Friday, August 19, 2011


I am trying something new to me. I am giving up my cable and Internet services at my apartment for the next three months. Throughout my recovery period following my latest surgery, I became acutely aware of how many hours of television I was watching and how much time I was spending on Facebook, playing FarmVille and Penguin Toss. I also realized that I had been doing this before all of my surgeries took place. I have continued to surf channels even when I couldn't seem to find anything I wanted to watch and then would end up watching re-runs of "Law and Order" that I have seen at least half a dozen times. It never occurred to me to turn off the TV and pick up a book to read. It never occurred to me to listen to music that I enjoy. It never occurred to me to pick up my crocheting or work on my writing. Immediately following my surgery, I made grandiose plans of all that I could accomplish while I was laid up. I was going to devote those six to eight weeks to writing, reading, and working on any of a number of craft projects that I have started but never finished. Well, none of that happened. The first two weeks were focused on managing my pain and resting, which was necessary and the most important thing to be doing at that time. As for the rest of the time, the issue was not my inability to do these things. It was a matter of laziness. It was so much easier to sit and push buttons on a remote than turn on a lamp and open one of my books. It would take too much effort to grab my yarn and pick up my crocheting hook. So, I continued to watch TV, sometimes up to 15 hours a day. Now that is insane! I felt lethargic and like my mind was turning to mush. I was suddenly painfully aware how much I have missed doing so many of the things that I love to do.

Part of my motivation to give up my cable and Internet was driven by my financial limitations as the medical bills from my four surgeries keep coming in. But the more I thought about it, I was feeling drawn to return to activities that I enjoy and that stimulate my mind. So far, I have "done without" for 1 week. And so far, it has not been difficult. I have found many, many things to occupy my time and have gotten more accomplished in this past week than I have in years. I am aware that I am in an initial stage of excitement and motivation for my newest adventure. And I'm not totally giving everything electronic up and being completely unplugged. I am going to make use of the computers and Internet at the library. It is my hope that by spending less time on the Internet at home, I will be more focused and use my time more productively, focusing on my writing and researching rather than playing FarmVille. I will go to the computer when I feel a desire to do something meaningful to me. And I will continue to check DVDs out from the library, choosing more carefully what I would like to see. I know that there will be a few television programs that I will miss, like "Modern Family" and "The Closer". But now that programs are available on DVD and online, I know that I will not have to worry about missing out on anything because I can always check them out later if I choose to. I am also choosing to read again. I have always loved reading but have not done much of it over the past several years. That hasn't stopped me from purchasing new books that I think I'd like to read sometime. I now have managed to collect over 600 books, none of which I have read. I dust them off every few weeks and scan the shelves trying to decide what to read first, and then I walk away and plop down in my recliner and turn on the TV. If I were to read one book a week, it would take me a little over 12 years to finish them all. That just blows my mind!

So, after some thought on the matter, I decided that I want to at least try to get back to doing things that are meaningful rather than mindless. I have already read two books this week and have found that the time has flown by much more quickly than it ever has when watching "Toddlers and Tiaras". I'm sure that there will be times when I will feel like watching mindless TV for an hour or two and I may even regret my decision to cancel my cable, especially when football season starts. But in the long run, I believe that I will have a greater sense of fulfillment and accomplishment by doing rather than observing and that the time I do choose to spend watching a DVD or working on the computer will be more satisfying because I will have made a deliberate, thoughtful choice for how to spend that time.

Wish me luck with my "experiment"! I am anxious to see where it leads me!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mustard Seeds

I was flipping channels a couple of hours ago, looking for something to watch to help me pass time since I couldn't seem to be able to fall asleep. I stumbled upon a documentary titled "Serving Life" on OWN. Narrated by Forrest Whitaker, this two hour program featured inmates serving life sentences at the Louisiana State Penitentiary who were part of a hospice volunteer program, caring for inmates who are facing the end of their lives and dealing with terminal illnesses. This program was started in the mid 1990's by warden Burl Cain and gives selected inmates the opportunity to do something for another and to reach outside of themselves in the spirit of compassion. Most of the inmates are serving sentences for violent offenses - murder, rape, drug related crimes, armed robbery...I was deeply moved by their stories of how these experiences in the hospice care program have changed their lives and their hearts.

People who know me best know that I have had very rigid, strong opinions about the criminal justice system, what the "appropriate" sentences should be for particular crimes, and about the death penalty. Suffice it to say that I have had very little compassion for those who commit such crimes. I have tried to keep my ideas in my "head", and look at things "logically" and according to what I believed would be the most "cost effective" ways of dealing with "hardened criminals". I have refused to look within my heart and see these individuals as human beings. After all, how could anyone, any human being, do to another human being the things that many of these individuals have done? I believe that some of my rage, and if I am going to be honest, hatred, for perpetrators of violent crimes comes from my own personal experience of being raped at the age of 18. My heart most definitely became "hardened" in the days, weeks, months, and years following that experience.

Most of the TV shows that I have seen over the years, such as "Lockup" on MS NBC, focus on the violence of the crimes committed by the inmates and their continued violent behavior within the prison system. This documentary was the first that I have seen that focused on those prisoners who were trying to make a change in their lives for the good, even though they will never be released from behind prison walls. I watched in a state of disbelief at how those inmates who were a part of this rather innovative program treated fellow inmates with such love and compassion. It opened my eyes to the realization that no matter what a person has done, no one wants to be forgotten and no one wants to feel that they are not cared for. No one wants to die alone. I found myself thinking that even the worst of the worst of us has a tiny mustard seed of good inside of them. I have come to believe that no one is purely evil, lacking any capacity whatsoever to love another. This by no means finds me in a position of saying that what some of these men and women have done should be excused or dismissed. I do not believe that anyone has a "right" to act in terrible ways because that was how they have been treated. I still firmly believe that we should be held accountable for our actions and should have to face the consequences for what we have done. However, I am reaching a place in my heart where I realize that in the end, God will judge our actions and that God's forgiveness is available to everyone, whether I like it or not. It has taken me about 20 years to reach the place where I no longer harbor deep resentment and anger toward the individual who assaulted me back in September of 1988.

I still waver back and forth over what I believe our justice system should do with violent offenders. I see stories on the evening news which horrify me and I'm outraged. I struggle with my faith, wondering how a loving, caring God could allow these things to happen. But even though I may still be tempted to believe that in some circumstances, an individual should pay the ultimate price for their crimes and be sentenced and put to death, I keep coming back to the idea that "two wrongs don't make a right". I struggle with believing that God has a reason for everything that happens and that murders, rapes, etc. are a part of God's plan. I do not believe that God plans for any of us to do such things. I do believe however, that God has the power to change people for the good and although none of us can "undo" our past actions, we can choose to learn from them. We can choose to not repeat those behaviors. We can choose to reach out to others in need. We can choose to feel compassion. I try to make sense of it all and I can't. What I can do is hold on to the hope that within every human being is a tiny mustard seed of love and that in the end, love will  prevail. Hatred has never given me a sense of peace and serenity. Love does each and every time.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Name That Tune # 1

I have found myself listening to the music on my iPod more often now, perhaps because I can't seem to find much to entertain me on TV. I was having a discussion with a good friend about what type of music I have downloaded and what it says about my personality. It was an interesting conversation. Afterwards, I spent a little time scrolling down through my music and noticed that I have a little bit of everything. Well, most everything. Each song that I have was chosen because something about it speaks to me. For the most part, I am drawn to the story behind the lyrics. Other songs were chosen simply for no other reason than I like the beat. Quite often, a line or two will stick out and cause me to think about something in perhaps a new way, moving in an entirely different direction from the story being told.

My thinking will often take off in it's own direction and every time I listen to a song, I think of something new. So, that being said, I'm going to share what sticks out at me when I hear one of my favorites. It may make sense and relate to the story the artist is conveying. It may not. I might stray far from the intended message, pulling a line out of the song, out of context, and assigning a whole other meaning to it. But I think that's OK because it stimulates my thinking and sometimes opens my eyes to new ideas, much like the way "free association" works. So, a line from the first song from my alphabetical listing on my iPod:

"Why can't you see me through his eyes?" And my thoughts...

More often than not, we are judged, and we judge others, according to all that we are not, to what qualities we are lacking. We compare ourselves to others and see all of the ways we don't "measure up" to everyone else. I believe that the world would be a much better place if we looked toward all that we are and what we have to offer to each other. We all have something to contribute to society. We are all capable of doing "good". I like to think that this is how God sees me. He is not keeping a tally of all of my "faults" and "flaws". I don't even believe that He is keeping a running list of all of my sins. He is not asking me to be just like you and He is not asking you to be just like me. He is asking me to be my best and to do my best with what I have. So, I am choosing to see others the way I believe God sees others and to work toward what can be accomplished if we all work together, lending our talents and ideas and efforts to make this world a better place for all of us. Imagine the possibilities if we all were to strive to see each other through His eyes...

Can you name that tune? It is "According to You" by Orianthi,  album "Believe" (bonus track version).

Until next time...