Hope, Faith, & Ho’oponopono

viktor frankl, stimulus quote, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos

When I posted on Monday, I was a little down in the dumps. My heart is a little beat up and on top of it all, Tuesday morning, I took an early morning phone call, while getting ready for work. A former colleague has passed away. I felt like a zombie all day Tuesday. I made stupid mistakes, I was all over the place. Tuesday afternoon, I took the dog to the vet. She’s got some powerful meds to help get her through an infection and some inflammation. I hope this will put her on the right track. But she’s “old” and I worry about losing her. By last night, I just wasn’t okay. It has been one thing after another, you know?

The thing about this former colleague is that it not only broke my heart – but it drove home – how short our time on earth, actually is. It is just a mere blip. I just saw this person a few weeks ago at work. Initially, I felt a weight in the grief of it all. I had a good long cry last night. But as this loss settles in, I think it’s a far more powerful tribute to the impact this person made in my professional community, to doggedly live this wild life I know is waiting for me. Maybe the word, wild throws you off. I’ll have to write about that someday. But one of the things I mean by that is that I want to live counter to a culture that celebrates things and titles and live in the moment tasting and experiencing life and all it offers us. There’s a richness and beauty to life, but it’s often lost in the pursuit of everything else. But it’s not just that! I think we often lose out on the life we are meant to live – the life we want to live – as these painful moments rear their head, because we won’t face them.

The temptation for me & I’m sure for many others, is to shrink back in our moments of loss, pain, grief, etc. But I’ve decided this is exactly when I need to turn the dial up on my commitment to myself to chase dreams and live fully – each day. What I’m now learning (and leaning to accept) is that I can’t get there without facing the losses, pain, and grief. My words for 2021 were hope & faith. In these moments when I most want to pull the cover over my head and escape the sadness of it all, I’d rather choose hope and faith. I love joy. I love the simple things in life. In the weight of loss, it’s easy to lose track of that. I’m choosing hope & faith – against appearances. But I can’t get there without first facing the other stuff, head on.

In a slightly related and possibly also unrelated note (I’m sure that makes perfect sense to everyone), I read an article yesterday, on Elephant Journal, about the concept of HO’OPONOPONO. The article on Elephant Journal doesn’t do the concept justice – in my opinion. But I’m so glad I saw it. That article led me to do some more reading and then I found this article & video. I found it far more helpful. It’s essentially an ancient Hawaiian practice used to resolve conflicts within family units. But was used later by a therapist Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len and others.

The thing about HO’OPONOPONO, in what I’ve read so far, is that I think its beauty and the healing concepts, come – as you choose acceptance for what is – for wrong done to you or that you’ve done, for that matter. You’re not focusing on changing the person who has hurt you, or who you need to forgive, or the situation, for that matter. You are, however, working on your perception of the situation. The result is forgiveness, love, and comfort, too. This is all a lot to add to this post. Especially when I just read about it for the first time yesterday. But the way it ties together for me, is that my perception of what’s happening, is often what is pulling me out into the current – further from hope & faith. The balance that is gained (or I guess I should say regained) can open the door to that restoration of your hope and faith – because you’re no longer tied down by unforgiveness and the painful emotions.

I’m rambling now. The bottom line is that I’m learning all around me – from people like Brene (in this post), my therapist, and in unlikely places too – that facing the stuff head on is actually the route to hope, healing, and light in the dark places. So in this season of loss, added to the season before it, I’ve made that commitment to myself this evening. I’ll keep facing it. And through that, I’m certain I’ll get closer and closer to living this dream I’ve been chasing so long.

*The Viktor Frankl quote above was given to me today, by my therapist. It’s perfect.

And honestly, it’s kind of freeing, in my opinion.*

Mother’s Day & Being Childless

elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos, st. augustine, faith

If you’d asked me when I was a kid, what I wanted to do with my life, it would have sounded a lot like this: I want to be a mom. It’s pretty simple, really. I’m a mom. But I’m childless. I’ve spent so many years living with this hope that a family was just around the corner. But, I actually made that more difficult than it needed to be, by staying in the career I’ve had. I made a series of choices that led to other choices that became years and then more years. And here I am – 45 and without a family.

This always weighs heavily on me as we celebrate Mother’s Day. But, maybe for the first time ever, I’m beginning to see or at least try to accept – alternate versions and visions of my life and future. My life has never been normal. Not ever. So why would this? I don’t know what will happen or what it will look like, but I do know that I’m unwilling to hold back from pursuing possibilities. Maybe I won’t have children or adopt. Maybe I’ll be a stepmom. Maybe I will adopt? I don’t know anything, anymore – to be honest.

One thing I know for sure, however, is that we waste precious time putting things off for some day. When we do this, we are taking tremendous risks with those things we may be meant to do or pursue. Additionally, while I have always struggled with Mother’s Day & being childless, focusing on the struggle is harmful to my well-being. I think a lot of us do that because the struggle becomes more prominent. It’s in our face – constantly reminding us of what hasn’t been done, accomplished, etc. But if you’re anything like me – ruminating on the thing that isn’t – tends to contribute to a stuck in the mire mindset.

I’ve made a promise to myself that I’ll go hard after those things I still have left to accomplish in my life. In the process, I may discover that my story still looks different than what I originally saw for my life. But even so, if I’m fighting hard to take small steps of faith along the way, I’ll know it when I see it. For anyone reading who feels similarly, I hope you will press forward and focus on what’s ahead versus what’s missing – particularly if you, like me, are longing for a family. If you’re a person of faith, I hope you will take small steps in faith, even when it’s hard, knowing that living a life of faith always brings rewards.

Expectant Hope

It has been stirring for some time – this longing to be free of the constraints of my 9-5. It has grown in intensity since last spring. On days like today, my heart and mind is elsewhere. Free. I need to be free. I have come to the end of this road. And while I’m not sure what awaits me, I can’t go into my Monday-Friday dreading the day – anymore. I refuse.

This particular day – May 4th – is set in my mind and not discussed with anyone else – signified a change for me. It was the day I decided on as the one for making decisions and stepping out in faith. The first full day back to normal – after my week of birthday vacation days – isn’t going to be normal. Today is the start of a whole new way of doing things and stepping forward in faith.

Expectant hope & faith – hope & faith were my words for 2021 and I know that wasn’t by accident. I recently felt a pull toward looking to the future with more expectancy. That’s tough to do sometimes, no? It has been for me. And frustratingly, it seemed like every time I turned around, circumstances made it harder. But I think that’s probably what can also make what comes later, that much sweeter. The tough road to getting to your destination makes the destination more beautiful.

In the days when the Israelites were wandering about for years on end & even after, they’d mark a particular place with stones of remembrance or an altar and name the place something fitting with what God had done. The place came to symbolize something God had done or was doing. It was meant to be a reminder to them and future generations. Today is one of those days for me. I’m marking this place – knowing because of this expectant hope – that great things are ahead.

The Cure for Anything

“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.” ~ Isak Dinesen

I am not ashamed that therapy is a thing I’ve needed since March of last year. It’s self-care. I think more people should go. But sometimes therapy comes in the form of Vitamin D, salt air, & sea breezes. So after work today, I drove the 12 minutes to the beach – in the opposite direction of home, because while it’s not exactly a cure for what ails me, it’s as close as I’m gonna get right now. Countless beautiful memories growing up, all the way through college – happened in the salt air or in the mountains of California. I’ve always found clarity in the wilderness or as waves crash against the shoreline. As I look ahead to what awaits me – from August on – I know it’s in the stillness and quiet my next steps will be made clear.

I hope you find a cure for what ails you, friends. Sometimes a walk in the sunshine is all you need.

Opening my Hands

I had a strong faith for a long time. A very long time. I was raised in the church and my faith was an incredibly important part of my life. But I’ve had my moments of not really feeling it. Frankly, that’s been true for the last couple of years, in particular. Recent years have brought a lot of hard things my way. It’s not that I have a fair weather faith that can only function in what feels like favorable conditions. That’s actually why I struggled – because I have held onto my faith through the hardest times. To be honest, there was bitterness in my heart because I had done things the “right way” for so long. And still feel like I got screwed over. My life looks nothing like I planned. Even still, I did my best to make the most of where I was. I enjoyed my life as it was. Even stepping out to be a foster parent (and pursing adoption) was part of what I saw, as me just adjusting to how different my life looked, than what I’d planned. I chose not to focus constantly on what was missing. I didn’t want to be a single parent. But I wasn’t married. So I pursued foster care & adoption because I’ve always believed it would be part of my life in some way. And…I had the space (I had a big house), the desire to give a home to kids that needed it, and the ability to do it. But more than that, there are countless children in need and I believe that I am called to care for the “least” of these.

But the experience of being a foster parent also broke my heart. It broke my heart in a way I didn’t anticipate. I expected hard days, loss, and struggles. What I didn’t expect was the devastation that happened. Going on two years later, I haven’t fully recovered. I’m getting there. I’m a whole heck of a lot closer than I was a year ago – or six months ago. But I’ve still got work to do on my heart and honestly, my brain. I’ve also got work to do on my body. Letting go of my {foster} son was one of the most deeply painful things I’ve gone through. Very few people in my life know how bad things got and how painful. The truth is, there’s a lot I can’t share openly for privacy reasons. But I will tell you this, everything changed in my home – in a very short few months because my {foster} son’s family created a very hostile situation. My home had physical damage to it – that set me back for a while financially, personal belongings of mine were destroyed, and I feared for my safety. It was painful and honestly? It was terrifying.

I saw everything crumble in front of me. The way I handled those days and weeks and months after he left, weren’t great. I gained a lot of weight. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I drank way more than I ever had. I ate terribly. And I couldn’t deal with God. I couldn’t talk to Him and I certainly didn’t pray. I was hurt, heartbroken, bitter, and angry. It has taken me a long time to even partially want to trust God again. Even recently, I’ve struggled. I’ve questioned. And I’ve been bitter that my life doesn’t look like I wanted it to.

Slowly, however – in recent weeks and months, I’ve been sensing a new thing happening in my faith. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t understand – anything, quite frankly. But I do know that I’m never going to get anywhere staying in the same state of mind I’ve been in. I’m not going to church yet. But I have been watching online as much as possible. I’ve been pushing myself to pray, for myself and others – even when I don’t feel like it. And though I’m about a five-hour drive from Elevation Church, I’ve been feeling at “home” watching their services online. Today, in particular, really got to me. I felt a bit like today’s sermon was written for me, to be honest. Though I still can’t imagine what God can do – going forward, I don’t want to hold onto what caused me so much pain. So I’m ready to trust that by opening my hands, there will be something amazing that comes from it – even if it’s healing for others (i.e., my pain helping others). That’s what I took from today’s message, Protect the Vessel, by Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation.

I hope someone finds it as encouraging as I did.