل المحتاجين.

 

 

 


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My Selves


July 10, 2014 Dear Readers, On July 1, 2014 I celebrated my one year anniversary blogging My [redacted] Journey on WordPress.  When I began blogging, my main purpose was to keep in touch with my friends and family in the United States, as I was teaching in the Middle East.  Since then, my blog has evolved into something more meaningful to me than mere correspondence.  As such, I have decided to take a look at the direction in which my writing is taking me, and you as well, dear Readers. I will spend the better part of the next few months re-inventing both my selves and my blog.  Well, not so much re-inventing, as gaining a tighter focus on what I want to convey to the world.  Although the title of my blog will remain the same, my tagline (that short sentence found under the title up there at the top) has changed.  In addition, I will be recreating my ‘About” page so that my readers, past, present, and future, may get to know me a little more in-depth. In yesterday’s blog post, “Peace Within”, I expressed my desire to live my life outside of teaching with the peace and sense of purpose I have when I teach.  I have focused on the questions, “What do I want  my blog to be about?”  and “How can I reach even more readers?”  The answer to the first question lends itself to my spiritual side.  Whereas the second question is  more egotistical. In short, my blog is about a teacher’s search for inner peace.  I hope that you, dear readers, will want to follow my journey as I live out my dream of being a teacher, and take an honest look into my search for inner peace.  Although I am further along in my journey than some, I am certainly not as far along as most. At the end of the day, I hope to accomplish two things.  First, I would like for my everyday self to become closer, in fact even merge, with my teacher self so that I may experience inner peace on an everyday basis.  Secondly, I hope that some of what I am learning about myself will ring true with some of my readers around the world.  After all, as a teacher, I wish to share my knowledge with anyone willing to learn.  I am willing to put myself out there, willing to show you my slips and falls and subsequent mistakes, so that you, dear Readers can do so privately. If there is one lesson that I learned teaching in the Middle East, it’s that we, all of us, around the globe are more similar than we are different.  I have readers in the United States, Australia, and Singapore.  Also, Brazil, Spain, Ireland, Jamaica and India.  People read me in Mexico, Sweden, Kuwait, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates.  My blog is seen in Croatia, Nigeria, Greece, Tunisia, Egypt, Romania and Switzerland.  And those are just the countries this week.  I would like to believe that most, if not all, of you, dear Readers, will be entertained, energized, and maybe even enlightened in this teacher’s search for inner peace.

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. –   Sy Miller and Jill Jackson

Peace on earth, dear Readers, it has never been just a dream.  I’m absolutely sure of it.  Peace, ~v.