Friday, November 22, 2013

Don't Be A Didn't Do

For anyone who is going through a stressful situation, I heartily recommend knitting. Not only can you stab away at the stitches when you want to, after the stress has leveled out there is something both calming and therapeutic about pulling loops through loops.  It's not about making anything specific or beautiful. It's simply about providing a resting place for tension while the hands are busy and the mind resolves.




The weather has turned cold. Yesterday, I ignored most everything and spent the day curled up on the studio couch knitting and thinking about many of the thoughts in today's posting. It's not at all about sewing and contains spiritual content and might - I'm sorry - be considered preachy but these are some things that I feel strongly about so if non sewing, spiritual, and possibly preachy is not your thing, please take a minute to admire my adorable grandson before clicking away. See, he's sitting on the quilt that Grandma made from the refashioned quilt originally made for his Mom. VERY fun.




Every morning I go to Starbucks to study, journal, and pray on paper. I'm there for about an hour and spend half of that time focused on studying creativity and half on spirituality. I've worked my way through a variety of books and have been amazed and grateful at how God has provided answers in advance to questions I didn't know I was going to ask. When life went topsy turvy a few weeks ago, my study shifted to match at exactly that time and when I finished the study, the next one, which I'd already purchased, was exactly what I needed.

I'm reading When God Doesn't Make Sense by Dr. James Dobson, a man of integrity who I greatly admire. I bought the book without previewing it simply because it caught my eye and he was the author. It's about knowing that God can do that thing that we wish he would do only he isn't and why. Is it me? Doesn't he love me? Aren't I worthy? Doesn't he care? Dr. Dobson refers to this as the betrayal barrier and says it's the point at which many people abandon their faith because they have a false impression of God and what he can and what he will do.

The part I read yesterday contained a quote by scientist Stephen Hawking - If you are disabled, you should pour your energies into those areas where you are not handicapped. You should concentrate on what you can do well, and not mourn over what you cannot do. And it is very important not to give in to self-pity. If you're disabled and you feel sorry for yourself, then no one is going to have much to do with you. A physically handicapped person certainly cannot afford to be psychologically handicapped as well.

While most of us are not disabled like Stephen is, it occurred to me that we are all disabled in some way - that there are things in our lives that happen, that feel imposed on us, that we would really rather not deal with, and yet we have no choice. Those things are in essence our disability and looked at from that perspective, Stephen's advice makes excellent sense. Our choices are to focus on what we don't have and can't do and risk slipping into a wallowing pity party no one wants to attend or to focus on what we do have and can do and make our own lives richer.



The painting above is of a friend and I and was painted by her daughter for my birthday. This particular friend is going through a very difficult time dealing with the differing - and not complimentary in any way - illnesses of her aging parents. She's a mess and I'm very concerned about her and have spent as much time as she's able to take away from them to go for coffee, have her over for dinner, and talk. And as I told her, it's not that I want her to be going through this experience but I am thankful to be able to invest my energy in supporting and encouraging her and to focus less on feeling sorry for myself. As perky and annoying as that advice can be, it is true that we can often help ourselves by helping someone else.

We're instructed to help carry one another's burdens. I've been thinking a lot about what does that mean in reality as opposed to theory and had the opportunity to discuss it with one of the ministers - Dave - from our church the other day. I asked him to tell me what that looked like and he answered with the giving of requests and when I said no, tell me about the answering of requests, he struggled and offered things like making a meal or giving money. Practical. Easy. Things that are quickly over and done with.

These things do not go unappreciated but what about the less practical tasks like sitting with and through a hard situation, over a long, extended and emotional period, and then picking up the fragile pieces and helping to put them back together? The subjective, emotional, messy tasks where there are no easy answers. Ah, he said. In my opinion - and he agreed - being too busy, having poor money management, and an unwillingness to ask the hard questions and do the tough stuff are fabulous devil tools that are preventing the church - as in those who believe - from being as amazing as it can be.

I haven't gone to church - the building - in eighteen months. I got tired of walking in and out when it didn't matter whether I was there or not. There is nothing worse than being lonely in a crowd, especially in a church. That no one has phoned since substantiates my point and the odd time that I've run into someone from church, they say something along the lines of haven't seen you lately but they do not ask WHY haven't I seen you lately. I wonder are they making an observation or asking a question? Why is the important question. It's the one that makes mattering.

Not everyone is like me and inclined to study for an hour a day or if they are, not everyone has the option to do so and not everyone has a "church" in their friends who will continue to support them building or not. In that way, I am lucky and even so - in my opinion - there are many hurt souls who have abandoned or are desperately trying to hang on to their faith in the face of this not mattering. We've become such a shallow culture that even the church is becoming all surface and no depth.

Dave - the minister - told me that he'd thought of me several times over the past eighteen months but hadn't phoned. I asked him if I was a hard person - as in hard to deal with - and he said no but you're intense and then apologized as if intense was a bad thing. When I asked him if I was intimidating, he said yes, but that that was not about me, it was about him to which I replied yes, but those are my consequences. When he allows himself to be intimidated by whatever it is in me that he feels is lacking in him, to the point that he cannot make the call that God is prompting him to make, it's not him that loses. It's me who didn't get the call, me who didn't feel seen, me who wasn't missed, me who didn't matter, me who wasn't encouraged. That might sound like self-pity. It's not. I'm simply using myself as an example because I'm not alone. That's the reality for many people and it is not at all what God had in mind. When he puts someone on our mind, he wants us to make the call.

My friend and I were comparing her situation with her parents to mine. There are similarities and we have a great deal of empathy for what each other is going through. We agreed that it's like you are drowning and there is a crowd of people on the shore of which a huge portion have turned away and are not paying attention. A few are talking out of the sides of their partially covered mouths while pointing. A few others are throwing life preservers your way only they fall short of the mark and you're left still drowning because these are not actually life preservers; they are cover my butt and now I can run in the opposite direction statements like you're so strong, you can handle this... or I'm praying for you and some good souls are but most don't mean it or... God never gives us more than we can handle so you'll be okay. Let me tell you from experience that NO ONE going through a tough situation wants to hear that verse and just to clarify, that's not actually what it says. It says we will go through tough situations, we will not be able to handle them, and we will need to turn to God. And guess what? We who are listening to his voice are God's hands and feet on earth. If someone is on your mind, there's a reason.

A hurting person wants to be seen and acknowledged. They don't want to be alone and abandoned. They want someone to hug them, tell them yes this hurts, and yes it's shitty, and I'm sorry and even I don't know what to say, and then just sit and be still. They do not want a gazillion solutions shoveled their way. This is not the time for solutions. This is the time for sympathy and hopefully empathy. If the problem could be solved easily in two minutes flat, the hurting individual would have thought about it by now. They didn't suddenly turn stupid.

AND... we are to do something when God asks us to do something.

When my husband was first ill years ago, one of his friends came to visit and as he was leaving he asked me to let him know if I needed anything. Poor man. His timing was off. I was exhausted. My husband was just about to go to a very expensive, private clinic in the United States and I did not know if he'd be coming back alive. I was staying home for months, alone with those worries and three young children, a lot of responsibilities, and no income and this friend wanted me to call him. I said no.

I said don't ask me to be responsible for you helping me. Don't ask me to be the vulnerable one and have to ask when you might say no. If you are paying your bills and you think about me. God is telling you I have bills. If you are buying groceries and you think about me, God is telling you I need groceries. If your kids are going to an event that costs money and you think about me, God is telling you that my kids are going to the same event and it's going to cost me money. I told him it's your responsibility to listen and do what God is asking you to do and not mine to have to ask. He was taken aback but he thought about what I was saying and then he replied that I was right and went on to help me in surprising and thoughtful ways I will never forget over the next few months.

Some times it is our job to ask but mostly it's our job to listen. All of us - me included - have ignored a niggling. We've been too busy or afraid or we didn't want to do that task or the emotions seemed too much or whatever our response was but the bottom line is that when God puts a need on our mind, we are meant to pick up the phone, write the email, pay the bill, buy the groceries, babysit the child, hug the wounded, sit with the lonely, do the task. That tangible action is supporting and encouraging; it is bearing one another's burdens and it gives a completely different message than telling someone I was thinking about you but didn't have time to call or I was thinking about you but didn't have time to write.

If you're going through a difficult time and want a sad laugh, track those didn't do messages and hopefully you'll be encouraged by the many hearts God knocked on to meet your need. Don't be a didn't do. Life is about relationships - with God, with yourself, with others. Part of life's journey is supporting and encouraging one another. Make the call.

And this ends my little sermon, climbing down off my soap box, thanks for listening

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - love and support

48 comments:

  1. Elisabeth in FranceNovember 22, 2013 at 8:01 AM

    Wow, Myrna! Now I know that there are two families I need to call because they're going through hard times. Here's hoping that the very little I can offer will make a difference for them, even if it's only temporary.
    Thank you so much!
    Love and hugs

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    1. It will make a difference to know that you cared. Thanks for the HUG.

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  2. The Stephen Hawking quote was meant for me, I think. I've been struggling with MS and increasing disability. It is very frustrating to have to rely on other people for assistance, because I have been so self reliant. Then I realised that by letting people help, I was being taught to be grateful and humble. That being self reliant and never asking for help was prideful.
    I hope everything works out for you. I'll keep you in my prayers.

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    1. It's a wonderful quote that certainly touched my heart. I'm glad it touched yours as well. While it's hard to ask sometimes we are the person who is meant to do the asking and it is exactly what the other person needs so they can respond. As I was typing, I stopped to pray that you will have the courage to ask. Thanks for your prayers.

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  3. This is wonderful. I am sending the link to a friend of mine who has been smacked sideways by the news that an old friend of hers is dying of cancer. We all run up against this at one time or another, in one way or another--and if we live long enough, we are given multiple chances to do the right thing! Best to you, as always.

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    1. That is so hard. A dear friend of mine passed away almost ten years ago and I think of him often. It's hard. How wonderful that your friend has you to support her as she supports her friend. That's a great kind of network. Thanks for your well wishes. They are much appreciated.

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  4. This is a great post and thought provoking. I'm sorry that the church (building) isn't doing it for you. I'm lucky and know it in the church that I attend. I do get those phone calls when I'm away for a while. I'm glad that you have a support network and worship/meditation routine that works for you. I wish I was closer so I could come over or meet for coffee. Keep knitting - I love it to for it's meditative purposes. And productive in the same light. Keep you light shining Myrna!

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    1. You are lucky to have the your church and it seems to me - from our visits and emails - that you are exactly that kind of person. It's wonderful. I am blessed to have friends who keep me close and this is the place I am meant to be in at this time. There's a lesson for me to learn or perhaps one for me to share. This is good. I do wish you were closer. LOL - perhaps you should move ! ! ! ! !

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  5. Wow I had a long rambling post to ask for your perspective on something & lost it. Guess I will just ask for your prayer and I would live it if you would email me as I really did want to run it by someone whose perspective I value. It's sewimanurse@yahoo.ca.
    I'm the nurse who was in NWT but have returned to Cranbrook. I really enjoyed your post today, and I told my friend when she was going thru breast cancer that her letting me help was giving me a gift, the gift of helping. It's hard to be on receiving end when you are a generous person, which she is, but it was truly how I felt. Anyway, bless you my friend whom I have never met. Joyce in Cranbrook ( no longer NWT)

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    1. I sent you an email. I hope I can help. Thank you for valuing my perspective. What a compliment. Watching my friend going through what she's going through and being able to participate on the limited level that I am able to, helps me to not go crazy on her behalf. I don't think we pay enough attention to that - the very real gift of allowing others to help us. Thanks for your blessings. I appreciate them.

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  6. thank you so much for sharing this, that there is a lot in here that I need to read and think about right now in my own life, both for myself and for my relations with others... I was particularly needing to hear the Steven Hawking quote, as since my cancer treatment I have been in a slough of despondency about my physical damage, and not thinking about what I CAN do instead... and your statement about "We who are listening to his voice are God's hands and feet on earth" is just like another quote I had forgotten in my little bedside book that I've not picked up in far too long "You are the eyes with which God looks and the mind through which God understands itself"... I'll have much to think about and listen for, and will come back to read your words again when I get home from my medical appointments

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    1. Thank you for sharing that quote. HUGS. I know it's been a tough going for you. I only had three months of the cancer scare last year and boy that was hard. And it stinks. And it is. There are things that you can do. I wish you many blessings as you explore those opportunities and gather energy from them.

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  7. I hear what you are saying. I too believe that we are on this earth to help each other.

    The thing that troubles me is that finding the balance between giving to others and taking care of oneself is never an easy or clear thing.

    I suppose I believe that for most human beings "life is difficult." Not always of course, and there are different degrees of difficulty, but not one of us is shielded from passing through hard times. In reality this means that at any given time, there are several people around us in need of help. As you know, this can feel overwhelming, especially because we often have our own difficulties to deal with. I think this would be an issue for your pastor as well, since pastoring is by its nature a profession where the need will always exceed the energy to respond. How does one deal with this?

    I have not found a comfortable way to live with the tension of being aware of the needs around me and yet being unable to respond as I would like to. It is also difficult to be in that space of needing help and not receiving it.

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    1. In my discussion with the minister, he told me about the number of people in the congregation who are under each pastor's direct care. When one person is responsible for the needs of 750 people, it is - obviously - impossible for him to meet all those needs and we - the 750 - need to be very concerned about the care of the caregiver. With that awareness, I think it's especially important - and obvious why we are - to pay attention to what God is calling us to AND AT THE SAME TIME to realize that not every difficulty that we are aware of is our responsibility to meet. That's how I have dealt with that question because I find that I may intellectually see a need but it's not emotionally jumping up and down and niggling away at me and repeating itself. Those are the ones that I am called to. And sometimes it's a very weird calling - just one to see if we were willing. The other day I felt I needed to call the young man who lived with us briefly and tell him I was praying for him. I was painting and the idea niggled and jumped and danced until I finished those doors and then I went and called and the number was disconnected. It wasn't that I was to actually talk to him; it was that I was to be willing. I think that as we begin to respond, we begin to hear more clearly which opportunities are ours and the level at which we are respond and as always, there is the balance you are talking about between self-care and others care. Perhaps that is again responding to niggling because there are times when God also tells us to retreat and rest and we don't believe him.

      It is very difficult to be in that space of needing help and not receiving it. HUGS. That hurts horribly. I can only answer that from the way I have chosen to handle that situation. I keep repeating my prayers for what I need. I indicate that I recognize God has put me on someone's heart and they may not be responding. I ask for them - or someone else - to have courage. I also ask that God will open my eyes to the help that I am receiving and am quite possibly overlooking or undervaluing. And sometimes I have a hissy fit and cry and get it all out as much as I am able. That's why Stephen's quote resonated with me. I need to skip the pity parties and get on to doing what I can do.

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    2. Oh dear, I did not mean to imply that I was actually in that space... :) No, not at this time in my life, fortunately! Actually I was just saying that I understand both sides of this dilemma.... from the person who could be helpful to another but for one reason or another does not offer that help, and from the person who needs help but is not able to find it! I guess it is one of those human situations where the answers are not black and white. Well, come to think of it, most of life is that way, is it not? The best we can do is try each day to live up to the ideal of loving one another.

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    3. LOL - I'm glad you're not there now Marianne. Save that hug for when you need it. Yes, life is grey. Yes, all we can do is our best. Having that intent is a powerful tool.

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  8. Another heart you touched today...
    ...especially the prt about your husband's friend who needed to be taught how to be helpful. I am him. I suspect there are MANY like him out there...people who haven't got a clue what is needed or how to help without intruding. Thanks for putting it into simple terms...if you need it, I need it.

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    1. You're welcome. Isn't it wonderful to have a tool that makes it easier. It becomes almost practical when you think of it that way and yet the gift has a huge emotional (supportive) impact that is so needed. With one of my friends, they were driving back and forth for treatments... they needed gas... equals gas cards.

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  9. Food for thought. Thank you for providing enough food for thought to nourish me for the next week. Thank you for sharing, and a big hug to you.

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  10. Last year, a friend & I did a Bible study together about carrying one another's burdens. She stated at the very first that she didn't think it was possible to do that anymore, she went on to explain her reasoning. While it was discouraging for her to have so little faith in people, I'm of the camp that says if no one else will - I will. I will call, I will pray, I will visit. I'm limited in money but I can give of myself to be there, to comfort, to encourage. God is truly good - all the time.

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    1. Interesting that your friend felt overwhelmed. I wonder if she thought it meant she had to take on everything as opposed to those things God had singled out for her and it sounds like there may be hurt in terms of having needs that were not met. Makes me want to hug her. God knows what we are able to do and that's what he's asking. Not easy but simple. Simple is rarely easy. Glad the post gave you lots to think about.

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  11. Anyway, good post. Lots to think about.

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  12. There is a lot in here for me to think about. How you expressed things to your husband's friend.....THAT is one of the most helpful pieces of advice I've heard in a long time, and I'm going to remember (and share) it. But because this is an imperfect world filled with imperfect people, I do think that sometimes you might have to make yourself be vulnerable and ask for specific help, too. In my observation it is often weak people with little resources and lots of their own problems that God uses to help someone else. Maybe it's because they know how wonderful it is to have someone come alongside of you.

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    1. It is practical advice and it seemed to work in "man" language. Yes, it is an imperfect world otherwise we wouldn't be having this discussion and imperfection can hurt and I know I've caused hurt with my lack of attention at times. We aim to do our best. Some times the thing that God is asking us to do is ask. For some, that's the lesson. For others, it's to listen.

      When we were collecting for the JDRF, my son and I noticed that the less privileged people gave the most as you've observed. It made me think about my giving.

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  13. You have given me a lot to think about this weekend. I was having a conversation with a patient and his spouse today that parallels the quote. The patients that I take care of are often stuck in the pity party mode. They become so accustomed to being sick that they give up the ability to move forward. I often remind myself of a quote from my bishop, he said that you have 5 minutes for a pity party. After that you are doubting God's plan for you.

    His other quote that has helped me is to remember that bad situations are storms. All storms end sooner or later. I just wish that some storms could be avoided, jumped over or blown away. Sometimes I have to repeat this quote on a daily and sometimes hourly to remind me that I will survive bad times. MY MIL use to tell me all the time that God never gives you more than you can handle. Sometimes I wanted to scream as soon as she spoke those words. One day I had a light bulb moment when I realized that I had survived some storms that I thought were going to take me down and out. It was my reminded that I can survive anything as long as I remember that my help comes from HIM. Of course, earthly support from family and friends goes a long way.

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    1. It must be very hard to talk to patients who are sunk in pity. There have been times when I've wondered how my friends could actually stand me because it seems like drama follows me around and one thing after another keeps happening. I have to give myself a lot of lectures. Thankfully those are storm-like events and do eventually blow over as you've said although shorter storms would be much nicer - LOL - although no one asked me. Thank God for God.

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  14. Thank you. That's all - just Thank you.
    And a cyber hug sent your way.

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    1. You're welcome. Thank you for the hug.

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  15. Oh yes this hits home for me,im disabled now and when people inc family are in front of me they offer the "call me when you need" response but i feel like im intruding and being a bother when i do call.Sometimes its as simple as dropping off some baking at someones door or leaving an inspirational thought in their mailbox.Ive done it many times but it seems people feel if they cannot contribute in a large way then its not worth it but thats so untrue.

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    1. So when they ask you what you want for Christmas.... maybe explain how you feel and ask for the if you need it, I need it and I'd really rather not have to ask all the time gift. It is a balance. Because on the other hand some people can be so fluttery they're demeaning. How to help me guidance might be what's needed. I hope that works out for you Michelle. HUGS.

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  16. I truly believe the Lord had you post this for me this morning. Thank You.

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    1. Marie...that makes 2 of us!!! Myrna...thank you!!!

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    2. You're both welcome. HUGS.

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  17. Myrna you have spoken to me - both as someone who should be giving more care to others and as someone who needs more care as well. Thank you for this - and the very interesting dialogue in the comments box too.

    Jan xx

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    1. You are welcome. I think there are times in all of our lives when we need to give and when we need to receive caring. When I'm in a needy stage, I have to pay close attention to hear if God is calling me to give rather than caught up in myself. Tricky stuff this listening.

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  18. Myrna, I seldom comment on posts but this one really hit home for me. We have a ministry at the church where I am active that pairs lay members with people going through difficult times. We are not meant to solve the problems or fix things, just to be a friend to walk alongside them and reach out a helping hand. Going through the training for this program has really opened my eyes to the things I CAN do that will help others and how important it is to answer the call, spoken or unspoken. Thank you for this well-though out post and the reminder to reach out to those who God places on my heart. Have a blessed Thanksgiving this week - you will be in my thoughts and prayers.

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    1. Thank you for commenting. What a fabulous ministry there is at your church, with training, and with a focus on the emotional support. So critical. I'd love to hear more about the training. Were any particular books involved that I could read?

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  19. Thank you. Just. Thank you.

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  20. Wow - very well expressed and interesting. Thank you

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    1. And seems to be a topic that resonates with a lot of us. This is a good awareness. You're welcome.

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  21. Holy cow, what a great post. Although I "know" the things you write about, I don't think about them daily. I should and will make an effort to be more thoughtful and helpful. Thanks for an eye opening post.

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    1. You're welcome. I think it's an ebb and flow thing. Some days are easier.

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  22. Just, thank you. For putting it clearly and unambiguously. Your timing was perfect for me.

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  23. Myrna, amazing post! I love how you worded it as well as the message itself. Words to remember.

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    1. I'm glad they were meaningful. Thanks.

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Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.